Class AAAAA football blog: Lithia Springs ready for another step forward

Lithia Springs took a big step forward in its first season under coach Corey Jarvis. The record is modest – only 4-7 – but the finish was big. The Lions won their final two regular-season games, prevailed in a mini-game and earned a spot in the state playoffs for the very first time.

The Lions – despite the forced interruption this spring – hope to continue to build on that momentum. Lithia Springs will be one of teams in the running to win in the new Region 6, which doesn’t feature an overwhelming favorite.

“My goal is to be one of the four team that gets to the playoffs,” Jarvis said.

The players are unquestionably excited about the tone set by last season’s success. After eight weeks of off-season work, only four of the 68 players on the roster had a missed a workout. Most coaches would happily take a 94 percent success rate.

“They’re ready to take the next step,” Jarvis said. “They’re excited. It puts us in the right direction to possibly play for a region championship.”

The Lions graduated some important pieces from last year, particularly all-region quarterback Kevin Mfortow (2,010 yards, 29 TDs) and receiver Justen Hartley (35 catches, eight TDs). But Jarvis is encouraged by the progress the program has made over the last year and enters the season with less apprehension.

“Last year we had eight or nine kids who had never played football,” Jarvis said. “All the kids we have coming back this year are football players. These kids know football. You don’t have to tell them, ‘If this happens, you do this.’ They already know it. And a lot of them got a chance to play last year.”

The Lions will most likely start a sophomore quarterback, either Jai’que Hart or Devon Greene.

“Any time you’ve got to replace a quarterback, it’s tough,” Jarvis said. “But we’ve got the kind of kids we feel good about. They don’t have to worry about replacing Kevin. They’ll get a chance to make their own ripple in the water.”

Their progress will be helped by the return of all-region running back Lydell Daniels, a 5-foot-6 scatback who’s difficult to catch when he gets in the open field. Daniels rushed for 666 yards and four touchdowns and caught 27 passes as a junior.

The top athlete on the team may be Mike Wilson, a 6-1, 210-pound senior who plays both ways. On offense he plays running back, H-back and tight end. On defense he is moving from end, where he was first-team all-region, to linebacker.

“He’s a ball player,” Jarvis said. Wilson has already been offered by Akron, whose visiting assistant saw him in the weight room and was immediately sold.

Returning on the offensive line is guard Derrick Pettway, who started all 11 games in 2019 and was an honorable mention all-region pick.

The defense has its share of playmakers, too. Malik Thompson, who caused the game-changing fumble that enabled Lithia Springs to win the mini-game last season, will play cornerback and wide receiver. Rangy Jakari Barnett moves from tight end to outside linebacker, where his speed will be beneficial. Josh Simmons started most of last season with a cast on his wrist and was still good enough to make honorable mention all-region. Austin Hartley, Justen’s brother, and Casey Moore are also expected to contribute.

Lithia Springs may be without starting cornerback Zay Williams, who is expected to transfer to Douglas County.

Lithia Springs will be joined in Region 6 by fellow Douglas County schools Chapel Hill and New Manchester, along with Grady, Maynard Jackson, North Springs and Villa Rica. The Lions have non-region games against Douglas County, Alexander, Southwest DeKalb and Lee County.

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