Drew senior running back Marquis Terry will lead his team in a scrimmage this evening against Lovejoy at Twelve Oaks Stadium. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
HAMPTON — New Drew football coach Dorwyn Lyles is wasting no time getting his team acclimated to the upcoming season.
The Titans will meet Class AAAAAA powerhouse Lovejoy this evening in a scrimmage game that Lyles says will give him a “good evaluation” of his team heading into its season-opener in two weeks.
It will be the first time the two programs have met in football.
“We feel like this will be a good measuring stick for us against one of the best programs in the area,” said Lyles, who is in his first year as head coach at Drew. “We know Lovejoy has a lot of talented players. We will use this game to get a good evaluation of our players and where we stand.”
Lovejoy is also breaking in a new coach in Edgar Carson. Last season, he served as the team’s defensive coordinator before replacing longtime coach Al Hughes.
The Wildcats, who are seeking their fifth straight region title, will be unveiling a new offense that is similar to the one run by Auburn and Oregon.
Carson said he wants the team to utilize the run more this season with quarterbacks junior Quintarius Neeley and senior Khaleel Rogers.
Although the team graduated running back Jeremiah Kirkland, who rushed for 1,000 yards in his only season in the program, Lovejoy has seniors Kevin Morris-Strong and Rico Tilley returning. Tilley has already committed to Division II West Georgia, while Morris-Strong has several mid-major Division I offers.
“We are looking to see what kind of progress we have shown since spring practice,” Carson said. “We went through a good summer of workouts and passing league. We are looking to further build on our team chemistry.”
After being idle next week, both teams have season openers the following weekend. Drew will host Fayette County on Aug. 28 at Southern Crescent Stadium.
Lovejoy will take on county rival Mundy’s Mill on Aug. 29 at Twelve Oaks Stadium.
Carson will get to see the team’s defense against one of the top running back combinations in the county. Drew’s backfield will feature senior Marquis Terry and junior Quarderman Sloan.
Last season, Terry rushed for 936 yards on 127 carries and 14 touchdowns while missing the first four games because of a wrist injury. He is also a solid pass catcher out of the backfield with 13 receptions for 267 yards and a touchdowns.
Terry said he is excited about the chance to play against Lovejoy.
“They are one of the top teams in the state,” Terry said. “We will learn more about ourselves against them. I’m ready and excited.”
This will also be the first start for new Titans quarterback Joseph Newman, who was a backup to Brandon Pearson last season. Pearson — who is now a freshman at St. Augustine’s, a Division II program in North Carolina — had a record-setting season at Drew last year.
He had 156 completions on 310 attempts for 2,284 yards and 26 touchdowns with only four interceptions.
“It is going to be a big challenge for me this season,” Newman said. “I’m ready for it. I think this game against Lovejoy will definitely prepare me for the season.”
Chances are the Drew defense will have its hands full trying to contend with the Wildcats’ explosive offense. Returning this season for Lovejoy, which reached the second round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs last season, is top wide receiver prospect Preston Williams.
A Tennessee commitment, Williams had 1,402 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns last season. Neely passed for 1,885 yards and 19 touchdowns in his first year with the program.