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Clayton County teams start preseason football practice

Lovejoy rising senior defensive back Montrell Custis playfully attempts to sign as Mundy's Mill rising offensive lineman Darius Anderson laughs during the Clayton County Football Media Day activities earlier this week. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

Lovejoy rising senior defensive back Montrell Custis playfully attempts to sign as Mundy's Mill rising offensive lineman Darius Anderson laughs during the Clayton County Football Media Day activities earlier this week. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

RIVERDALE — The wait is over.

Under Georgia High School Association rules, teams from across the state can start preseason practice today.

The first three days of preseason practice must be dedicated to “conditioning practices” and teams will be allowed to go in full pads on Aug. 1.

GHSA FOOTBALL DATES

• Today: Begin conditioning practice

• Aug. 1: First day in pads*

• Aug. 29: First week of games

• Nov. 8: End of regular season

• Nov. 14: First round of playoffs

• Dec. 13-14: State finals

*following mandated three-day conditioning period

created on Thursday 7/24/2014 at 3:27:46 pm by D

Clayton County held its annual football media day activities earlier this week at Southern Crescent Stadium, and the players and coaches expressed their excitement about the state of preseason drills.

After two months of passing leagues and tournaments, the coaches and players are ready to get down to the business of preparing for the upcoming season.

Many teams — like Lovejoy and Jonesboro — enter the year with high expectations.

“This year, I think we are capable of winning a state championship,” said Lovejoy defensive Montrell Custis, who has verbally committed to Alabama. “This offseason was crazy with all the tournaments and camps and recruiting.”

New Mount Zion coach Kevin “Bull” Jones says he is ready to get started at his new school. Last season Jones coached at Dutchtown after several seasons as an assistant at Lovejoy.

“Our goal is to get Mount Zion High back to where it use to be,” Jones said. “We had a wonderful 7-on-7 season because nobody got hurt. It is no longer the offseason, it is preseason.”

Regular season games begin on Aug. 29 with the season ending on Nov. 8. The playoffs start on Nov. 14 with the championship games on Dec. 13-14 at the Georgia Dome. During the 2011 and ’12 season, Lovejoy played in the finals.

No team from the county has won a state title since the 1987 Morrow championship run.

Last season, Mundy’s Mill was a surprise team as the Tigers reached the Class AAAAA quarterfinals. Mundy’s Mill started the season with four losses, but rebounded to win its next eight games. It was the first time in school history that the team had advanced past the first round of the playoffs.

Coach Greg Manior, now in his third year, said the team will be looking to prove last season wasn’t a fluke.

“This year will be a test for us,” Manior said. “Last year we had 26 seniors, and eight received offers to play in college. We have 23 seniors on the 2014 team, and they have been shoes to fill.”

Morrow coach Leroy Foster is also in his third season, and is hoping the team can turn the corner and get back to its winning ways.

“We have been improving each year,” Foster said. “We know want to go the next level. We have some players that have been in the program for a while.”

After a couple of seasons of missing the playoffs, North Clayton is also looking to rebound as has moved down to Class AAA. This move will give the team an opportunity to play school similar to its enrollment size. In the past, North Clayton has played on the Class AAAA level to play with other county schools.

“We understand the expectation that have North Clayton has had in the past,” Eagles coach James Sorza said. “We want to get back to winning. We are looking to play hard, physical and to compete. Last season we had to coach attitude and effort. This offseason we spent the majority of the time coaching football.”