Coach Al Hughes says his third-ranked Wildcats will get a big test when it travels to Moultrie tonight to take on fifth-ranked Colquitt County in a non-region game. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
HAMPTON — Lovejoy passed its first test last week with a non-region win against rival Mundy’s Mill.
Now, the task will be a lot bigger when the third-ranked Wildcats make the trek to South Georgia to take on Colquitt County, which is ranked No.5 in the latest Georgia Sports Writers Association poll.
The Packers were No. 1 until last week’s loss at Alabama powerhouse Hoover in a nationally televised game.
Lovejoy coach Al Hughes said his team is looking forward to the challenge of facing a Colquitt team that reached the Class AAAAAA semifinals last season. The Packers lost to Norcross in that game, and a week later Lovejoy was defeated by the Blue Devils in the state finals at the Georgia Dome.
Colquitt won last year’s game against Lovejoy, 14-7 in Moultrie. Both of the Packers scores came on trick plays — scoring on a 53-yard reverse and a 14-yard tackle-eligible pass for a 14-0 lead.
Hughes expects another playoff-type atmosphere tonight when the teams meet at Tom White Field at Mack Tharpe Stadium.
“I know its going to be a test for us,” Hughes said. “I don’t know how much of a test we are going to be for them. I just hope we can help up our end of the bargain.”
If last week is any indication, the Wildcats should be in good shape.
In his first start at quarterback, sophomore Quintarius Neely was 11 of 18 for 176 yards while throwing two touchdown passes. Last season, Neely was the starting JV quarterback at Atlanta’s Mays High before transferring in the spring. Another transfer Jeremiah Kirkland also lived up to his preseason hype by rushing for 100 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown. Junior DeRico Tilley also had a big game for the Wildcats after rushing for 117 yards and two touchdowns.
“It was a big win for us,” Hughes said.
But the stakes will be much bigger this week when the two ranked teams meet. Much like last season, a sold-out crowd is expected for the contest, which is fine with Hughes. The coach said it will give his young team a taste of what to expect in the playoffs.
“When you play down there, you get the full affect,” Hughes said. “The stadium will be full with an experienced crowd. There is nothing like it any place else.”
The crowd could be overly excited since this will be the first home game of the season for Colquitt, which played its first game in the Georgia Dome against Grayson before traveling to Hoover last weekend.
Colquitt players seem pumped about their first home game in nearly 10 months. The Packers haven’t played at home since Nov. 9 of last year, when they came away with a 13-12 win over Camden County.
“I am so ready,” Colquitt County preseason all-state defensive tackle Jamiyus Pittman told the Moultrie Observer earlier this week. “We can’t lose here. It doesn’t matter who we play, we can’t lose at home.”
Hughes said his team will still not be at full strength because of injuries. Last week, starting linebacker DeMarquis Gates, defensive end Randy Anyanwu and Chris Ellis all miss the Mundy’s Mill game because of various injuries. Ellis is expected to play, and Anyanwu will be a game time decision.
Gates is out a couple more weeks after recovering from offseason knee surgery.
“I’m itching to play,” Anyanwu said. “I’m ready to go. I like the atmosphere down there.”
Colquitt coach Rush Prospt is expecting a challenging from Lovejoy.
“It will be a tough home opener for us, but that’s why we scheduled it,” he said. “We feel like if we can survive and find a way to win this football game, it could define our season and give us a little bit of a boost.’