But after shutting out five Clayton County opponents and seven region opponents in all, the Wildcats lost to Tucker in the Class AAAA final.
“We do know we’ve got unfinished business,” said Al Hughes, who is entering his 12th season as Lovejoy’s football coach. “There is no doubt about that, but our slogan is very simple: ‘No shortcuts. No excuses. Win the last one.’
“We know how hard it is to get there,” he said. “We know with that process there are no shortcuts to getting back and no excuses. The most important thing is to win that last game because we didn’t do that — that is the only way the season would have been a success.”
In order to “win the last one,” the Wildcats will have to take a different route this year due to reclassification and realignment. Lovejoy will compete in Region 2-AAAAAA with Druid Hills, Morrow, Newton, Rockdale County, Luella and Alcovy.
“Our region ain’t too bad,” Hughes said. “If we had to pick a region to be in the state, this was a pretty good region to be in as far as we are concerned. There are some good solid football teams in there.”
Of these six teams, Alcovy was the only one to advance to the postseason last year.
Before playing any of these teams, the Wildcats will play their first non-region, regular season game for the first time in two seasons, starting with Mundy’s Mill in the Big Cat Classic then Colquitt County (11-3).
“We had to pick up four games so we decided to go out and get the four toughest teams we could get,” Hughes said. “Maybe it will help us since it won’t count against our record. Maybe it will help us if we have the opportunity to get back to the Dome again. We want to be prepared.”
After traveling to Moultrie, Lovejoy returns home to face the Alpharetta Raiders, whose offense is led by quarterback Joshua Dobbs and wide receiver Carlos Burse.
“They probably got one of the best quarterback and receiver combos in the state,” Hughes said.
Then the Wildcats conclude their non-region schedule against East Coweta.
“They are always a traditionally strong program,” Hughes said. “When you go to East Coweta, you got to play East Coweta, their fans and sometimes the referees. It’s just a tough place to play.”
However, these opponents will have their hands full with the Wildcats’ eight returning starters on offense and defense, including Travis Custis, Arshad Jackson, Alejandro Bennifield, Zane Fields and JuMichael Ramos.