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

Camden74

December 15th, 2012
7:36 pm

The Cross……I’ve been in front of my Computer and TVs all day, I’ll be here until all games are finished. It’s been an interesting football day! I’m placing my support behind you guys, but the honorary fan status, although much appreciated, think I’ll pass. Roll on Camden County Wildcats, roll on! :-D

5150 UOAD

December 15th, 2012
7:55 pm

Are they going to have a LIVE blog for the Norcross vs Lovejoy game?

GwinnettDad

December 15th, 2012
8:25 pm

I don’t have a feel for a favorite in this game. Good luck to both teams. I’m obviously from Gwinnett so I can’t claim impartiality. Wouldn’t mind the crown staying nearby for the third year in a row.

5150 – on TV on Georgia Public Broadcasting. Has been all day.

5150 UOAD

December 15th, 2012
8:35 pm

I have been watching GwinnettDad I just wondered if we are going to talk crap live during the game.

GwinnettDad

December 15th, 2012
8:43 pm

@5150 – this might be the only AJC place to remark. I know of no other.

5150 UOAD

December 15th, 2012
9:01 pm

Sorry Gil is so bad at calling the games. His stick is goofy.

5150 UOAD

December 15th, 2012
9:02 pm

WOW…………these buttheads announcing the game didn’t even say CUSTIS is a Tech commit.

jvillebil

December 15th, 2012
9:09 pm

Well, I’ve watched the first 3 games at the dome yesterday and now the last 4 here at home in Fla. I hope this game is a great one.

5150 UOAD

December 15th, 2012
9:10 pm

WOW he just muffed that pass………..

5150 UOAD

December 15th, 2012
9:11 pm

Ramos make that catch.

jvillebil

December 15th, 2012
9:11 pm

I guess the LJ QB was trying to take a play out of the SP playbook with that opening throw

5150 UOAD

December 15th, 2012
9:14 pm

I think he was throwing to the guy deeper than Ramos but Ramos jumped and tried to catch a ball that was not for him.

jvillebil

December 15th, 2012
9:19 pm

That could have been a pick 6

GwinnettDad

December 15th, 2012
9:20 pm

All signs point so far to this being a real game. Norcross 2nd possession, ball on Lovejoy’s 35. First down.

jvillebil

December 15th, 2012
9:25 pm

Lovejoy had the top defense in all classifications, It’s going to be a real grind for Norcross. We live in N. FL and fortunately Direct TV carries GPTV here.

5150 UOAD

December 15th, 2012
9:29 pm

Well so many of these games have been bad…..I’m glad this is a GAME finally.

GwinnettDad

December 15th, 2012
9:29 pm

That 4th and 4 wasn’t a bad snap. Bolo ball.

jvillebil

December 15th, 2012
9:35 pm

Speaking of bad games, I drove all the way to Atl from Florida yesterday to watch my Gators play. Talk about a bad game, but we were in awe of how smooth Watson was. I mean in the 3rd quarter my son leans over and says, “Dad, I know he’s the other team’s QB but man he’s something to watch.” Unfortunately I had to agree. I just hope this one stays close and is a barn burner, heck I’d love it if it went to OT.

jvillebil

December 15th, 2012
9:36 pm

Does coache Hughes always sit on that stool?

5150 UOAD

December 15th, 2012
9:37 pm

Is this the first game to have no score after the 1st quarter?

GwinnettDad

December 15th, 2012
9:39 pm

Both teams 2 possessions, no score. Just into 2nd quarter. I don’t think anybody might have thought it would be 0-0 at this point.

5150 UOAD

December 15th, 2012
9:39 pm

jvillebil…….looks like he is missing his huge bowl of ice cream with chocolate and sprinkles. No Coach should be that fat.

jvillebil

December 15th, 2012
9:40 pm

Did Buford kick a FG in 1st or 2nd Qt. It was 3-0 at half

jvillebil

December 15th, 2012
9:41 pm

LOL 5150 UOAD Not sure how he motivates his players to do their best when he can’t hardly get off that stool.

