PANTHERSVILLE, GA – After a bye week, both the Cedar Grove Saints and the Lovett Lions are ready to get down to business. The two will start their region slate by playing each other. Lovett holds a 6-4 edge in the series, but the Saints have won the last three.
Cedar Grove is ranked #1 in several polls in AAA. The Saints won the title in 2016 but lost to Calhoun last season. Now, they are 3-1 after a tough non-region schedule that saw them upend Hewitt-Trussville of Alabama, 34-31 in front of a national cable audience on ESPN. The Saints also beat Summerville of South Carolina 21-7. Both squads were highly ranked when Cedar Grove played them.
Despite the big victories, coach Jimmy Smith wants to keep the club grounded. “(Hewitt-Trussville) was a good win,” he said. “But I think it was more important for the community.”
It is hard to keep things low-key with Jaden Haselwood on your side. The consensus top recruit in Georgia already has 210 yards receiving on 19 catches, three touchdowns, and, not to be outdone, ten tackles on defense. Haselwood, committed to Georgia, will present a challenge to Lovett.
“His athleticism and versatility are the things that really impress me,” said Lovett coach Mike Muschamp. “He is always making plays and he does it in all three phases of the field.”
“Jadon is progressing well,” added Smith. “His unselfishness and understanding of the game make it easy.”
Cedar Grove has other weapons beside Haselwood. Sophomore quarterback Austin Smith had a late rushing touchdown in the Hewitt-Trussville game. “(He has) good arm talent with good size,” said Smith about his signal caller. “He is gradually grasping the offense (and when he does) the sky is the limit.”
To tote the rock, Smith will turn to St. Francis transfer Robert ‘Pop’ Jones. He is averaging just over nine yards per carry and had a 50-yard score against McEachern (a 24-17 loss). Smith called him “A 5’11” 190-pound home-run hitter with vision, power, strength and great hands.”
On the other side, Lovett is 1-3, but have suffered losses to Greater Atlanta Christian, Marist, and Mary Persons while downing B.E.S.T. Academy.
Muschamp thinks this stretch will be helpful down the road. “We can’t recreate the size, speed, and athleticism that we saw in the first month,” he said. “As painful as some of it was, we hope to learn from it. We never truly fail as long as we learn.”
What Muschamp has learned is that junior quarterback Blaine McCallister has a good arm. He’s thrown for 616 yards and five touchdowns this season but has five picks. His favorite target is Notre Dame commit KJ Wallace. He has two touchdowns and over 200 yards receiving. The Lions’ leading rusher is junior Henry Beery.
The off-week helped Lovett get some players back to full speed after injuries. “The focus was on basics and trying to improve the things that we have struggled with,” noted Muschamp.
With this being the region opener, Muschamp knows he needs a win. “It is critical to get out fast. There is a lot of wear and tear that comes with playing teams in this region. All teams are physical.”
For their part, the Saints are careful not to overlook the opponent. “Coach Muschamp does a great job with his guys,” said Smith. “We have to do a good job aligning to multiple formations and on offense we have to make adjustments as we go.”
The game will be played at ‘Buck’ Godfrey Stadium in Panthersville at 7:30pm on Friday night.

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