Lovejoy HS Head Football Coach and AD Al Hughes

Coach Al Hughes, the head football coach and athletic director at Lovejoy High School in Lovejoy, Georgia, spoke with Gene's Page recently. This past season, Lovejoy was 11-1 and Region 4AAAAA champions. Coach Hughes discussed the reasons for the success of his program, why his kids are so solid academically and socially and some of his top upcoming seniors.

Over the years, your program has produced a lot of great players who have gone onto play for some top Division-I programs. Truthfully, not a lot of programs have the number of athletes that you have. What is it about your program that causes it to produce so many great players?
"I assure you it has nothing to do with me. That giant was made and I'm just trying to feed it. I do work at it as far as trying to help get our kids recognized, locally and nationally. We try to help our kids and the people in our community know that. Our coaches follow that lead. When people move into our state, if they have a great player, they want to know about the good places in the state. And our name comes up with the Valdosta's and Brookwood's and Parkview's."

Was your program as good as it is now when you first got there?
"No, we have been very fortunate. Our school went through some transition and some great athletes started moving in. It's not the X's and O's; it's the Johnny's and Joe's."

One of the things I noticed about your kids when I interviewed them is the fact that they are not just good athletes but good academic kids.
"All of them coming out still are. My momma was a teacher for 42 years, so I've got to keep that in focus. And it's also the community involved; the kids, the parents. It is a group effort. It is a great situation to be in. I'm very fortunate to be there. I really am."

Another thing that was impressive about your kids was how articulate they were and how well they spoke on the phone. Is that something you and your staff work on with them?
"We try to take care of our kids and teach them how to behave and react. We talk to them about how to greet somebody, shake their hand and look them in the eye and say yes sir and no sir. But, again, it goes back to a lot of different things. The parents have a lot to do with it, too. We also have great teachers and a great administrative staff."

Talk about the upcoming seniors you have this year.
"The most well known are our offensive lineman Chris Scott and defensive back Keith Fitzhugh. Chris is 6-foot-6 and 316. He runs about a 5.0 flat. He is a big, good-looking athlete who is pretty strong for a young kid. I think he benches about 385. He is not just a big guy, but a great athlete. He is going to be a heck of a football player. He has started every game since he was a sophomore. That is pretty good on our team. I think he has about 8 (scholarship) offers in writing. Keith Fitzhugh is probably the best defensive back that we have ever had. He is special. He is not just a great player, but a great athlete as well. He has been offered by Notre Dame, Florida State. I think about five schools have offered him. Oklahoma has offered both of them."

You had a senior lineman last year, Anthony Parker, that was really good. How does Chris compare to him? "He and Anthony Parker are very similar players. Anthony signed with Tennessee. He was really underrated. From the time he was a sophomore, there were two or three schools from the SEC that knew about him and liked him. But he came along at a time when we had a lot of great players and he kind of got lost in the shuffle. We played him on offense even though he is probably a great defensive lineman because we already had some great defensive linemen. We had Michael Heard, a kid who plays at Mississippi State, and Alton Barfield, who is as good as Michael Heard, that plays in junior college because of his grades. We had another kid (Todd Springfield) who now plays at East Carolina. And another one who plays at Auburn. We also had a kid, lineman Darren Mitchell, who now plays at Notre Dame. Chris is probably a little bit better than Darren at this point in his career. All of those kids are great players. Chris is just another one like them."

Do you have any other seniors that you think have a chance to play on the college level?
"We have a tailback this year named Mark Pettaway. He runs about a 4.3. He is dynamic and is one of the most explosive players that we have ever had. We also have Jonathan Battle, a defensive lineman, whose brother played for us and signed with Bowling Green. He is better than his brother. They are also been highly recruited.

"All of these kids are some of the best that we have ever had at Lovejoy."

Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page (, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports and Mississippi high school sports on the internet. You can contact him by email at

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