For a full preview of the Class AA state title game, go here.
Class AA Title Game (Saturday, 2:30 p.m.)
Lovett (13-1) vs. Lamar County (14-0)
Overview: When the regular season ended, the Lamar County Trojans were ranked No. 1 and the Lovett Lions No. 2. On Saturday, they will decide on the field which team is the state champion. The Trojans will make their first state title game appearance in school history. The Lions are in the title game for the first time since 2007 and are seeking their first state championship since 1970.
Lovett season: The Lions have played perhaps the toughest schedule of any team in the state, facing off against five ranked teams from higher classifications plus Region 6-AA rival Greater Atlanta Christian, which was ranked No. 3 at the time. Their lone loss was to No. 3 Washington County of Class AAA, and that came in overtime and with the Lions missing their starting quarterback due to injury.
Lamar County season: The Trojans are 14-0 for the first time in school history and are seeking perfection. Opponents hadn’t offered much in the way of a challenge – the Trojans outscored opponents 581-161 through their first 13 games – until the semifinals and Benedictine, when the Trojans squeezed out a 10-7 win on a 24-yard field goal as time expired.
Lovett strength: The Lions have a strong running game, with the team – led by Grant Haley, Jay Harris and quarterback Willie Candler – rushing for 3,600 yards on 565 carries. Candler is also effective in the passing game with a 159.5 efficiency rating. Haley is also extremely dangerous in the return game and has a 95-yard punt return touchdown. The Lions’ defense is allowing just 14.6 points a game.
Lamar County strength: Speed. The Trojans have three of the fastest athletes in the state in Austin twins Lawrence and Lance, along with Quay Searcy. The three create havoc on offense and defense as two-way starters. Ray Lyons is another play maker on both sides of the ball.
Lovett’s top players: Senior RB/DB/KR Grant Haley (committed to Vanderbilt) has 132 carries for 1,420 yards and 23 touchdowns and has two touchdown receptions. On defense, he has six interceptions and two fumble recoveries … Senior MLB Charlie Ingram has 70.5 tackles, three sacks, an interception and a forced fumble … Junior QB Willie Candler completed 80 of his 140 passes for 1,228 yards and 14 touchdowns to three interceptions and has rushed 140 times for 495 yards and seven touchdowns.
Lamar County’s top players: HB/DB Lawrence Austin has rushed 139 times for 1,348 yards and 19 touchdowns. He has 211 receiving yards and four touchdown receptions. On defense, he has four interceptions and two fumble recoveries … QB/DB Lance Austin has completed 38 of his 65 passes for 827 yards and 12 touchdowns to just one interception. He has also rushed 149 times for 1,097 yards and 19 touchdowns. On defense, he has three interceptions and a fumble recovery … Quay Searcy has 400 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He has five interceptions on defense … All three players are seniors and are committed to Georgia Tech.
On Lovett: “Lovett is well coached. Mike Muschamp – if there’s a coach who does a better job of maximizing the talent he has, I’d like to meet him. He’s a master of attacking you everywhere. He plans for everything. They’re such a coached-up ball club. His players are hard-nosed, rugged and play hard. And find me a better all-purpose player than Grant Haley.” – Washington County coach Jim Ingram, whose team is the only to beat Lovett this season, 36-33 in overtime on Oct. 4.
On Lamar County: “Speed is a big thing with Lamar County. They’re really good in space. With those three D-I athletes they have (the Austin twins and Searcy) they’re real tough to deal with. You have to control the ball and keep their offense off the field, because if they have the ball long enough, they’re going to make plays.” – Taylor County coach Chris Kirksey, whose team lost to Lamar County 40-14 on Sept. 27.
AJC pick: Lamar County 31, Lovett 28.
Send Adam Krohn an email at AdamKrohnAJC@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter.