ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - This week’s Drive for the GHSA State Title matchup is between Westminster and Lovett, who will face off on Peachtree TV at 8 PM this Friday in Atlanta in a first-round playoff matchup in Class 4A.
There is a rich history between these programs that date back to 1974. This is the first time both teams meet in the playoffs in their storied history. Westminster and Lovett come in at 6-4. Westminster won its week one matchup against Lovett 14-0.
Westminster coach Gerry Romberg talked about the rivalry between both teams and how it came to be.
“I first got the job here in 1992, and we hadn’t played Lovett for several years. I guess there was an incident between the parents. They stopped playing, so when I got here, I was like, we need to bring the rivalry back and play a game. #1, we are so close, and #2, we have a lot of families that have kids in both schools,” said Romberg. “It’s a close-knit community between Lovett and Westminster. We didn’t play Lovett in 92 or 93. Our first game against Lovett was in 1994, and we have played every year since. Coach Railey and I had a really good relationship. One of the things we tried to do was have a rivalry, but a healthy rivalry where the coaches get along and the kids get along. Usually, the most difficult group was the parents. Coach Muschamp came in, and we are close friends, and we talk pretty much every day during the season. It’s turned out to be a great but healthy rivalry.”
Lovett is riding a three-game win streak and is averaging 40.3 points per game, playing some of their best football late in the season. Coach Romberg raved about Lovett’s head coach Mike Muschamp and the brilliant mind he has offensively.
“Muschamp is probably one of the best offensive coaches in the state or in the country. He is smart. You would rather play him early than late in the season because he doesn’t have all of his offense in. They were rotating two quarterbacks.” said Romberg. “They probably didn’t have their full group on offense in that game. With that said, it is great to play against them. He makes me a better coach, and our coaching staff has to work hard. We’ve played them so often—we know each other’s tendencies. We were fortunate in that game. We played really good defense.”
There are a few matchups to watch out for in this game. One is the Lovett offense vs. the Westminster defense. Defense is the calling card for Westminster and something they hang their hat on. Lovett has gotten stronger offensively as the season has worn on and seems to have hit their stride.
“Our defense is typically our calling card at Westminster. We played good defense all year. I think we are in the top 5 or 6 in points allowed on defense,” said Romberg. “We knew defensively we had to keep the game in range. We can’t get down two or three scores and have a chance to win. It’s a lot of pressure on our defense, but they’ve come up and done the job for the most part.”
The other matchup is the offensive line of Westminster vs. the defensive front for Lovett. Westminster has always dealt with issues regarding depth on the offensive line, and this year is no different. They will be tested early and often in one of the most important games of the year.
“As I say, you are only as good as your offensive line every year. I have to give our offensive line credit. We are limited, but they did everything they could to give us a chance to win,” said Romberg. “We don’t get a lot of big kids, so we have to take kids that think they are a fullback and move them to guard. Kids that think they are a tight end move them to tackle. We’ve done that since I’ve been here. That has always been our Achilles heel. We knew that going into this season this year.”
Lovett is giving up just nine points a game in their three-game streak and even produced a shutout against Mt. Zion on the road. When they turn it on, they can be dangerous on defense. Lovett has four games this season where they have held teams to single digits in points.
Coach Romberg outlined the key to victories and what his team needed to do to pull out a win on the road Friday night.
“The first key to victory is we have to play good defense. Secondly, special teams are going to be huge in this game. I think we have a shot if we win the special teams game. We have to be consistent on offense. The main thing is we can’t turn the ball over offensively,” said Romberg. “My main stat is turnover margin, and I think we are in the negative right now. If you look at the turnover margin, you can tell how successful a team has been throughout the year. We have to get out on the positive end of that. If we do that Friday night, we have a really good opportunity. It should be a fun game and a lot of excitement in the crowd. First time ever playing Lovett in the playoffs. It will be a lot of fun and a good way to open up the playoffs.”.
Westminster is 22-12 all-time against Lovett, and coach Romberg is 10-7 head-to-head against coach Muschamp.
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