COVINGTON - Alcovy's football team lost a lot of good players last season. It's a good thing that they had another good bunch of players ready to step in and move the team to the next level.
"We lost some good seniors and some pretty good football players. The biggest thing is what those kids have left - their leadership. If you look how they led for the three years they were here, they left a trail that kids behind them can now follow. That's what's huge for this program right now," Tigers coach Kirk Hoffmann said.
Some of the players ready to take the Tigers into postseason play for the first time include Rod Tolen, Bryan Daniel, Gary Wilkins, Roy Parham and Zack Davis.
"Those kids are going to have to replace those seniors that have graduated in the leadership role," Hoffmann said. "They've done an outstanding job of that so far."
Not only will they have to do a good job leading, the rest of the team will have to do a good job playing if the Tigers are to make it out of Region 4-AAAA and into the state playoffs considering the competition.
North Clayton, Griffin, Jonesboro and Mt. Zion all made it to the second round of the playoffs with Griffin, a team that only lost two starters, making it to the final four.
If Alcovy is to make it to the next level, it is going to have to get out of the gates quickly as it starts region play with North Clayton following the two inner-county games.
"That would really help propel us down the back end of our schedule," Hoffmann said.
"I thought we had a great summer workout. The kids really stayed focused and did a better job of becoming better athletes each week. Athletically, I think we're a little bit better but we still need to find a way to get that motor started a little bit sooner."
While Alcovy lost premiere running back Malachi Outlaw, who was the school's first and only 1,000 rusher, the Tigers are planning on having a productive running game. The difference is that instead of having a featured runner they will spread the duties.
Handling the ball in the backfield will be Devon Edwards, Tre Sorrells, Rod Tolen and Darnell Humphrey.
"We're going to spread the ball more at running back," Hoffmann said. "This year you'll see a multitude of backs all getting touches."
Tolen, who was All-Region Athlete of the Year, will take the snaps with sophomore Bowen Braswell and senior David Ward ready on the sidelines.
Catching the ball are Kejuan Frazier, Josh Taylor, Edwards and Sorrells.
"It's hard to replace an all-region (player). We feel comfortable with him in there," Hoffmann said. "We've also had some kids come up on the offensive line. Roy Parham is back, he's going to be a key ingredient in that part of the game. Those kids have worked hard and have gotten better every week."
The key to a winning season, defensively, is going to depend on a quick pursuit of the ball carrier.
With Davis, Daniel, Wilkins, Jamal Toney and Jakatei Ridley returning, Hoffmann feels that he has a good nucleus to build the defense around.
"I feel that the teams we play and the region we're in if we're not running (at the ball) we'll get outrun," Hoffmann said. "We're going to have to run and we're going to have to run quick to the ball."
Another aspect of the game that cannot be coached, and the team has, is experience. However, the only thing it doesn't have is depth, especially with the offensive and defensive line.
"We've got some good size with the younger kids, but I'm not sure how much they'll be able to play because of our schedule. We've got five playoff teams. We're going to have to grow up in a hurry," Hoffmann said.
"Any time you hit an adversary or you hit a block in the road, the first thing you rely on is your experience. We now have that where in the past we haven't had that."
SideBar: Alcovy Football
· Coach: Kirk Hoffmann (fourth year)
· Last year's record: 5-5 overall, 4-4 Region 4-AAAA
· First game: Friday vs. Newton at Homer Sharp Stadium at 7:30 p.m.