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BILL RENJE: Lovejoy football season had satisfying peaks and valleys

Bill Renje, and a portion of the 2016 Lovejoy football team. (Special Photo)

Bill Renje, and a portion of the 2016 Lovejoy football team. (Special Photo)

As the Fellowship of Christian Athletes character coach for Lovejoy football, I didn’t know what to expect coming out of the summer. Expectations determine your level of success. For Lovejoy going into the season, the expectations from outside the program weren’t very high.

The program had been hit hard by six high profile transfers, all potential starters and three key playmakers. Tension and turmoil abounded from before Spring practice through the end of summer. But I also knew there were strong, solid men throughout the coaching staff who knew how to fight through adversity, including head coach Ed Carson who regularly uses phrases like “stay the course” and “next man up.”

Still though, I’d be kidding if I said my expectations were hopeful in early August. And clearly I wasn’t alone as the consensus picks that I saw in the media had Lovejoy as a fourth seed in Region 4, well behind Tucker and Stephenson who everybody had as a distant first and second.

But as August gave way to September, it was becoming clear that the whole feel of the program had shifted into one of resiliency, determination and purpose. The offense still had Zion Custis, one of the best RBs in the state, senior playmakers in WRs Marquese Taylor and Jayden Thomas to go along with what would turn out to be a very stout offensive line.

Senior transfer, quarterback John Seter gave the offense the boost it needed. While transfers Mike Harris, a junior middle linebacker, and Thomas Wallace, a senior defensive back, helped solidify a defense that became stingier and stingier as the season progressed.

Even with a 1-3 record with road losses to ranked programs like Stockbridge and Spalding, where the Wildcats had fourth quarter leads, you could feel the momentum building for the season.

Everything turned in Week 5 against heavily favored Stephenson. With Lovejoy trailing 14-7 at halftime, the Wildcats scored 21 third quarter points en route to a 28-27 win.   

Lovejoy would win five of its last six regular season games to finish second in the region, the only setback coming on the road in a 29-26 defeat at Tucker where the Wildcats lead midway through the fourth Quarter.

I spoke earlier with head coach Carson to get his thoughts on the season which would end in the second round of the playoffs with a 24-14 loss at top-ranked and currently undefeated Dalton. A season where three of the five Lovejoy (7-5, 6-1) losses were against teams playing in the state semifinals this Friday.


BILL RENJE: Your thoughts on the overall season and the way it ended –

EDGAR CARSON: “You’re always disappointed because you want to go further. But looking back, we exceeded expectations that anybody had for us going into the season. We got over the hump, winning in the first round which is my first time as a head coach advancing in the playoffs. Now, you want to keep working to come back to get to the next step (the quarterfinals and beyond).”

BR: How did you feel about this team going into this past season?

EC: “We really had a lot of adversity in the offseason with players, starters, that transferred out. And guys that went on to be successful contributors as starters at other competitive programs. But we came out of FCA Camp where we rallied around each other with the players who really bought in to the program. I would encourage any program to attend that camp. It’s a great bonding experience to come together as a team, and you get to compete.

“And hats off to my staff. They worked extremely hard and we really came together as a family from the beginning of the season, and we really had no issues with the group of kids we had. They fought hard and did everything we asked of them.”

BR: What are you looking forward to in the offseason?

EC: “You always have uncertainty going into the offseason and we’re going to miss our seniors. But I feel good about where we are at as a program. As a 6A school, you’re always going to have kids from the outside that want to come in to be a part of what you’re doing. And we’ve got a lot of young guys already in the program ready to step up. We’ve got two young and talented freshmen quarterbacks. So we’ll be fine. My motto is always ‘next man up.’”

Lovejoy coach Ed Carson, left, has led the Wildcats to the postseason in each of his first two seasons as head coach.  (PHOTO: Gabriel Stovall)

Lovejoy coach Ed Carson, left, has led the Wildcats to the postseason in each of his first two seasons as head coach. (PHOTO: Gabriel Stovall)

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