Solid defensive play key to win in county rival game between Alcovy and Eastside

COVINGTON — Both Alcovy and Eastside are coming off wins last week. However, one of them will experience a loss as the two county rivals match up today at 7:30 p.m. at Homer Sharp Stadium.

Alcovy (1-1) established their running game last week against Perry in their 21-10 win. For the second week in a row, Eastside (2-0) had to come from behind to to beat Jackson 49-28. After trailing 21-14, the Eagles scored 42 points with four touchdowns coming in the fourth quarter alone.

Anthony Henderson and Jomandi Smith led the Eagles’ rushing game with 157 and 114 yards. As a team, Eastside had 373 rushing yards with another 85 coming in the air.

“I think 300 of it (rushing yards) was in the second half,” Eastside head coach Rick Hurst said. “I’m hoping we learned our lesson from week one to week two. The first half our kids played flat and that’s why we were down 21-7. But we picked it up. The practice has been so much better this week. It’s been a lot more tempo and a lot more execution. When you look at that you know you have a good chance of coming out and playing well from the get go.”

Making Eastside difficult to defend is that they have the ability to run the ball as well as they can pass. Against Newton, the Eagles were unable to get a running game established gaining 126 yards on the ground but throwing for 239 including the game winning touchdown from Demario Terrell to Henderson. Last week, the Eagles were able to get their running game moving the ball but Terrell was 7-of-16 with a touchdown and an interception.

“Defensively, our linebacker play has to step up a little bit and get a little bit better,” Alcovy head coach Kirk Hoffman said. “The one thing about Eastside is that they’re going to play hard for all four quarters. When you play a team like that you have to be prepared for four quarters also.”

Offensively, the Tigers are going to have to establish the running game with quarterback Tristen Payne leading the team. Payne rushed for 91 of Alcovy’s 132 yards against Perry last week. Even though Alcovy has a good running game, they are going to have to throw the ball just as proficiently if they hope to beat Eastside for the third time in eight meetings. The Eagles lead the series 5-2.

“The biggest thing we have to do is keep from making mistakes and stay within ourselves. We need to play our type of game and not turn the ball over and help them,” Hoffman said. “The first game they gave us the corner and last week they gave us the inside game and we had success in both. They’re well coached and to beat them we’re going to have to be balanced.

“The key is not to beat ourselves. We have to be disciplined on defense and not give up the big play. Then on offense we have to control the football and hang on to that thing.”

The key for an Eastside win will be their ability to play a full four quarters. Against Newton, the Eagles faltered in the second half. After leading 19-6 at the half, Newton scored 15 points in the third to take the lead. Both teams exchanged the lead in the fourth period before Terrell found Henderson for a 45-yard touchdown with less than two minutes left in the game.

“We have our work cut out for us. They have a good front and real active linebackers. I think they’re defense is their strong point,” Hurst said. “We have to find some things we can execute and when we get a chance to make some plays we make them.”

Defensively, the Eagles defense is going to have to keep Payne corralled forcing him to sit in the backfield and throw the ball.

“I’ll take a high school quarterback, no matter who it is, try to beat us in the air. Consistently it’s hard for quarterback and a receiver to march it up and down the field. I’m not saying he can’t do it, but we have to make sure we take away the run first,” Hurst said.

“We have to do a real good job of tackling. We can’t have 10 missed tackles in the first half to it’ll get out of hand and we’ll be playing from behind again.”