Norcross, Lovejoy very similar: ‘It’s an evenly matched game athlete to athlete,’ Maloof says

There’s a certain look to Lovejoy and Norcross. They have star running backs, but they also pass well. Their defenses are fast and force mistakes.

“As we’re looking at film of Norcross, it looks like a lot of what we do before our eyes,’’ Lovejoy head coach Al Hughes said. “They’ve got good running back, the quarterback is athletic, and defensively they fly around the ball and make plays.’’

Hughes’ observations are easily supported.

- Travis Custis of Lovejoy has rushed for 2,058 yards with 35 touchdowns. Alvin Kamara of Norcross has rushed for 2,210 yards with 25 touchdowns.

- Alejandro Bennifield of Lovejoy has passed for 2,395 yards with 28 touchdowns and five interceptions. Joseph Wilbur of Norcross has passed for 2,347 with 27 touchdowns and five interceptions.

- Lovejoy’s defense is led by nose tackle Nathaniel Norwood, who has 16.5 sacks. Norcross’ defense is led by Lorenzo Carter, who has 18 sacks.

- Both teams have several major Division I prospects from Kamara (uncommitted) and Custis (Georgia Tech) to Lovejoy tight end Arshad Jackson (Auburn) and Norcross cornerback Shon Akins (California).

- Lovejoy’s Al Hughes and Norcross’ Keith Maloof are in their 17th seasons as head coaches. Neither they, nor their schools, have won state titles.

‘’It’s an evenly matched game athlete to athlete,’’ Maloof said. ‘’We’ve got great running backs. He’s got a big ol’ offensive line; we’ve got a big ol’ offensive line. We’ve got aggressive defenses. If you make a mistake, each team can take advantage.’’

But of the similarities, none will be more studied and discussed Saturday than Custis and Kamara.

Perhaps the more physical back at 6 feet, 205 pounds, Custis rushed for 292 yards and scored five touchdowns in the 63-42 victory over North Cobb in the semifinals. Hughes said that was ‘’about par. It just depends on how many times you feed him the pill.’’

Hughes was the coach of high school running backs Tashard Choice and Emmanuel McDaniel, who would play in the NFL. Custis is the best he’s coached, Hughes said.

‘’We’ve had a lot of good ones here, and we’ve had some that made it even to the league,’’ Hughes said. “Travis as a junior broke all of Tashard’s rushing records. He’s working on all of his own now. He is by far probably the best we’ve had at Lovejoy High School.’’

Kamara, perhaps more elusive at 5-10, 190, is rated higher by those that assign stars and recruiting ratings. Rivals.com considers him the No. 1 running back prospect in South, No. 4 in the nation. Kamara has averaged 24.5 carries and 156 yards rushing in the playoffs.

‘’He’s as good you think he is and better,’’ Maloof said. “He can do so much athletically, and leadership wise, he raises the level of people around him.’’

21 comments Add your comment

sportsnut

December 14th, 2012
2:00 pm

Difference Lovejoy has more, position by position.

sportsnut

December 14th, 2012
2:07 pm

BamaBornDukie

December 14th, 2012
4:58 pm

ESPN is the recruiting source that has Kamara as the #4 RB.

http://espn.go.com/college-sports/football/recruiting/playerrankings/_/position/runningback/class/2013/view/position

Tough game to pick for me but I’m leaning slightly to Norcross. If Myles Autry doesn’t play then I might side with Lovejoy. Should be a great match-up.

RobFromNorcross

December 14th, 2012
5:03 pm

Both teams have similar offensive production for the season, but Norcross stats came against a whole lot better teams. (6-0 vs Top 12 compared with 2-1 against Top 15 for Lovejoy), And we also had lots of running clock, half-hour elapsed time, second halves with lots of starters on the sidelines…

Norcross by 14+

RobFromNorcross

December 14th, 2012
5:07 pm

“He is by far probably the best we’ve had at Lovejoy High School.”

by far probably?

sportsnut

December 14th, 2012
5:31 pm

Statements like that are common when you have players. You would not know anything about that, so stop trying, you’ll hurt yourself.

sportsnut

December 14th, 2012
5:45 pm

I count 4 games where you have had a running clock. That count for Lovejoy is 8.

