It won’t take long for the four area powerhouses to be tested as they face some of the most challenging early non-region schedules in the state.
Lovett is one of those teams which traditionally have put itself through a rigorous non-region slate of games in the first half of the season.
The Lions certainly experienced that baptism by fire a year ago when it got off to a 2-4 start — including consecutive losses to powerhouses Marist, St. Pius X, Fort Payne (Ala.) and Washington County — before rebounding to win six of their last seven games and advance to the Class AA quarterfinals.
The 2013 season will be no different for Lovett, which opens the campaign against the exact same six teams they faced at the start of last year — hosting Woodward in its opener Friday, playing at Class AAA second-round team Blessed Trinity (Aug. 30) and at AAAA semifinalist Marist (Sept. 13), then hosting AAA runner-up St. Pius (Sept. 20), traveling to Fort Payne (Sept. 27) and returning home to take on AAA quarterfinalist Washington County (Oct. 4).
Getting his team ready for the challenges of the state playoffs is the motivation for the Lions’ grueling schedule, according to coach Mike Muschamp.
“The idea behind making the schedule what it is was [is], if you get through that schedule and you’re still healthy, you’ve been exposed to everything you’re going to see as far as what you’re going to see in the playoffs,” Muschamp said. “The idea was to prepare us for the different types of offenses and defenses that we were going to run into.”
That is the same philosophy Westminster adheres to in putting together its challenging early non-region schedule, which also includes Blessed Trinity, St. Pius and Woodward as well as AAA quarterfinalist Thomson.
“We have one of the toughest non-region schedules in the state — not just in AA, but all across the board,” Westminster coach Gerry Romberg said. “We’re going to find out right away what we’re made of.”
St. Pius faces a challenging early non-region schedule that includes Westminster and AAA second-round team North Oconee as well as Thomson and Lovett.
For St. Pius coach Paul Standard, the first four games could determine how far the Golden Lions can go.
“I said this last year — we could very well be 0-4 and be OK if our kids can handle it,” he said. “We have the third toughest schedule in AAA. All four of these teams are playoff teams from last year, so we’re playing four teams who are outstanding teams with tradition and everything. The key to our kids, I believe, is how they handle those first four games and I mean this — irregardless of the score, if we get better, we’ll be ready for our region.”
Marist will certainly be challenged as well against an early non-region slate that includes Lovett and AAAAA playoff qualifiers Thomas County Central and Clarke Central.
“I think the first three ballgames are tough ballgames for us,” Marist coach Alan Chadwick said. “We’ll try to get a couple of wins out of those two to three ballgames to gain a little bit of confidence and get some momentum once we get into [Region 6AAAA] play.”