On Friday, the state’s No. 2 and 3-ranked teams will come together in Norcross when the host Greater Atlanta Christian Spartans (9-0, 3-0 in 6-AA) and the Lovett Lions (8-1, 3-0) play for the Region 6-AA championship. Lovett owns the No. 2 ranking ahead of GAC despite having a loss on the season, because pollsters have given an edge to the Lions for their strength of schedule, which includes ranked opponents from higher classifications.
The Lions played AAA’s No. 10-ranked Woodward Academy, Blessed Trinity (AAA, No. 7), Marist (AAAA, No. 4), St. Pius X (AAA, No. 2) and Washington County (AAA, No. 3), losing only to Washington County, 36-33, in overtime.
“Lovett and coach (Mike) Muschamp did a great job,” Spartans coach Tim Hardy said. “They had a brutal schedule and they navigated it. That’s very impressive.”
The Spartans, on the other hand, have yet to be challenged this season. They’ve outscored their opponents – all non-ranked – a combined 456-95.
Thus, an intriguing collision course has been created for this year’s Lovett-GAC rivalry, as it’s tough to gauge which team is the favorite or if the game will be close or high-scoring. GAC has the home-field advantage, but the Lions have a five-game win streak in the series, including last year’s 31-30 win. However, with the exception of Lovett’s 48-17 win in 2009, all games during Lovett’s streak have been decided by a touchdown or less. The AJC readership is split nearly down the middle on who will win – as of Tuesday morning, 144 readers had voted on the outcome of the game, with 73 picking Lovett and 71 picking GAC.
Though the Lions have faced tougher competition to this point, Hardy doesn’t believe his team’s schedule thus far puts his team at a disadvantage.
“We’ve had a good season up to this point,” he said. “Our guys have executed well on Friday nights. Our scores may have been favorable and what not, but you can lineup against whoever and not look good. We’ve executed consistently very well on both sides of the ball and I’m pleased. So even though the games we’ve played haven’t been tense, what’s the alternative? To not execute well? No, I’ll take the other option.”
Lovett and GAC are playing for a No. 1 seed that would set the winner up with the No. 4 seed out of Region 8 – likely Union County. The loser of Friday’s game will settle for the No. 2 seed and play Region 8’s No. 3 seed – likely Rabun County.
Fortunately for both teams, the strength of schedule and the state rankings will be rendered meaningless after Friday, when the game is decided on the field.
“If you’re going to win the whole thing, you have to beat good teams,” Hardy said. “The path you take – we’re not really worried about that. … If you look at AA this year, it’s wide open. I see about seven or eight teams in the hunt.”
Adam Krohn covers all things Class AA football. Have a question or tip? Want to see more coverage of your team? Want to drop a line to compliment how awesome the Class AA beat coverage is? Send Adam a message on Twitter @AdamKrohnAJC and follow him for the latest in Class AA coverage.