By Kendall Jackson
LOVEJOY, Ga. —A few weeks back, the Lovejoy Wildcats football team won Fox 5’s Team of the Week Award after its upset win against North Gwinnett. Sometimes, such big wins are counted as a fluke, but the Wildcats of Lovejoy had something to say to that, and they did their talking on the field.
The Wildcats are 6-0 after defeating Morrow 47-0 last Thursday at Tara Stadium. That came after a 27-6 win on the road at Griffin’s Memorial Stadium. Now, Lovejoy’s moved to 4th place in state 6A rankings. And MaxPreps says it’s the 14th ranked team in Georgia, regardless of classification.
Now with another Thursday night matchup ahead at Region 4-AAAAAA foe Tucker (2-1), there’s one main word head coach Edgar Carson is using to describe what he wants to see from his team as we near the regular season’s home stretch.
“Execution,” Carson said. “And hopefully we continue to get better.” Those very humble words from the Lovejoy head coach came after that blowout win against Morrow. But he’s not ready to call it a fully complete victory.
“We got to get healthy,” Carson said. “We’ve got a lot of ankle injuries. Tucker’s going to be a tough one next week.”
The Tigers, part of the DeKalb County Schools system, got a late start to the season with a 29-12 win over SouthWest DeKalb on October 2. Six days later, Tucker lost a tight one in a 38-33 setback to a highly regarded Parkview squad. Tucker got back into the win column last week with a fourth-quarter come-from-behind win 11-8 win at North Atlanta. And Lovejoy and Tucker have history, starting in 2011 when Lovejoy fell to Tucker 22-7 in the Class 6A state championship game.
Since then, the Tigers and Wildcats have met up six more times, all Lovejoy losses. The latest was last year when Lovejoy lost 23-16. But this year’s Lovejoy squad is much different, and much more confident.
Tucker’s always got athletes, though. And that’s the reason why the injury bug is not something Carson wants to be plagued with during a championship run, let alone going into such a high-level, perennial state power such as Tucker.
By now, Lovejoy is used to stiff opposition. This will be the third state-ranked opponent the Wildcats have faced in only a span of four weeks, and having a healthy lineup is major when considering the gauntlet they face in the coming weeks following Thursday’s tilt with Tucker. That slate of games includes powerhouses Langston Hughes (4-1), Westlake (4-1) and that aforementioned North Atlanta (2-2) program.
Because all of these teams are considered Region 4-AAAAAA stalwarts, it’s no stretch to say that each of these next contests have championship implications.
As for Morrow, while a loss like what it suffered against Lovejoy can be demoralizing, the Mustangs are an extremely well coached team. Their main obstacle this season, coming off 2019 milestones of their first winning record and state playoff appearance since 1998, is the youth of their program, which at times can seem like an impossible hump to get over.
“We are young,” stressed head coach, Jerome Weaks. “(As a coach), I’m down for you. But you got to give something [in return].”
Weaks also said that while winning games is important and desired, the team’s mindset is what matters most, and winning cannot exist without a winner’s mentality.
Fostering that mentality won’t get any easier Friday when Morrow (1-3) travels to Class 6A No. 6 Westlake which scored a thrilling 26-21 win over Langston Hughes last Friday. Morrow will then play winless Mount Zion the following week.