It will be the 26th meeting between the archrivals — separated by only two miles on Paces Ferry Road. Westminster leads the series 16-9, but it was Lovett that came away with the victory in their last meeting with a 10-7 win in 2012.
“Anytime you play a rival, it takes on a special importance,” Lovett coach Mike Muschamp said. “The rivalry with Westminster is one of the great ones in the state. Our kids have grown up playing with or against their kids, pretty much since they were in the first and third grades, so there’s always a history to it. A lot of the parents attended any one of the schools, so it adds a little more spice to it than a normal-type rivalry.”
In addition to it being a big rivalry, it is also a game with major implications in the race for the Region 6AA title.
Lovett (7-1, 2-0) is tied for first place in the 6AA standings with Greater Atlanta Christian, while Westminster (4-4, 1-1) is in third place.
“The rivalry is kind of fun,” Westminster assistant coach Joe Sturniolo said. “But, to be honest, that means more to the people who aren’t involved in the game than to the people who are. To the people who are involved in the game, this is our opportunity. We still have a chance of tying for the region championship, since we hold the tiebreaker. If we beat Lovett and Lovett beats GAC, we win the region. So for us, what this means is an opportunity for us to still finish first or second in our region and host a first-round playoff game.”
Westminster benefits from a bye week that Sturniolo said gave the Wildcats a much-needed week of rest.
“The good news is, having an off week gives us a chance to get some of these guys who are a little dinged — it gives them a chance to rest for a week,” he said. “We still practiced all week, but it may not have had the same intensity that it usually has. It gives kids a chance to heal up some injuries and gives them a chance to think more about the mental aspect of it than the physical aspect.”
The Wildcats face another tough challenge against a Lovett team that is potent on offense — with quarterback Willie Candler and running backs Grant Haley, Jay Harris and Nick Sear leading the way. Its stingy defense is led by Vanderbilt commitment Haley at cornerback.
“The biggest challenge is that they have a quarterback and running back that are two of the best in [Class] AA,” Sturniolo said. “Obviously, Candler and Haley are huge threats. But what we’ve also seen is that those aren’t the only threats that they’ve got. When Haley is not in there, Sear is a pretty good threat, too, as well. Jay Harris is another one, so they are not one dimensional. With Candler playing quarterback and having running backs like Haley, Sear and Harris, that’s a lot we have to prepare for.”
Lovett will try to contain a Westminster team that includes quarterback Rankin Woley and running back/defensive back Cameron Seward.
“They’re always well coached,” Muschamp said. “They’re good in all areas of the game — defense, offense, special teams. They’re always hard to prepare for, because they are multiple in everything they do and their kids play hard and that’s the makings of a good football team.”