COVINGTON - Alcovy is just one win away from claiming the Newton County football championship for the first time, while Eastside is hoping to win the title for the fourth year in a row.
The two will meet at 7:30 p.m. today at Homer Sharp Stadium.
If Eastside wins, it must beat Newton next to claim the championship.
The potential county championship game winner will most likely be determined by the team with the most disciplined defense, according to both coaches.
"We have to play very disciplined (defense) and make sure we're at the right spot," Eastside coach Rick Hurst said. "If it's a pass, we have to make sure we cover the receivers and contain (Rod Tolen) by pushing him back toward the middle of the field where help is coming from as opposed to let him run around outside."
Alcovy coach Kirk Hoffmann has a similar plan for his defense.
"We're going to have to play disciplined football and make sure we stay on our assignments because they throw the ball so well," Alcovy coach Kirk Hoffmann said. "You just can't pack in the box and try to stop Git (Aiken)."
Eastside's offense needs Aiken to have a game similar to his performance against Harris County, in which he rushed for 133 yards and caught a 33-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Califf Carnes.
While Aiken is a threat when he gets past the line of scrimmage, the Tigers defense also has to be sure to keep an eye on Carnes, who will tuck it and run. Although he may not have the speed or ability to break it long, he can still run enough to move the chains.
"(Carnes) throws the ball pretty well, too. They're not just one dimensional, that's for sure," Hoffmann said. "The linebackers have to fill the right gaps. If they fill the wrong gap, they have the speed to have a big play. I think all 11 are going to have to be around the ball."
Alcovy also has the personnel to create big plays with Tolen and Tre Sorrells. The two combined for 171 yards rushing against Newton last week. They have the speed and moves to make defenders miss, allowing for big play opportunities.
"By far, this is the best Alcovy team we've faced. They worry me," Hurst said. "This is the first time I've really felt that we didn't match up well against them. They have a good football team, and I don't know if we're good enough to handle Tolen. He's a good player. Anytime you face a dual threat like that, you worry about having everyone covered downfield. But if he breaks containment, he's got the legs to hurt you."
Before either team can create something on offense, the line has to stand fast and block along with opening a few running lanes - something neither team did on a consistent basis last week.
"We've got to do a better job of blocking up front," Hurst said. "Last week we had some good runs but we had some negative runs because of mental errors up front. They've got a good defensive front and good linebackers that move to the ball very well. We know they're going to be jacked up, ready to go, but so are we."
Another key aspect for Alcovy is maintaining its high level of intensity for the second week. The Tigers can't let down if they want to win the county championship.
"I think one of things we have to do is come back from a big win," Hoffmann said. "It's going to be interesting to see if we can stay at that level for the second week in a row. We have to play at a high level, we can't afford to give up big plays. They're a very well-coached team so we can't afford to get ourselves in a big hole."
For Hurst, he has to find make sure to keep his young defense in check since many players will be in their first rivalry game.
"Right now, we're starting four sophomores (on defense)," he said. "Anytime you start players that young, especially in a rivalry game, they tend to let the rivalry part take control and not worry about their job.
"It matters," Hurst said of the rivalry game. "If I said it didn't matter, I'd be lying. It matters to our kids, it matters to (Alcovy). I know it does. We've beaten them the first three years we've played."
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: If You Go
· Who: Alcovy Tigers (1-0) at Eastside Eagles (1-0)
· Where: Homer Sharp Stadium
· When: 7:30 p.m. today
· Last week: Alcovy defeated Newton 17-8; Eastside defeated Harris County 15-0
· Series: Eastside leads 3-0
· Last year: Eastside won 20-6