COVINGTON -- Defense is going to play a big part for the Alcovy Tigers as they prepare for the 2012 football season.
With the loss of several high-powered offensive weapons from last year's 6-5 team which won the 3B-AAAA subregion and hosted a playoff game for the first time in the school's six-year history, it's going to be up to the Tigers' defense to keep the score close enough to give the offense a chance to win.
"Our defense is going to have to carry us early," Alcovy head coach Kirk Hoffman said. "Right now we're not trying to do a whole lot defensively except play good technique and get the kids to the football. Hopefully, those kinds of things will get us through early. Again, staying healthy on that side of the ball is huge."
Last year, Hoffman could count on running backs Devon Edwards, who is now at Duke, and Tre Sorrells along with wide receiver Kenard Murry to give the offense the edge while the defense experienced growing pains. Now, it seems like it's the other way around as the six sophomore defensive starters are now juniors and are able to hold their own. This experience is going to be important as the defense is neither fast nor slow and big yet not small.
"The thing we're not going to do is line up and run at people because we're not bigger than them. We might have to defend speed which we don't have a lot of. We're going to have to be more disciplined in everything we do," Hoffman said.
Even though the Tigers have senior Cornell White coming back at quarterback, he has some competition with senior Marcus Williams and sophomore Christian Whitner. Because all three players have speed and athletic ability, the two who are not taking the snaps will remain in the backfield as running backs. Without Murry as their primary receiver, Hoffman feels that the passing game could be stronger as the group without a main person.
"Last year with Devon, he could break it from 80 and outrun people," Hoffman said. "Now I'll have to put some drives together of 10-play drives and chip away. At times it could change the whole completion of the game."
The other big change, which will probably affect the coaches more than the players, is Alcovy moving from Class AAAA to the state's newest and highest classification of AAAAAA. The move also gives the coaches and players the chance to see new teams such as Druid Hills, Lovejoy, Morrow, Rockdale County and Luella in Region 2-AAAAAA.
"The biggest difference you see in the higher classification is the depth because you have more kids to pick from," Hoffman said. "I think the kids are excited about playing in the higher classification. That's the other exciting part about it, seeing new teams and new programs."
The one region team Alcovy is familiar with is Newton, a game which was played for county bragging rights could now have playoff implications making it a bit more meaningful. In their last four meetings, from 2006-09, the Tigers have won three times. The Alcovy-Newton game will be played on Oct. 5.
"That's going to be a good game. One, it's a rivalry and two it's a game that now counts in the region. I think the kids understand that. The biggest thing we can't do is start looking down the road," Hoffman said.
"I think what we have to do to be successful is get better the first four non-region games. If we can come out of those games healthy, that's going to be huge for us. Here's the biggest thing about high school football, you have to stay healthy. Two years ago we weren't and we struggled. Last year we didn't have to battle injuries and we had a good year. A couple of injuries and the whole complexion of your team changes. If we do that, going into the region, I don't know how good we can be."
With only two teams having made it to the playoffs last year -- Alcovy and Lovejoy, which lost to Tucker in the Class AAAA championship game -- Hoffman feels that his team has good chance of being one of the four playoff-bound teams from the region. Hopefully, making it to the playoffs three of the last four years will help Alcovy lose the "new school" label.
"At what point do you lose it? I don't know if anybody can tell you. I think schools now know we're on the map. That has a lot do know with not just football but with all the athletic teams," Hoffman said.
"I think for the seniors it's a goal (making it to the playoffs) and I feel like it's a realistic goal. It's as someone once said, if you're not playing to make the playoffs, then why are you playing?"