"I'm really proud of our kids,'' said Lovett coach Mike Muschamp after the victory. "They go through a lot. Academics, fine arts, athletics - you name it, these kids are pulled in lots of different directions. And for them to pull together like a band of brothers like they are, and to pull off something like this against a schedule that we played, they're a special group."
Indeed it was a brutal schedule as 14 of the 15 teams the Lions faced this year made the playoffs. The only setback came against Class AAA runner-up Washington County in overtime when the Lions played without their starting quarterback.
They also defeated Class AAA semifinalist Blessed Trinity, and scored wins over local rivals Westminster, St. Pius and Greater Atlanta Christian School. But it was the Lions’ 41-38 double-overtime victory at Class AAAA semifinalist Marist in September where Muschamp felt his players first began believing this team could be special.
For the coach, though, it was the season-opening 21-14 win over Woodward Academy that opened his eyes as to what this group could achieve. “That was a real physical game,” Muschamp said. “I thought that if they stick together, and we could stay away from injuries, that we had a chance.”
After opening the state playoffs with a pair of easy wins, the Lions found themselves down 21-6 at halftime at Laney in the quarterfinals. The team didn’t panic and roared back to win 35-33. In the semifinals, Lovett dominated the line of scrimmage in defeating Brooks County by more than three touchdowns and again owned the trenches in the title game against Lamar County.
Lovett controlled the clock for 31 minutes against Lamar County and outgained the previously undefeated Trojans by a 350-187 margin. The Lions enjoyed significant advantages in plays (67-34) and first downs (19-10) and held their opponent to just 1-of-6 on third down while going 9-for-16 on such themselves.
Lovett contained the speedy Trojans and their three Georgia Tech commitments (wide receiver Quay Searcy, running back Lawrence Austin and quarterback Lance Austin) and held them mostly in check throughout the game with a swarming team defensive showing.
“I’m so proud of the effort that our kids displayed,” Muschamp said. "I think that was the biggest thing; they’ve done it all year.”
Up front on offense, senior linemen
Samad Ajao, Charlie Ingram, Addison McClaugherty and Deen Brooks, along with junior Jack
Gearon, paved the way for 275 yards rushing, including 138 from senior Grant
Haley and 87 from junior Murphy Lee, who grinded out tough yards late in the
contest when Haley was suffering from cramps and Lovett was attempting to run
out the clock.
Haley went over the 100-yard mark for a seventh straight game and his 27th touchdown of the season on a 41-yard bolt down the right sideline on the opening drive of the third quarter proved to be the difference in the contest.
Gearon, Ingram and senior Bear Jameson led the defensive charge that limited Larmar County to just three first downs and no points in the second half. Many of the Lovett players went both ways as the Lions played just 19 players in the contest.
In post game interviews, Muschamp will often credit his assistants, including George Pribish, Buddy Warren, Bryan Overly, Matt Casper, Joseph Moody, Brent Greer, Paul Nielsen, and Shane McFadyen. But he knows that it’s the players who win the game and on Saturday at the Georgia Dome, just like it has been all season, he got a maximum effort from his squad.
“We’re never going to be as big or as fast or as strong as the people we play,” said Muschamp. “But our kids embrace that as a challenge. We’ve got to be smarter and execute and that’s what we did tonight.”Take a peek at the video with this article and see if you can spot your favorite Lion player. And please share your memories here at Buckhead Patch of this special team and its journey to a championship.