AAAAAA scouting report: Lovejoy’s gambling defense vs. Norcross’ explosive playmakers

Class AAAAAA Title Game (8:30 p.m)

Lovejoy (13-1) vs. Norcross (14-0)

Overview: Neither school nor head coach has won a state title. Lovejoy, which opened in 1990, made the state final in AAAA last year and lost to Tucker. Norcross, which started football in 1957, will be playing in its first state championship game. Lovejoy coach Al Hughes (109-80) and Norcross coach Keith Maloof (129-59) are in their 17th seasons as head coaches.

Lovejoy: The Wildcats returned most major figures from its AAAA runner-up team but were ranked only No. 7 in preseason because of the move to a higher classification. They lost their second game at Colquitt County 14-7 before dominating weak 2-AAAAAA, winning their six region games by an average score of 53-2. They’ve beaten Tri-Cities (51-13), Marietta (36-15), No. 4 North Gwinnett (21-6) and North Cobb (63-42) in the playoffs.

Norcross season: The Blue Devils were unranked in preseason largely because of their first-round exit in 2011 but were expected to contend. They beat three-time region champion North Gwinnett 31-21 in the third game and kept rolling. Norcross can become the first team in the highest class since 1986 Valdosta to defeat all 15 opponents by eight points or more. Norcross has beaten Chattahoochee (34-7), South Gwinnett (27-7), No. 5 Camden County (34-20) and No. 10 Colquitt County (41-27) in the playoffs.

Lovejoy strength: Lovejoy has a 2,000-yard rusher in Travis Custis and a 2,000-yard passer in Alejandro Bennifield. The defense thrives on tackles for losses and turnovers.

Norcross strength: Norcoss has a 2,000-yard rusher in Alvin Kamara and a 2,000-yard passer in Joseph Wilbur. Myles Autry is a tremendous weapon as rusher, receiver and returner.

Loveoy top players: Custis and receiver Jumichael Ramos have committed to Georgia Tech. Other top recruits include NT Norwood (Jacksonville State), TE Arshad Jackson (Auburn), DE Veion Robinson (Middle Tennessee), DE Zane Fields (uncommitted) and Bennifield (uncommitted).

Norcross’ top players: Kamara, who is uncommitted, is rated among the top five running backs nationally by three recruiting services. CB Shon Akins has committed to California. DE Lorenzo Carter and DB/WR Autry have several SEC and ACC offers as juniors.

On Lovejoy: ‘’Their defense is what’s unique. Their ability to play tight man-to-man coverage with no high safeties and put seven in the box, you don’t see a lot of that in high school. It’s difficult to pick up the tough yards in the run game. Most teams would be really rolling the dice to give up a big play, but they don’t because they put tremendous pressure on the quarterback.’’

– North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire, whose team lost to Lovejoy 21-6 on Nov. 30.

On Norcross: ‘’They may be the one team in Georgia to actually break down Lovejoy’s defense because they are extremely explosive on offense with Kamara and Autry. Kamara’s ability to stretch the field horizontally before he cuts vertically makes it tough to load the box. But if Autry isn’t healthy [he tweaked a knee in semifinals], that plays into Lovejoy’s hands.’’

– North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire, whose team lost to Norcross 31-21 on Sept. 14.

AJC pick: Norcross 27, Lovejoy 20

274 comments Add your comment

sportsnut

December 14th, 2012
2:06 pm

Wanna bet ? This D does not gamble. You have 2 seconds, 2, to do what ever it is you want to do or you will meet them. Remember that 2 seconds. The corners are ready. Lovejoy is ready.

ALL TUCKERRED UP

December 14th, 2012
2:24 pm

Sorry sportsnut, but I have to cheer for Norcross. Kieth Maloof coached my son. If not for that I would have cheerred for Lovejoy. Maybe next year!!!!

sportsnut

December 14th, 2012
2:42 pm

It’s o.k. Tuck if you want to cheer for them. I understand the loyalty there. Be advised though, Lovejoy is going to do what they did not do last season and that is to win the last one. Lovejoy will be champions.

ALL TUCKERRED UP

December 14th, 2012
3:07 pm

If that happens I will do a shot of Hennesey !!!! Good luck to your team !!!

Jefferson

December 14th, 2012
3:20 pm

End of the road for Lovejoy, they will be run over.

sportsnut

December 14th, 2012
3:51 pm

Hey Jefferson , we’ve been standing in the middle of the road all year and have not been run over yet. And thank you for your support.(Bartells&James)

Golden Isles Fan

December 14th, 2012
3:51 pm

Good luck Norcross you deserve it ……..

RobFromNorcross

December 14th, 2012
5:00 pm

sportsnut, Be prepared for your defense to get smoked by a superior force… our teams have similar offensive production for the season, but our stats came against a whole lot better teams. And you aren’t the only team that had a running clock and many starters sitting for a bunch of second halves.

sportsnut

December 14th, 2012
5:27 pm

@ Rob == None of the teams you played were named Lovejoy.

ATLien23x

December 14th, 2012
7:06 pm

Two seconds, two seconds, two seconds… Dude, shut up

two seconds against your cream puff division, we know

Now it’s time to play a REAL talented team for the first time and beat them, something Lovejoy just isn’t capable of

ATLien23x

December 14th, 2012
7:11 pm

Stupid penalties for Lovejoy and too much Kamara will have Lovejoy crying over another loss in the dome

35-21 Norcross ( the score is closer than the game will actually be )

Tucker67tiger

December 14th, 2012
7:58 pm

All we heard last year was the Lovejoy defense was the best in the state. Best in the South. Turned out to be the most over-rated defense in the state. Was no factor in the game at all. Norcross by 21.

sportsnut

December 14th, 2012
8:13 pm

I thought Lovejoy and Tucker were closer than 67’s words show. Are you bitter ? Lovejoy still mled the state in D, despite the loss. Tucker averaged 43 ppg in the playoffs. Lovejoy held them to 22. Thats 21 below their average. They had 15 at the half and 7 in the second half. They had a total of 271 yards for the game. 199 came in the first half. That leaves them with getting 72 in the second half. We lost but you can’t change facts. That same D is on the field now. Speaking of which, where’s Tucker tonight ?

sportsnut

December 14th, 2012
8:26 pm

Mr. Alien == You need a hobby. Why not praise Norcross for a while and stop bashing Lovejoy. It would be the same thing. Or do you have a mind full of negativity and and find it difficult to give props. I’m just wondering because the only thing you talk about is Lovejoy and all of it is negative. My main adversary here is The Cross. He is intelligent enough and knowledgeble enough to give props where they are due. That is the difference between the two of you. He knows what he is talking about and knows how to communicate a message without being like you. Anyway, Lovejoy wins. Who’s your team ?

RobFromNorcross

December 14th, 2012
8:38 pm

You lost to Tucker. That says it all.

Cat Man

December 14th, 2012
9:08 pm

Rob my boy that was a year ago. How does that “say it all”? Tucker will be watching us this year. I wonder if they would have made it in 6A if they would have gotten moved up. Oh yeah, they couldn’t make it in 4A. The Wildcats are for real whether y’all like it or not! Everybody wants to bash Clayton Co.. That’s going to make it that much sweeter when when Coach Hughes accepts the championship trophy tomorrow night.

Cat Man

December 14th, 2012
9:28 pm

So ATLien, you’re saying it’s time to play a REAL talented team for the first time. I guess that means that Marietta, North Gwinnett and North Cobb are not talented football teams. I beg to differ. And I think you do too. So Norcross is just another good team that will go down to the Cats. Dude, we’re coming to win it! You’ll see the talent all right. And they’re going to be wearing wilcats on their helmets!

sportsnut

December 14th, 2012
10:06 pm

Lovejoy is Here !

That Dude Says...

December 14th, 2012
10:08 pm

I don’t have a horse in the race but I’m pulling for Lovejoy. I’m Sandy Creek 100% but got to pull for my neighbors in Southern Clayton Co. Just saying ELCA won today. If Sandy Creek and Lovejoy pull it out South metro is more than well represented!!!!

That Dude Says...

December 14th, 2012
10:12 pm

Before some moron points it out. Yes I know Sandy Creek and Lovejoy aren’t neighbors. I meant Clayton and Fayette counties. Lovejoy is in South Clayton and Sandy Creek is in Northwest Fayette. We are all Southside.

Camden74

December 14th, 2012
11:19 pm

Norcross by 14…… :-)

ATLien23x

December 14th, 2012
11:21 pm

So sensitive these days…

Can’t imagine how you’re gonna take that loss tomorrow night. Boo hoo :(

ATLien23x

December 14th, 2012
11:27 pm

Marietta & North Cobb are both good football teams but they would never hang with the best of 6A
Colquitt County, Camden County, Grayson, & Norcross

North Gwinnett was in the game for all four quarters against Lovejoy with Michael Haynes injured. Michael Haynes was their offense, he was their Cusits. NG would have beat LJ that night with him at full strength. They would have moved the ball down the field a lot more and kept the defense a lot more fresh. You can disagree and say what you want, but it’s the truth.

LJ wouldn’t beat Camden. Grayson, Norcross, or Colquitt

And you can say NG beat Grayson, so LJ would be Grayson… But that would be false. Styles make matchups and Grayson has the size and offense to wear down LJ and beat them by punching them right back in the mouth.

LJ isn’t ready for Norcross… I’m sorry

The Cross

December 15th, 2012
12:00 am

Little more than 20.5 hours to go…I have to say I am so excited for the Norcross Program and also the Lovejoy program. The memories of this season will stay with everyone associated with both programs for the rest of their lives. I hope for a great game played with honor, respect and sportsmanship. I know there is going to be bodies flying around and head on collisions. My hope is for no injuries on either side and may the best team win. Tomorrow is going to be EPIC.

The Cross

The Cross

December 15th, 2012
12:03 am

Camden74-I still have a seat and a BBQ sandwich waiting on you. I expect you to wear Norcross Blur tomorrow.

The Cross

Stooge

December 15th, 2012
7:24 am

Get em , Cross. We’re sitting this one out thanks to you guys but I wish you luck. We’ll see you guys next year at in scrimmage since you’re hosting. Knock heads! :)

The Cross

December 15th, 2012
7:41 am

Stooge-thanks for the kind words. A little less than 13 hours to kick-off, I watched Norcross prepare all week and I love their game plan. This is a very focused group who will take advantage of Lovejoy’s weaknesses. It is going to be a great game. Kamara and Custis are getting a lot of the pregame press but this one will be won in the trenches. Norcross’ Oline will be too much for Lovejoy. Norcross wins 42-24.

The Cross

TItletown USA

December 15th, 2012
7:56 am

I just hope it is a good game and watchable for 4 quarters, all the previous ones have been mismatches and not worth looking at past the first half.

RobFromNorcross

December 15th, 2012
9:45 am

Less than twelve hours to go, and the countdown begins. Clean game, no injuries, good officiating, and may the better team win!

Football Mom

December 15th, 2012
9:45 am

Good Luck Lovejoy!!! Bring it home represent the southside proudly……

NashviaGwinnett

December 15th, 2012
9:51 am

Clearly, Norcross and Gwinnett High School football will dominate and bring another title home. Norcross 31
Lovejoy. 14

Too much SPEED

THE COACH

December 15th, 2012
9:52 am

There are some good fans, an there are some crazy fans! But remember that Fans lie, Blogers lie, an Numbers don’t!! LoveJoy is one of the talanted teams! Since (Buck ‘95′SWD)! Sport Nut Tell’em! Remember this often the element of time adds value to an accomplishment. Good things take time, as they should. We shouldn’t expect good things to happen over night! South Side !! LJ

sportsnut

December 15th, 2012
10:19 am

This will be it for me today as I prepare to head to the Dome around 1:00. This is a Lovejoy day. All things Blue. Good luck to both teams and may Lovejoy do what they do. Norcross has had a nice season but it is time for them to feel ther pain.. Here’s to no injuries and safe travel to all. Speak at you tonight or in the morning, Win or Lose.

YELLERJACKETZ1

December 15th, 2012
10:30 am

ALL OF THE CHAMPS WILL BE FROM ABOVE THE FREEZE LINE! ONLY NO. GA. TEAMS LEFT!

