For a scouting report and a prediction for the Class AA title game, go here.
There might not be a more deserving team to reach the state finals than the Lovett Lions. Though the private school in Atlanta comes from Region 6-AA, where there are only five teams – four of which make the playoffs – it’s their non-region schedule that has paved a tough, battle-tested road to the Class AA title game, where they’ll face the Lamar County Trojans from Region 4 at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Georgia Dome.
The Lions (13-1) – led by all-purpose standout Grant Haley – posted impressive regular season wins against ranked opponents from higher classifications, including AAA’s No. 10 Woodward Academy (21-14), AAA’s No. 7 Blessed Trinity (14-3), AAAA’s No. 4 Marist (41-38, double overtime) and AAA’s No. 2 St. Pius X (28-7). Not to mention, they had to get past No. 3-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian for the region title, and did so with a 17-14 win.
Their only loss was to AAA’s No. 3-ranked Washington County, 36-33 in overtime and without their starting quarterback Willie Candler, who was out with an injury. Washington County reached the AAA state finals.
“The schedule is difficult and it forces you to join together or really struggle,” said Lions coach Mike Muschamp, whose team has defeated Union County, Kendrick, Laney and Brooks County in the playoffs to reach the title game. “Our team really bonded. We’ve been through some difficult situations and each game we’ve played has been designed to get us to where we are right now so that we’ve seen the kind of things we need to prepare for Lamar County.”
The Trojans (14-0), on the other hand, may not have played the brutal schedule the Lions did, but they’ve certainly lived up to expectations. Before the season started, a lot of buzz surrounded the abilities of two-way starters Lance Austin, twin brother Lawrence Austin and Quay Searcy – all of whom are three-star recruits according to Rivals and are committed to Georgia Tech. Behind the speed of this dangerous trio, the Trojans have defeated opponents this season by a 30-point average.
Benedictine gave them a scare in the semifinals, taking a 7-0 halftime lead that lasted well into the third quarter. But the Trojans responded with 10 unanswered points, capped by Tyler Scandrett’s 24-yard field goal as time expired for a 10-7 win.
Now, only the Lions stand in the way of the first state title in program history. Lovett is aiming for its first state title since 1970.
“Lovett is extremely well-coached, intelligent and disciplined,” said Trojans coach Franklin Stephens, who won two state titles at Tucker (’08, ’11) before taking over at Lamar County last season. “They don’t do things to get themselves beat. … We realize we can’t turn the football over or give up any big plays in the kicking game or on offense or defense.”
Today’s championship is a rematch of the 2012 state quarterfinals, where the Trojans held on to win 35-28 after leading 27-14 at halftime.
Send Adam Krohn an email at AdamKrohnAJC@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter.