50 in 50: Lovett aims to survive again against rugged schedule

Mike Muschamp's Lovett team played 12 of their 13 games against teams that made the playoffs last season. (David Tulis, Special to AJC)

Mike Muschamp's Lovett team played 12 of their 13 games against teams that made the playoffs last season. (David Tulis, Special to AJC)

Lovett Lions

2012 record: 8-5, 4-0 in Region 6-AA, lost to Lamar County 35-28 in the Class AA quarterfinals.

Starters returning: 6 offense, 5 defense

Key players lost: LB/OL John Coletti, LB/OL Corey Erdoes, DB/WR Winn Martin, LB/RB Brant Wells

Key players returning: QB/DB Willie Candler, DB/RB Grant Haley, DL/OL Tej Suber

Spring practice dates: April 29-May 10

Outlook: With just five teams in Region 6-AA, making the playoffs should be little problem for Lovett. If the Lions can survive the regular season with their health and confidence intact, they will be in position to make another deep playoff run. Lovett reached at least the quarterfinals in six of the past seven seasons.

Schedule:

Aug. 23 – Woodward Academy

Aug. 30 – at Blessed Trinity

Sept. 13 – at Marist

Sept. 20 – St. Pius

Sept. 27 – at Fort Payne, Ala.

Oct. 4 – Washington County

Oct. 18 – at Hapeville Charter

Oct. 25 – Wesleyan

Nov. 1 – Westminster

Nov. 8 – at Greater Atlanta Christian

The success of Lovett’s 2012 football team is better measured by the team’s appearance in the Class AA quarterfinals than its 8-5 overall record.

The Lions faced one of the state’s most difficult schedules last year, playing 12 of their 13 games against teams that made the playoffs. Lovett started the season well, with victories against Woodward Academy and Blessed Trinity, but then lost four consecutive games, its longest losing streak in one season since 1991. The four opponents – Marist, St. Pius, Fort Payne (Ala.) and Washington County – finished the season with a combined record of 45-8.

“We couldn’t get a lot of teams to play us,” Lovett coach Mike Muschamp said. “We called lots and lots of people, and we had to create something. It definitely tested our depth, but it helped prepare us for the playoffs because we faced things that it’s hard to simulate in practice.”

The respect for the Lions was such that they remained in the Top 10 after six games despite the 2-4 record.

“Lovett might’ve been the first team ever to lose four straight games and maintain a Top 10 ranking,” said Georgia High School Football Daily’s Todd Holcomb, who coordinates the rankings for the Journal-Constitution. “But all four opponents were in the Top 10 of higher classifications, including one that went 10-0 in Alabama. And Lovett had beaten two AAA teams that made the playoffs. So won-lost record means nothing. It’s who you beat and who beat you that tells you where you stand.”

Lovett got on a roll late in the season, sweeping Hapeville Charter, Wesleyan, Westminster and Greater Atlanta Christian to win the Region 6-AA title and then beating Coosa and Manchester in the first two rounds of the playoffs. The season ended with a 35-28 loss to Lamar County in the quarterfinals.

Now the Lions turn their attention to the 2013 season against the same rough schedule they faced last year. They will hold spring practice April 29-May 10, although Muschamp doesn’t expect to get a lot of answers from those two weeks of work.

“Spring practice is always hard for us because our spring sports do so well, which is a good thing,” Muschamp said. “We have so many kids involved with that, so we’re mainly working with our young kids. We do fundamental stuff, like blocking, tackling and making sure people are lined up in the right place.”

Lovett must replace all-state linebacker John Coletti, the team’s defensive MVP last season, as well as defensive standouts Corey Erdoes, Brant Wells and Winn Martin. But the Lions have offensive weapons returning in running back Grant Haley, who made the all-state team as a defensive back last year, and quarterback Willie Candler, who was honorable mention all-state as a sophomore. Tej Suber is expected to lead an offensive line that Muschamp described as “a work in progress.”

7 comments Add your comment

BT

March 26th, 2013
8:26 am

I have always been impressed with the program Lovett has. Year after year they are competitive with anyone they play. Coach Muschamp is the master of the trick play as well.

Jefferson

March 26th, 2013
12:15 pm

Good team year after year. Hope they keep a little stadium….

JimmyJack

March 26th, 2013
4:06 pm

Always fun to watch Muschamp’s offense. There is a young kid coming up that can really tote the rock, Ellison, I believe.

Golden Lion Football

March 26th, 2013
4:07 pm

Tough schedule ! As a small school they play probably the toughest schedule in the state unless you count always out-maned Meadowcreek. Westminster plays almost the same but looks like Lovett has the tougher slate. You just hope they can get past the non region games without too many injuries. The returning QB is heck of a player they love to throw the ball.

FootballTopFan(c)

March 26th, 2013
6:27 pm

FootballTopFan would like to congratulate the Lovett Lions football program !!!

Mike Muschamp is a great high school coach and the team always play hard.

We love high school football.

kramers2009

March 28th, 2013
12:59 pm

Lions will be there in the end again this year. They do a great, great job “working with what they got”. The QB Candler is the REAL DEAL. He started as a Freshman. Their passing offense will continue to get better and better.

Lovett Fan

March 31st, 2013
4:43 pm

Muschamp does not just teach the kids to play football. He teaches them to play beautiful football that is fun to watch. Since there is a lower school and middle school, the enthusiasm for the program is awe inspiring. Lovett home grows some real talent and they will have some good kids coming up the pipeline. As a private day school buried in a tight market in buckhead Atlanta, they may not have a deep bench with size and athleticism, but hard work and truly great coaching count for a lot. All of the great athletic programs at this small school stewarded by AD Steve Franks, teach the kids the ethical lessons of sport while demanding excellence- Wrestling, Lacrosse, Baseball, Volleyball, Girls Basketball… the list just goes on season after season.