WILDHAWG2012

December 15th, 2012
9:44 pm

Man i am very surprise at all the blowouts in the title games

jvillebil

December 15th, 2012
9:48 pm

The Buford game was the only game that wasn’t decided until the end. I think Jefferson played lights out & stunned Calhoun. Wow great catch by #8

jvillebil

December 15th, 2012
9:50 pm

Can’t drop balls like that in a game of this magnitude

GwinnettDad

December 15th, 2012
9:51 pm

Lovejoy dropping a slant on the 25 that probably would have been a TD, Bolo ball.

Two teams scored 104 points last week. 0 so far this game. Who can predict these games?

jvillebil

December 15th, 2012
9:53 pm

5150 UOAD

December 15th, 2012
9:53 pm

What a BAD BAD flag. That was as clean as you get not Pass Interference.

5150 UOAD

December 15th, 2012
9:55 pm

Damn these teams are PLAYING BALL.

jvillebil

December 15th, 2012
9:55 pm

Wow LJ defense is quick. This game looks like a low score affair

BamaBornDukie

December 15th, 2012
9:57 pm

Fields with a stupid play. DISCIPLINE????

jvillebil

December 15th, 2012
9:57 pm

When I see stupid plays like this I have to remember these are 15-17 year old kids, they at least got a break by it not being a 1st down.

5150 UOAD

December 15th, 2012
9:58 pm

STUPID…………………THINK….but this is the Thug crap Lovejoy has been doing in their games at home. Just play clean and keep the trash talking to a minimum.

GwinnettDad

December 15th, 2012
9:58 pm

When the Broncos got beat so bad in 2005, Lowndes defenders lived in the offensive backfield. Lovejoy is doing that to Norcross tonight.

jvillebil

December 15th, 2012
10:00 pm

Was cheating up and got burned

5150 UOAD

December 15th, 2012
10:00 pm

Damn that was nice……that is a TECH commit…….

GwinnettDad

December 15th, 2012
10:01 pm

That was a pretty TD pass.

jvillebil

December 15th, 2012
10:02 pm

I don’t have a dog in this fight, I’d like to see Norcross score before half. I’m still pulling for OT. LOL

Grayram

December 15th, 2012
10:06 pm

3 yards short and Gil is saying ” it depends on the spot”

jvillebil

December 15th, 2012
10:07 pm

Coach Hughes waddles when he walks

5150 UOAD

December 15th, 2012
10:12 pm

yes GIL TYREE sucks calling the games. He only knows a few players names. He tries to make cute calls that just sound dump.

Coach Hughes really should be on a Diet. What does he teach in the classroom?

Grayram

December 15th, 2012
10:17 pm

Marietta fan

December 15th, 2012
10:20 pm

I’m still conflicted on who I want to win. Normally it would be Lovejoy since they knocked us out, but as we’ve seen tonight, they can play dirty and that turns we away

jvillebil

December 15th, 2012
10:23 pm

When I don’t have a dog in the fight I usually pull for the underdog, but I’ve seen people all year long here on AJC live talk say Lovejoy plays dirty, so I’m kinda pulling against them. I pulling for O.T.
@ Grayram = health, LOL

Fred

December 15th, 2012
10:26 pm

@jvillebil & 5150 UOAD – The LJ coach had dual knee replacement that mostly failed and he has a lot of mobility issues. It is supposed to be hard from him to walk much and he can’t stand for long. If you watch closely, he has ball players and coaches around him and if the play comes his way they form a wall to protect him.

Grayram

December 15th, 2012
10:28 pm

I don’t think Lovejoy is playing dirty. I’m not crazy about the prancing around or trash talk, but I don’t like it when Grayson does it either.

GwinnettDad

December 15th, 2012
10:30 pm

Grayram, yeah, that was one thing Nkemdiche just couldn’t stop doing, it seemed. I watched him do that repeatedly against Miami Central.

5150 UOAD

December 15th, 2012
10:31 pm

Fred didn’t know that but still he really needs to diet and get healthy eating habits. It will only get worse on his body.