Lovejoy is 5-0 for the first time since 2003, after smothering Tri-Cities (4-2) 23-6 Friday night at the Doghouse in East Point. The win sets up a showdown next week against Clayton County rival Mount Zion-Jonesboro, with the winner claiming a decided advantage in the race for the Region 4-AAAAA title.
The Wildcats’ resurgence is like a blast of cool air on a sultry day for head coach Al Hughes, now in his 10th season. The first four were outstanding, as Lovejoy went a combined 38-10, won two region championships and advanced to the second round of the state playoffs each year. But over the past five seasons Lovejoy is 19-32 with one playoff appearance (a first-round loss) and hasn’t finished with a winning record.
When asked if Lovejoy is back, Hughes said, “We’d sure like to think so.”
“This team has great chemistry,” Hughes said. “We hit a patch there where some bad things happened to us ... Then when Mundy’s Mill opened up, that cost us some talented kids. But we kept the faith and these kids kept the faith, and they’re good players.”
As it was back in the day, everything starts with the quarterback. This season, it’s Vic “Juice” Hardison, who has guided the Wildcats’ multifaceted offense to nearly 30 points per game.
“He’s a great leader,” Hughes said of Hardison. “He makes up for some of the physical differences between him and [Flakes and Fannin] with great leadership.”
Friday night, Hardison led the way on two quick second-quarter scoring drives that essentially put the game out of reach. With Lovejoy leading 3-0 after a 26-yard field goal by Tyler Hunt in the first quarter, Hardison capped a drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Darien Hubbard. On Lovejoy’s next possession, Hardison hooked up with Rico McWilliams for a 28-yard scoring strike.
Just before the end of the first half, Daveon Coleman fell on a blocked punt in the Bulldogs’ end zone for Lovejoy’s final touchdown.
“All the seniors, we all talk about bringing back that Lovejoy winning tradition,” Hardison said.