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PREP FOOTBALL: Lovejoy readies for ‘gauntlet’ schedule starting with Tucker on Monday

Lovejoy junior quarterback Stephin Craig and the Wildcat offense he leads has had some extra time to work the kinks out ahead of a 3-games-in-11-days stretch. | File Photo

LOVEJOY, Ga. — In this crazy, unpredictable, unprecedented pandemic football season, chalk up another “first.” 

For the first time, Lovejoy—and perhaps any Southside program for that matter—will play two varsity football games in one week. 

The Class 6A No. 3 Lovejoy Wildcats (6-0, 1-0 in Region 4-AAAAAA) will play Tucker (2-1, 1-0) at Adams Stadium on Monday November 3 at 7 p.m. The game is rescheduled from the original Friday October 23 date after a Tucker player tested positive for COVID-19. 

Five days later, Lovejoy will take the field again when it hosts region foe Langston Hughes (5-1, 1-1) on Saturday November 7 at Twelve Oaks Stadium at either Noon or 2 p.m. Less than a week later, the Wildcats will head to Westlake (5-1, 2-0) on Friday November 13. In case you’re counting, that’s three games against the top three teams in the region—two on the road—in 11 days. 

“We’re looking forward to the challenge or the gauntlet, especially with Westlake on November 13, so here we go,” said Lovejoy assistant coach Derrick Smith. 

By the time Lovejoy takes the field Monday, it will be 18 days after the Wildcats’ last live action on the field. That was a 47-0 win over Morrow back on October 15. Lovejoy was scheduled for a bye week this week anyway, but the extra time off will, no doubt, prove beneficial, given what’s ahead on the schedule. 

If the Wildcats can get through this stretch undefeated, they’ll undoubtedly position themselves to be a trendy pick to challenge for the Class 6A state championship. Why? Because not only will running the table give Lovejoy a region crown, but it’ll give them home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs, and will present a battle-tested, mentally tough squad for the postseason. 

Smith said Lovejoy is altering its practice schedule this week to preserve the team’s legs and try to reduce likelihood of injury. 

“We’ll go Monday and Wednesday in shells this week, then Thursday and Saturday only in helmets,” Smith said. “Sunday morning will be a walkthrough in helmets only.” 

Smith said the scale back in physicality will allow them focus on the cerebral part of the game. 

“It’s gonna be a lot of mental reps on Thursday and Saturday,” he said. “We’re starting (Monday) off with weights, then practice and film. Film and weights all week pretty much will keep us staying fresh without banging on one another. Taking care of our kids’ bodies and health is the main thing. So it could be tricky, but you must be smart as well. You have to remember these are still 14 to 18 year olds.” 

Here’s this week’s slate of games as we know it for now.

Clayton County Games

Jonesboro (4-0, 2-0 in Region 3-AAAAA) at Tri-Cities (4-0, 2-0) 

Forest Park (0-6, 0-2 in Region 3-AAAAA) at Mundy’s Mill (2-4, 1-2) 

Drew (1-4, 0-2 in Region 3-AAAAA) at Woodward Academy (2-3, 2-0) 

Morrow (1-4, 0-2 in Region 4-AAAAAA) at Mount Zion (0-4, 0-1)

Fayette County (5-1, 3-0 in Region 5-AAAA) at Riverdale (2-2, 1-0)

North Clayton (0-7, 0-3 in Region 5-AAAA) at Luella (5-2, 3-0) 

Henry County Games

St. Anne-Pacelli (5-0) at ELCA (3-3)

Stratford Academy (3-2, 0-1 in Region 1A Private) at Strong Rock (4-2, 1-0) 

Stockbridge (2-4, 1-2 in Region 4-AAAAA) at Dutchtown (3-3, 2-1) 

North Clayton (0-7, 0-3 in Region 5-AAAA) at Luella (5-2, 3-0) 

Woodland (5-1, 2-1 in Region 4-AAAAA) at Locust Grove (3-3, 1-2) 

Ola (6-0, 3-0 in Region 4-AAAAA) at Jones County (3-3, 3-0) 

Eagle’s Landing (0-6, 0-3 in Region 4-AAAAA at Union Grove (2-4, 0-3)

McDonough (1-5, 1-2 in Region 5-AAAA) at Hampton (1-5, 0-2) 

Other South Side Games

Langston Hughes (5-1, 1-1 in Region 4-AAAAAA) at South Cobb (0-6, 0-5 in Region 6-AAAAAA)

Drew (1-4, 0-2 in Region 3-AAAAA) at Woodward Academy (2-3, 2-0) 

Jonesboro (4-0, 2-0 in Region 3-AAAAA) at Tri-Cities (4-0, 2-0) 

Creekside (1-2, 1-0 in Region 3-AAAAA) at Tri-Cities (4-0, 2-0) (Monday 6:30 p.m.)

Banneker (0-3, 0-2 in Region 3-AAAAA) at Creekside (1-2, 1-0) (Saturday 7:30 p.m.) 

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Gabriel Stovall

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