Cat Man

December 14th, 2012
6:18 pm

ELCA brings home the first southside championship this weekend. Lovejoy will make it 2 for 2 tomorrow night. The Cats are ready and there ain’t no stopping us now!

Cat Man

December 14th, 2012
7:11 pm

@sportsnut we had 8, they had 4 but you know what Cross is going to say? Soft schedule. That’s what he clings to! That’s all he’s got to fall back on. And he’s not the only one. Those other Norcross folks have jumped on that. What they don’t understand is this, we didn’t choose that region so we played the cards that were dealt us. Also, we moved UP from 4A and we’re in the finals AGAIN. What else can we do but go on and win it!

sportsnut

December 14th, 2012
8:30 pm

Lovejoy is making GHSA history. They hit the scoring books last week. They will accomplish many things saturday. Wait and see. It will be quite a few.

ATLien23x

December 15th, 2012
2:12 am

KAMARA ALL DAY BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

BlueDevil@Tucker

December 15th, 2012
6:04 am

I am not sure how a Lovejoy team that lost (big loss) to the Tucker Tigers last year thinks they can take on a steady powerhouse like Norcross. What’s really changed for Lovejoy? There was so much southside love for Lovejoy last year and they got the loss shoved down their throats by a team that is not even in their classification this year. Norcross takes this one! (Proud THS teacher, even more proud NHS alum)

Coach D

December 15th, 2012
9:13 am

The proof is in the pudding….

Cat Man

December 15th, 2012
10:00 am

Yeah BD@T, we lost last year to a very good Tucker team. But that was THEN and this NOW! Tucker beat a very good Lovejoy team who wasn’t supposed to make it that far being that most of our guys were not even seniors. You asked what’s changed for Lovejoy, those same guys are seniors this time around. They’re bigger, stronger, faster! That’s what’s changed! And where are the Tigers this year? Like you, they’ll be home watching and wondering what could have been. (a proud CCPS teacher)

sportsnut

December 15th, 2012
10:26 am

@ BD@T == You don’t even know football. I will hit the side Cat Man didn’t. The only thing that made that a big lose was that it was for the title. The score was not big. Lovejoy held Tucker, the leading scoring team last season in the playoffs 21 points below their average of 43 ppg. You call Norcross a steady powerhouse ? Norcross has only been relevant for a couple of years. Do your homework before you come here and try to talk football with us football people ! Lovejoy wins !

sportsnut

December 15th, 2012
10:27 am

Correction time, line 2== a big loss, not lose.

RobFromNorcross

December 15th, 2012
1:41 pm

So, in the world of a sportsnut, a team’s record in 1923 is relevant but a loss to a AAAA team a year ago isn’t? The only thing relevant is this year… teams in high school are assembled together for a single year and lose and gain players each year. The teams this year are both good but only one is 14-0 and is also 10-0 against Top 30 teams. Norcross!

Rush

December 15th, 2012
7:48 pm

Catman, Morrow won the state championship in 1987.

The difference in Lovejoy from last year is they pass the ball better.

I’m rooting for Lovejoy, but I think Norcross pulls out a close one.

Should be a good game.

RobFromNorcross

December 16th, 2012
3:39 pm

I’m picking Norcross to beat Lovejoy in a close one- probably a nail-biter!
:-)

Just Saying

December 17th, 2012
1:25 pm

So Sportsnut, what do you have to say now….. Thought so….21-14 NORCROSS, gotta play all 4 quarters.,..in order to win…

sportsnut

December 19th, 2012
6:25 pm

Sportsnut says === Great Game.