Games to follow this week
In a game that should have a playoff feel, Lovett heads to Greater Atlanta Christian Friday to open the 2016 season.
Both programs have played for the region championship in the last five seasons, and it seems strange for this game be the first on the schedule. But that’s one by-product of reclassification. GAC landed in Region 7; Lovett was placed in Region 5.
So let’s play it now.
“This is exactly what you want in an opening game,” said Lovett coach Mike Muschamp. “It will have a playoff atmosphere about it. These are two traditionally good football teams.”
Lovett, ranked 10th, returns six starters on defense and has developed size on both lines.
“We’re going to be bigger up front this year than we have in several years,” Muschamp said. “We have two or three kids who have really good size, and that’s something that we don’t traditionally have.”
Greg Rogers, Jake White and John Doss are expected to play big on the Lovett line. John Staton, K.J. Wallace, Peyton Ringer and Charlie Chambers also return as starters.
GAC, ranked fourth, would have been led by one the best quarterbacks in the country, Super 11 selection Davis Mills, who passed for 2,821 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. But Davis, a Stanford commit, is expected to miss three to four months while recovering from a knee injury suffered earlier this week. Senior Jonathan Rose, who practiced at the quarterback position in the spring, will step in as backup.
GAC quarterback Davis Mills (16) attempts a pass in the second half of their game against Lovett at Greater Atlanta Christian Friday in Norcross, Ga., October 30, 2015. GAC won 34-7. (Jason Getz/AJC)
“It is really heartbreaking to hear of (Mills’) injury,” Muschamp said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire GAC community, as well as Davis’ family. But GAC is GAC, and they’re going to rally around (Rose). They will handle this.”
The Spartans will have to rely on three players committed to top college programs — Devin Cochran (Vanderbilt), Alex Rowe (Army) and Ford Higgins (Navy).
“It’s sort of funny to play (Lovett) in Week 1.” GAC coach Tim Hardy said. “You know when you play Lovett, you are going to play a well-coached team that is going to play with great energy and great passion. I have tremendous respect for coach Muschamp and the program he runs. It’s exciting for us to play them to start the year because it gets your juices flowing and gets you fired up. It has a playoff feel, and we’re excited about it and looking forward to the challenge.”
The series is tied at 6-6, but GAC has won the last two matchups.
Here are other top games in AAA:
Woodward (AAAA) at Westminster: Top-ranked Westminster will have its hands full against Woodward Friday night as the Wildcats deal with injuries on defense and continue to search for a quarterback. Woodward, ranked 2nd in Class AAAA, leads the series 24-19 and has won the last three games. The teams last met in 2013.
“The reason we like to play games like this is to put ourselves in position where when we play good teams, they’re going to exploit your weaknesses and show you what you have to work on.” Westminster coach Gerry Romberg said. “Woodward is an extremely talented team. They have a lot of weapons and a lot of guys returning, so we will definitely have our hands full.”
Westminster’s most pressing problem appears to be deciding on a starting quarterback. Three players are competing for the spot. Will Damron Sr., JD Falconer, and Ward Croft Jr are all option for the spot.
“The kids we have now have never played in a varsity game nor taken a varsity snap, so we are kind of green there,” Romberg said. “That’s the thing we have to figure out over the next couple of weeks during these non-region games.”
The Wildcats placed three players on the Class AAA preseason all-state team — Zay Malcome, Ian Ude and Cortez Alston.
Cedar Grove at Stephenson (AAAAAA): Stephenson holds a commanding lead in the series (5-1) but do not count out Cedar Grove, the fifth-ranked team in AAA.
“I think Stephenson will be a great mental test for the team.” said Cedar Grove coach Jermaine Smith. “Stephenson is one of those teams that is always good; they’re tough guys. They run the ball well and they stop the run well, and those are two of the things we need to do also.”
Cedar Grove will rely on running back Grant Walker, a Decatur transfer and 1,000-yard rusher last season. Dennis Bell, who also transferred from Decatur, has played well at wide receiver. Linebacker Jenard Morris anchors the defense.
Stephenson is ranked 10th in Class AAAAAA.
Worth County at Thomas County Central (AA): Thomas County Central leads the series 21-11-1 in a matchup that typifies South Georgia football.
“It’s one of those old-school games,” Worth county coach Jason Tone said. “TCC runs a split-back option, which you rarely see now, and we run a wing-T, which you rarely see now. So it’s one of those old rivalries with two old-school offenses.”
Tone said the key will be whether his offensive line can give leading rusher Chris McDaniel room to run. McDaniel rushed for 1,378 yards on 130 carries and scored nine touchdowns last season.
“We expect big things from him,” Tone said.