LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — E.C. Glass was a state semifinalist last season for the first time in nearly three decades. And the Hilltoppers will look to replicate that deep playoff run under a new head coach following the departure of Jeff Woody.

“Losing Woody it was heartfelt, but we all knew it was the right decision for him,” senior center Jackson Moore said. “But having (Jamar) Lovelace come in was new and he’s an amazing coach and a great leader.”

After five years at William Fleming, Lovelace returns to Lynchburg and makes history. He’s the first African-American head coach in Hilltoppers football history. And for Lovelace, it’s a homecoming.

“I’ve always known it to be a special place and such a unique blend of students such a unique blend of culture right there in the city of Lynchburg,” Lovelace said. “And by me being a Lynchburg guy, it feels good to come back home and have some level of familiarity with the people and your student-athletes.”

Now the focus is on winning a state title after falling to Kettle Run in the Class 4 semifinals last season.

“That hurt we don’t like to feel that, but we definitely had a great season and we’re appreciative of that,” senior defensive tackle Nicolas Watson said. “Just coming so close and not being able to taste it and not being able to have it. It hurt and we definitely feel it this off-season.”

As the loss to Kettle Run still stings, this year’s team has a tough schedule ahead, beginning with a match-up against Lord Botetourt in Week 1. And Glass is ready to face adversity head-on.

“For us, we’re very excited about playing some of the best teams in the state of Virginia in the regular season, knowing what it’s going to prepare them for. For that ultimate goal that we’re pursuing that we want,” Lovelace said. “But yeah, there’s no weeks off at all. We’re going to have to bring our A-game every week and anything less than that is not going to equal a win.”