Quintarius Neely passed for 1,885 yards and 19 touchdown last season as the starting quarterback at Lovejoy, which reached the second round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
HAMPTON — Usually on a football team, the quarterback is the team leader. The guy that has all eyes on him, and is the player that the team looks to make the play when it matters most.
Lovejoy is in a unique position, as they have two quarterbacks that can do those things in Quintarious Neely and Khaleel Rogers. Both players split playing time last season, and will likely do the same this season.
“Both guys are great leaders and bring a different dynamic to the field,” Lovejoy assistant coach Cory Johnson said. “With Quintarious we have more of a dual-threat player and Khaleel serves as more of a dropback passer but has some speed as well.”
Last season, Neely and Rogers played key roles in helping the Wildcats to a 10-2 record and the second-round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs.
They combined for 2,406 yards and 25 touchdowns as Lovejoy won its fourth straight region champion to advance to the playoffs. Both were locked in a heated battle for the starting job coming into last season with Neely winning the job.
Neely, who transferred to Lovejoy last spring after playing JV at Mays High in Atlanta the previous season, passed for 1,885 yards and 19 touchdowns. After sustaining a fractured thumb injury that sidelined him for three games, Rogers filled in to lead the team to region wins over Morrow, Rockdale and Luella.
This season, Neely will go into the opening game as the starter. While Rogers is still expected to come in at quarterback in certain situations, he will see the bulk of his playing time at wide receiver and defensive back.
With an offense that already features highly-touted prospects such as Preston Williams, Tremaine Dillard, Randy Robinson, Kevin Morris and Rico Tilley, having multiple quarterbacks just adds another dimension to what already was a loaded unit.
“We’re going to be very versatile and tough for defenses to manage,” Tilley said. “We kind of have a running and passing quarterback, but both are very good at both so we’ll be able to confuse opponents and become even more explosive.”
While players and coaches have cited that the team is progressing under the new offense, they recently suffered a setback during preseason drills when Rogers recently broke his ankle. It left him sidelined for about a month and left the Wildcats without a key player.
“Khaleel is my teammate who helps me get better and I help him,” Neely added. “I’ll be excited to have him back because he’s a great play-maker, I look forward to getting him the ball a lot.”
One aspect of summer practice that has helped build team chemistry as well as experience with the offense has been competing in 7-on-7 tournaments almost every week. Among the top tournaments that the Wildcats have performed well in are The Southside Shootout, Cam Newton tournament and the National Select Tournament.
“I think we’re doing a good job of getting prepared for this season,” Tilley said. “That’s why we’re out here almost everyday, so we can perform well at those events and that tells us we’re in the right direction.”
Also, having two quarterbacks with different strengths has helped the defense improve greatly. As they will face different offenses every week, they will always have a player on hand who can replicate what they will see on Fridays.
As the days are passing and the hot days of summer are transitioning into the fall, the Wildcats appear more ready than ever to bring a championship to their school. Neely and Rogers will have to come up big together is that dream is to become reality.
“We’re hungry, we’ve been working our butts off and we’re going to be really good,” Neely said. “We’re playing for each other, if every man steps up and does their job then we will have a special season.”