The showdown GAC, Lovett have awaited

Acknowledging history, Friday’s Region 6-AA football game between Greater Atlanta Christian and Lovett could well be played somewhere midway between.

Say, in Dunwoody.

The matchup of teams tied atop the region at 3-0 is as dead even as a neutral site, with No. 5 GAC (7-2) having won the first four matchups and No. 10 Lovett (5-4) the last four. And though this year’s game is at Lovett, where the Lions are assured of playing in next week’s first round of the playoffs regardless of Friday’s outcome, Lions coach Mike Muschamp isn’t that comforted.

“We’ve seen (GAC) play at home and on the road, and it doesn’t matter. They do a great job in both places,” Muschamp said.

It’s perhaps easier to pick the winner of the classification’s other region championship game in this final week of the regular season. When Heard County tilts Bowdon in 5-AA, Bowdon has had the upper hand in that series, 13-6.

But predicting the winner of GAC at Lovett remains tough. Muschamp recalled GAC led 28-21 late in last year’s game, before Lovett’s Grant Haley returned a kickoff for a tying touchdown and Willie Candler passed to John Jameson for the go-ahead score. Nobody exhaled until Haley squelched GAC’s last gasp by intercepting a pass.

And like last season, Muschamp said, “We’ve been fortunate to have different guys step up and make different key plays at different times. We feel very fortunate to be where we are.”

Both teams come in hot, having won three straight. The Spartans perhaps bring a tad more firepower, however, having outscored opponents 33-20, compared to Lovett matching opponents’ 18.

Lovett might have the edge emotionally, though, especially after coming from behind to win region games against Wesleyan and Westminster the last two weeks. While the Spartans were doubling up opponents 40-20 in those weeks, the Lions needed a late two-point conversion to edge Wesleyan 24-21, then a late scoring bomb on third-and-28 to slip Westminster 10-7.

A region championship would be Lovett’s 16th and GAC’s fifth. So, in that sense, Muschamp can feel Lovett has an upper hand of sorts. A region title might be just the needed emotional lift for a Lovett team that has played one of the state’s toughest schedules.

“The schedule we’ve had has been challenging to say the least,” Muschamp said. “But any time you get to play for a region championship, you’re excited for your kids, parents and the whole program.”

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