Tucker coach Franklin Stephens last week refused to compare his 2008 state championship team with this year's team.
However, Stephens changed his mind after Tucker's dominating 22-7 win over Lovejoy in the Class AAAA state championship game Friday night at the Georgia Dome. Tucker finished the season 15-0, the first team in school history to go undefeated, and won the school's second state title. The Tigers avenged a regular-season loss to Marist to win the title in 2008.
"We talked about [going undefeated] all week," Stephens said after the game. "This is the team that went through all the competition and beat everybody put in front of them. This is the best team that has ever walked through Tucker High School."
The Tigers certainly backed up the claim Friday night.
Lovejoy came into the game 14-0 with one of the best defenses in the state. The Wildcats had eight shutouts and only two teams had scored more than 10 points in a game this season. Lovejoy gave up a season-high 20 points early in the season to Tri-Cities.
Tucker surpassed that total in the third quarter when sophomore Dallas Rivers ran 10 yards for a touchdown for a 22-0 lead. The Tigers dominated the first half on the way to a 15-0 lead. Jordan Landry scored on a 35-yard run to put Tucker ahead 6-0 in the first quarter. Then a safety and a 38-yard touchdown run by Yusuf Minor in a two-minute span in the second quarter pushed the lead to 15-0.
The Tigers amassed 200 yards rushing and their defense did not allow a first down in the first half as Lovejoy failed to move across the 50-yard-line until the third quarter. The seven points was the fewest scored by Lovejoy since a 7-6 loss to Glynn Academy in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs in 2010.
Defensively, the Tigers kept Lovejoy at bay in the second half with two interceptions. Terrell Simmons intercepted an Alejandro Bennefield pass in the end zone with 3:48 remaining in the third quarter. On Lovejoy's next possession Juwaan Williams intercepted a Bennefield pass to stall a Lovejoy drive at the Tucker 20.
Lovejoy's only score came on a 6-yard pass from Bennefield to Arshad Jackson with 7:44 remaining in the fourth quarter.
For Tucker, it was the 10th time in 15 games opponents had been held to eight points or less.
Tigers’ linebacker Jacob Sealand, who was a freshman and didn’t play in the 2008 title game, also recognized the accomplishment of going undefeated.
“The seniors have waited three years to get back to the championship game,” Sealand said. “We’re the first class ever to go undefeated at this school and I’d love for us to be the measuring stick for all the rest of the classes after us.”