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Defense key in keeping Tigers in playoffs

COVINGTON — Alcovy cannot afford any mistakes if the want to defeat AP Class AAAAAA No. 8 ranked Hillgrove on the road in the first round of the playoffs on Friday.

Against AP No. 2 ranked Lovejoy in the game to determine the Region 2-AAAAAA championship which Alcovy (7-3) lost 27-8, the Wildcats scored 13 points off their miscues.

“We have to be very disciplined and make sure we don’t make any mistakes,” Alcovy head coach Kirk Hoffman said. “In practice we worked hard on special teams and some of the places that we get turnovers. If you go back and look it’s not kids making mistakes as much as it’s effort just trying to make plays. But we have to take care of the football. It’s the playoffs so every team will have to do that.”

It’s going to be a battle as the strength of both teams will be on the field at the same time. Hillgrove (9-1) averages five touchdowns a game while the Tigers defense has given up less than two touchdowns a game on average.

The key for the Hawks high scoring offense is quarterback Elijah Ironside, who is the son of Hillgrove head coach Phillip Ironside.

“They come out of probably one of the best regions out of AAAAAA and offensively they are an outstanding team. The quarterback is the coach’s son and he knows the game. Not only does he know it, he directs that offense almost picture perfect. I think he does an outstanding job,” Hoffman said.

The Hillgrove averages almost 400 yards per game with 216 coming in the air. The Hawks like to spread the field and have various weapons at their disposal making it difficult to defend.

The Hawks quarterback has thrown 32 touchdowns while being intercepted 12 times. While Justin Black, who has 45 catches for 646 yards and 10 touchdowns, is his main target. Ironside also looks for Omar Black (32-451) and running back Richard Bagley. Bagley rushed for 1,186 yards and 10 touchdowns on 160 carries while catching 24 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns coming out of the backfield.

“Defensively, we’re going to have to bring our best game again. I’ve been saying all year that defense is our strong suit. I think Curtis and Okon and Ryan Adams have taken that role of leadership. That’s why you’ve seen such improvement defensively,” Hoffman said. “We’re going to see something that’s a little bit different. We haven’t seen this type of offense in 10 games where they’re going to spread you and they have the ability to throw over the top or they can hit some stuff underneath. I think that’s why they’re so successful, because they can attack the whole field.”

Hillgrove can be scored against as they are giving up almost 21 points a game. For the Tigers to take advantage of that they care going to have to keep drives going. Against Lovejoy, the Tigers only had eight first downs while going three and out six times. Alcovy proved that they could move the ball as they had an eight play, 71-yard drive to take the lead against Lovejoy.

“It’s not a game where we go in saying we don’t have a chance to win. If we play well and do the things we have to do I like our chances,” Hoffman said. “When you get to the state playoffs, every game is going against a pretty good opponent. It just so happens that we’re hitting another top-10 team for two weeks in a row.”