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What they’re saying about tonight’s playoff game

Lamar County travels to Atlanta tonight as they Trojans take on the Lovett Lions in the quarterfinal round of the GHSA Class AA state football playoffs. The game is drawing considerable media attention around the state. From Lamar County at Lovett When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Memorial Stadium/Conley-Oakley Field, Atlanta Records, rankings: Lamar County is 11-0-1, the No. 1 seed from Region 4-AA and ranked No. 5; Lovett is 8-4, the No. 1 seed from 6-AA and ranked No. 8. Last meeting: This is the teams’ first meeting. Three things to know: 1. Lamar County passes only about five times per game but averages 253.1 yards rushing. The leading rusher is RB Lawrence Austin with 1,084 yards. Brother Lance Austin, the quarterback, has 580 yards rushing. The twins also start in the secondary and had nine tackles each in the second-round victory over Benedictine. 2. Lovett QB Willie Candler has passed for 1,621 yards and leads the team in rushing with 556 yards, but this is the most defense-first team left in the AA draw. The Lions were tackled for losses 11 times last week but scored their second consecutive shutout. DB Grant Haley intercepted two passes, increasing his total to seven on the year. LB John Coletti has a team-best nine tackles for losses on the season. 3. Lovett is in the quarterfinals for the sixth time in seven seasons and is 5-1 in the quarters in that time. Lamar County has played in two previous quarterfinals. Lamar lost in heartbreakers each time – 27-26 to Cook in 2000 and 35-33 to Appling County in four overtimes in 2011. Maxwell Ratings’ projection: Lovett by 3 Winner plays: Brooks County/Calhoun winner The Macon Telegraph: By Ron Seibel By the third week of the playoffs, there are situations in which teams that are looking to take the next step in building their programs find themselves taking on programs that know all about the road to the Georgia Dome. Two such situations exist with the pair of midstate teams that are still alive in the GHSA Class AA playoffs. Lamar County, which has never reached the state semifinals but came oh-so-close last year, heads to Lovett on Friday to take on a team that is making its sixth quarterfinal appearance in eight years. Meanwhile, playoff veteran Fitzgerald travels to Jefferson, a program that hasn’t been to the semifinals since 1977, when the Dragons lost to Lincoln County in the Class B championship game. For Lamar County, a team that lost in four overtimes to Appling County in last year’s quarterfinals, the playoff road hasn’t been an easy one. The Trojans (11-0-1) had a scare in last week’s second-round victory over Benedictine, turning the ball over three times in the first half and falling behind 21-7 before rallying in the second half for a 24-21 victory. ’It’s one of those things where you’re going to think about it, but we told our kids not to worry about the past,’ said Lamar County head coach Franklin Stephens, who guided Tucker to the Class AAAA championship last year. ‘Last Friday is done. The only thing that matters is the task at hand.’ Lovett (8-4) is coached by Mike Muschamp, brother of Florida head coach Will Muschamp. The Atlanta private school started the season 2-4, losing four straight against a trio of playoff quarterfinalists from larger classes (Marist in Class AAAA, St. Pius X and Washington County in Class AAA) and Alabama Class 5A playoff qualifier Fort Payne. The Lions have won six straight since then, going 4-0 in Region 6-AA play and shutting out playoff opponents Coosa (27-0) and Manchester (23-0). Lamar County, meanwhile, has won 11 straight since opening with a tie against Spalding. ’They have a group of kids who play extremely well together,’ Stephens said. ‘Those kids have a lot to play for. They’re going to come out and run at you and be a physical team. On defense, they will be aggressive and tackle really well.’

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