YELLERJACKETZ1

December 15th, 2012
10:33 am

SORRY I FORGOT ABOUT CLASS A

Camden74

December 15th, 2012
10:52 am

The Cross…….Thanks for the invite, but it ain’t gonna happen. But, I do wish you guys the best, in tonight’s game. The winner will make history! No Georgia HS Team has ever won a 6A Title before, tonight’s winner win be the first……. Have a good time! :-)

Camden74

December 15th, 2012
10:57 am

camden cootie

December 15th, 2012
11:03 am

No LOVE—-No JOY he he…..u guys sux……nocross be spanking yo bootie

lhsalum33

December 15th, 2012
11:22 am

Everyone has excuses of why LJ won some of the games they won. We lost go Colquitt due to penalties, we know, they know but the fact is we lost! NG beat Colquitt and Grayson and played us with an injured QB. So that’s all NG had? They didn’t have a RB, another playmaker? They should’ve lost if that’s the case because NC would’ve beat them by 30! Grayson was a one trick pony and while it was a good trick, that doesn’t equate to championship football. NG beat Grayson because they could block #1. They lost because they couldn’t block LJs D-Line, aside from their injured QB

The Cross

December 15th, 2012
11:33 am

Less than 9 hours to kick-off. Norcross is well prepared and highly focused. This will be like a Ferrari racing a Camaro. The Camaro is fast when compared to a VW bug, but not so fast when pitted against a Ferrari. Lovejoy is a fine team, but they will be exposed tonight. Norcross will explode for some big plays given the backyard D scheme of Lovejoy. That strategy works vs. weaker opponents but a superior team will take advantage. Norcross 42-24.

The Cross

The Cross

December 15th, 2012
11:41 am

Camden74-Get in front of your computer at 8:30pm and root your Blue Devils to a Victory. Your honorary fan status ends at midnight tonight. If you order a pizza, send me the bill.

The Cross

Cat Man

December 15th, 2012
12:01 pm

Yo Cross. Enjoyed your posts these last couple of weeks. Didn’t always agree, but that’s what it’s all about, sticking up for your team. Whichever way it goes tonight, I pray nobody gets seriously hurt. I’m anxious to see Kamara and Custis go head to head. 14-0 is a great season, but I’ve got to go with my Cats as you must go with your Devils. I’m outta here. Going to head down early today to see my other southside team, Sandy Creek. Adios

The Cross

December 15th, 2012
1:10 pm

Thanks Cat! The talking is almost over.

One of us will be happy at midnight and the other will be sad but proud!

Safe travels to all down to the Dome sweet Dome.

The Cross

RobFromNorcross

December 15th, 2012
1:46 pm

Just got back from Norcross, the team is assembling. They are focused and ready for the GA Dome and the chance to extend their season to 15-0 and a AAAAAA Championship! See y’all in the Dome and looking forward to a great matchup!

Safe Travels everyone.

BullDawg Rick

December 15th, 2012
3:05 pm

Norcross by 14-17…

Reason? 7 AAAAAA & 8 AAAAAA is the SEC of Georgia HS Sports & the teas(s) representing the county are tested & retested..

Keep it in Gwinnett, Blue Devils!!

lhsalum33

December 15th, 2012
4:20 pm

The trash talking was fun but good luck to both teams and I’ll be watching the game from Statesboro! “All I know is all I know….”

GTPak

December 15th, 2012
4:29 pm

Wish Custis and Ramos could bring along some of the O Line and D Line to GT, maybe even Kamara as well. Have a great game Custis and Ramos!!

Grayram

December 15th, 2012
5:38 pm

Buford,Gainesville, Jefferson, and soon Norcross….There is something in the water in that northeast corridor.

5150 UOAD

December 15th, 2012
6:22 pm

Lovejoy will not be at home tonight but they will still smack talk like a ghetto rapper all game as usual. Not sure if that will work on Norcross like it has the last 2 games at home.
Should be a great game. Pulling for Custis and Ramos the 2 Tech commits.

5150 UOAD

December 15th, 2012
6:56 pm

What a crock……Sandy Creek takes too much time to kick the FG to go up 17-0 and the REFS don’t blow the whistle and back Sandy Creek 5 yards. What a JOKE.