COVINGTON -- The first game of the season is always an exciting time for the players, coaches and the fans. But when that first comes against a county rival it makes it even better. That is what Alcovy and Eastside will experience as they start the 2011 season at 7:30 p.m. at Homer Sharp Stadium.
"Just football starting is exciting," Alcovy head coach Kirk Hoffman said. "It's exciting for us and I know it's exciting for Eastside as well. It's a county rivalry which makes it a big game."
Being that it's the first game of the season, both coaches know that mistakes are going to be made. With that as a given, the difference between a win and a loss is going to be determined by who makes the fewest and who can take advantage of their opponents' slipups.
"It's going to come down to execution as it always does early in the year. I know they've been working just as hard as we have. But what it comes down to is who makes the fewest amount of mistakes and whoever does, will the other team be able to capitalize," Eastside head coach Rick Hurst said. "I think that's what sets the first few games apart from those in the end of the season."Even though Eastside quarterback Cameron Boyd and Tigers quarterback Marcus Williams both have the ability to throw and the confidence of their coach, the outcome is probably going to depend on the running game.
Making the Eagles, who were 8-4 (6-2 Region 4-AAA) and made it to the second round of the Class AAA playoffs last year, feel like they have the better running game are having returners Alex Smith and Chavis Griggs in the backfield. Also having the chance to see time in the backfield is freshman Nick Broadwater. For Eastside to get on the scoreboard, the Eagles are going to have to get their running game going to make it easier for Boyd to successfully put the ball in the air.
"We have to get that part of the game going because I think it'll set up our play action. It's going to give us the opportunity to take some chances deep," Hurst said.
In order to keep the Eagles from airing out the ball successfully, the Tigers' defense is going to have to find a way to stop Eastside from letting its running game build momentum.
For that to happen, Hoffman is looking at his defensive line and sophomore linebackers Curtiss Benton and Ryan Adams to step up, despite their youth.
"They're still young but hopefully they can lead some of the other kids," Hoffman said. "When you talk about the running game, it's who plays well at the line of scrimmage. Our young kids up front are going to have to find a way to battle at the line of scrimmage."
The Tigers' offense did not score that many points last year, only putting up 104 points in 10 games with 41 coming against Ola. A lot of that stemmed from of the injuries, including running back Devon Edwards. Two years ago when Edwards and Tre Sorrells were healthy for the entire season, the Tigers made it to the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs. Last year, injury-prone Alcovy (1-5 Region 3-AAAA) only had one win, going 1-9.
If they are to beat Eastside, the Tigers are going to have to stay healthy and find a way to get through a stingy Eastside defense.
"We're getting ready to see a great defense. But one of the things that I'm going to look for (tonight) is if my offensive line is starting to gel. I don't think any offensive line is gelling like they should at this point, being the first ball game. We have some pretty good running backs and we have to create things up front to help these running backs out," Hoffman said.
Stopping Alcovy's running game is going to fall on experienced linebackers Blake Rouse, Marcus Griffieth, Bryson Malcolm, Jacob Wilder, Napoleon Johnson and Bryant Johnson.
"We have to play very well on defense," Hurst said. "They kind of do some of the same stuff that we do with a little bit of misdirection. You can't overpursue, that's what the zone scheme tries to get you do. So our linebackers will have play really well. We know that they have talent in the backfield. We have to make sure we stay on top of our game."