COVINGTON - The first game of the season is always a big deal.
Not only can the tone be set for the rest of the year, it also gives the winner county bragging rights.
The right to boast in Newton County will be contested today as Alcovy and Newton take the field at 7:30 p.m. at Homer Sharp Stadium.
"County rival means everything," Newton coach Nick Collins said. "I said it last year when I got here. If you don't beat the people across town, you'll lose a lot of support. We lost some support because we didn't beat the people across town. When you play them right off the bat, it sets the tone for the entire year. Right now, we've got to get people to understand that the season doesn't end with game No. 1. Game one is just that, game one."
The start of the new season also means that last year can be put in the past. Last year, Alcovy beat Newton 23-0 to chalk up its first win in school history.
"What we're trying to stress is last year is last year," Collins said. "We made a lot of changes and we're looking forward for this year. We're not trying to really rehash anything that happened last year. We want to beat our county rival, but we want to get into our region, and that's when it really becomes important."
The new season also brings new quarterbacks to both teams - Tyree Williams takes the helm for Newton while P.J. Thompkins takes over for the Tigers.
Although Malachi Outlaw was Alcovy's leading rusher last season, it was the Tigers' passing game that picked the Rams' defense apart.
Even though Alcovy has a new quarterback (replacing Ryan Ledford) and last season's top receiver (Eric Strozier) is gone, Collins does not intend on letting Outlaw or any one player beat them.
"We've got to do what we do and it doesn't matter who they put out there," Collins said. "We've got to do the right thing and be at the right place. One individual is not going to beat us. They have a solid team. If they beat us, it's going to be their team that's going to beat us."
Despite the key losses in the passing game to graduation, Alcovy coach Kirk Hoffmann has the utmost confidence in his skill players this year.
"I believe that we had a good passing game last year," he said. "I believe this year our passing game will be in good hands. The receivers and quarterbacks have done a great job of preparing themselves. Outlaw will be a big part of our offense. If our offensive line has a good game, I feel like our running game can be very successful."
Defensively, the Tigers need to contain an explosive Newton offense. Although the Rams' receivers and backs are relatively inexperienced, they have plenty of speed.
Even if this wasn't a county rivalry game, it would be still be a big game for several reasons.
"I stress all year long that as a team, the next game on our schedule is the biggest game of the season for us," Hoffmann said. "The other reasons are because it is a rival game that has become a good rivalry for both Alcovy and Newton and, most importantly, it's the first game of the season."
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: Alcovy at Newton
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Homer Sharp Stadium
Last meeting: Alcovy won 23-0 last year
Series: Tied 1-1