Haley leads Lovett to region championship

In a 17-14 win over Greater Atlanta Christian, Lovett's Grant Haley did it all. He scored both of his team's touchdowns on offense, came up with two key turnovers on defense, and even kicked off to start the game.

Oh yes, the win clinched a 9-1 regular season for the Vanderbilt commitment and his Lovett teammates, and a region championship.

Things weren't looking so good for the Lions at halftime. A game between the two top teams in Class AA, both with explosive offenses, had turned into a defensive struggle. Lovett trailed 7-3, despite an interception by Haley of a long bomb from GACS quarterback Rafe Chappell.

On its first possession of the first quarter, the all-purpose Haley wormed out of trouble in the backfield and scooted 58 yards down the right sideline. He scored the go-ahead touchdown himself on a 2-yard blast up the middle.

Almost immediately Lovett picked off another Chappell pass, and Haley scored again on a 9-yard run. Suddenly Lovett had built a 17-7 lead.

Late in the fourth quarter GACS cut the lead to 17-14 and was threatening to score again. On GACS' last gasp, Chapple threw deep into the end zone on fourth-an-17. With Haley in tight coverage, Darius Slayton couldn't pull the ball down.

"He is the best player in the state, bar none, and I'll tell you why," said Lovett coach Mike Muschamp. "He impacts all three phases of the game, and nobody else does that.

"You've got some guys who rush for 150 yards. But Grant is a rusher, a receiver, and a defender. He's returned punts for touchdowns for us this year. He kicks off for us, and he'd kick extra points for too if I'd let him, but I've got to give him a break somewhere.

"He's the hardest working kid in our program, and he's the best athlete in our program. And he has great character. Any time we need something done, we look at Grant, and he takes care of it."

Besides rushing for 108 yards, Haley led a defense that produced six turnovers, several in the red zone. Two of those, an interception and a strip-fumble recovery, were generated by Haley.

Haley remains solid on his commitment to sign with Vanderbilt next February. In the meantime he'll lead the top-ranked Lions in their quest for a state championship.

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