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Bragging rights
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As it stands right now, both the Alcovy and Eastside football teams are each in control of its own destiny.

The only question remaining is who will win tonight when both squads square off in a good ol' fashion crosstown showdown at Homer Sharp Stadium.

"There is a lot of excitement in the air," remarked Alcovy head coach Kirk Hoffmann, "and I think it's good for this community.

"You want to build the games up because it is about the kids in the county," added Hoffmann, "but on the other hand, people need to keep the game in perspective."

Not only are bragging rights at stake, but a victory for either team will bring its region record to 2-2.

"One of the goals that we set at the beginning of the year was to win the county championship," said Eastside head coach Rick Hurst. "We have one part of that done, and so does (Alcovy). For us to do it would mean a lot because we'd get to keep that trophy for another year."

As Eastside (5-2 overall, 1-2 Region 8-AAAA, Sub-region B) begins to climb the charts in region play, the Tigers (2-5, 1-2) are hoping to bring them back down to size - something they failed to do last year.

 "They're a good football team and you've got to give Coach Hurst a lot of credit," praised Hoffmann. "He's got those kids believing. They've worked hard to get where they're at, and that's why they're sitting there with a pretty good record.

"We're trying to get where they are a little bit," added Hoffmann, "and they're still trying to raise the bar a little bit. It's kind of an interesting mixture of both programs."

In 2006 the Eagles flew straight past Alcovy, 42-14. And if that particular game was any indication of how things will pan out tonight, expect a monstrous display of fireworks.

"Well, it better not come from us," warned Hurst. "I've already told my team that if you get into that, you'll sit, and I don't care who it is or what the situation is; we don't do that. You win with class, you lose with class, and we let the scoreboard do the talking."

Last year, four unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were called between both teams. In addition, there were a combined nine fumbles, no doubt rainy conditions playing a major factor.

"(Hurst) doesn't condone it, I don't condone it," said Hoffmann, "but I think what you're going to see is a great ballgame. I think you're going to see two teams whose kids are going to lay it on the line and give the fans a good show."

The trash talk began in the summer, and has continued throughout the season thanks in large part to the Internet and such Web sites like MySpace and Facebook.

"We're going to do everything we can to minimize it," said Hurst. "I know it goes on because it's part of the game; it's part of trying to intimidate your opponent. As long as it's done in a manner that it doesn't draw attention to everything, then I guess I can't do much about it.

"We're trying to coach against it and just try to let our kids play," added Hurst.

Hoffmann feels exactly the same way.

"I don't like the idea that people are talking over the Internet because to me there's no place in sports for that," said Hoffmann. "Hey, let's practice, let's show up, let's play hard; that's what we need to get back to.

"All of our kids at this level need to understand that what they see in the pros and colleges isn't the way they need to behave," added Hoffmann. "Play hard, play with excitement, play with intensity, but draw the line with what you know is right and wrong."

Eastside's Justin Wray leads all quarterbacks in the county in just about every offensive category, including completions (71), passing yards (877), touchdowns (9) and rushing yards (548). In addition, he has four rushing touchdowns.

"Offensively, everybody in the region is going to tell you, they (have) a quarterback (Wray) who can play," said Hoffmann. "I enjoy watching him play; he's just one of those kids who is a joy to watch. But I don't know if their offensive line has gotten the credit (it) deserves; they've done a great job, too.

"We (have) to keep (Wray) off the field," added Hoffmann. "After seven games, nobody's stopped him, so what's that tell you? He's that kind of a player."

Larenzo Echols has rushed for 236 yards on 39 carries, including five touchdowns for the Eagles. He also has five receptions for 51 yards. Broderick Alexander has 218 rushing yards on 38 carries, including one touchdown.

Eastside's Andrico Bailey leads the team with 26 catches for 458 yards and four touchdowns. Alexander has 14 catches for 170 yards and three touchdowns, while Johnny Norrington has 10 receptions for 93 yards, including one touchdown.

Yanrick Tinker leads the Eagles with 32 points. Tinker is 20-22 on PATs (91 percent), including 4-of-7 from field goal range (57 percent). His long is a 44-yard boot against Newton, in which he scored a season-high 7 points.

"We've just got to go out there and do our thing and play well," said Hurst. "If we do that I think everything will take care of itself."

Meanwhile, Alcovy has a legitimate triple threat that includes quarterback Ryan Ledford, running back Malachi Outlaw and wide receiver Eric Strozier. Combined they have stymied defenses throughout the season.

"(Alcovy) has improved," noted Hurst. "They've won two ball games and they believe they can win now, and that's a big deal. It's not going to be easy; we're going to have to go out there and play the way we're capable of playing."

Ledford has completed 52-of-113 passes for 720 yards, including six touchdowns and four interceptions. On the ground, he has rushed for 447 yards and three touchdowns.

Outlaw has rushed for 669 yards on 80 carries. In addition, he has three touchdowns.

"Offensively, (Alcovy) spreads you out," said Hurst. "They try to get their matchups where they feel like they've got a better matchup, and that's what you're supposed to do. I think they've done a good job of spreading you out, and you've got to worry about everybody. It's going to be a challenge for our guys."

Strozier has 20 receptions for 372 yards and five touchdowns. He is averaging 18.6 yards per catch. In fact, last year he had a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Eagles.

"Defensively, the thing I like about them is they come after you; they get after the football," said Hurst.

Keivan Rhodes and Kelvin Yates are two senior defenders who have played exceptional defense for the Tigers all season long, and currently lead them in tackles.

According to Hurst, there are three things the Eagles must do in order to win: minimize turnovers, play good special teams and don't give up the big play.

Hoffmann is more concerned with the rhythm of the game.

"We're going to have to get into our flow of the game," said Hoffmann. "I think the biggest thing for us on both sides of the ball is to get into some kind of flow."

Regardless, it should be a great matchup before a packed house between two up-and-coming teams willing to sacrifice it all on the field.

"We're going to have our hands full," said Hoffmann, "but I tell you we're not a bad football team ourselves, so hopefully it will be a good game."