Two things are now certain after Cedar Shoals visited Alcovy on Friday night.
The Jaguars are for real, but the Tigers are on the brink of becoming just as good.
Top-ranked Cedar Shoals (7-0, 3-0 Region 8-AAAA, Sub-region B) knocked off Alcovy (2-5, 1-2) in region action on homecoming at Homer Sharp Stadium, 21-11.
Despite the loss, Alcovy head coach Kirk Hoffmann remained upbeat and equally positive throughout the entire game.
"Well, here's the deal nobody's out here making the mistake on purpose," said Hoffmann, "and if you look at every mistake they were hustle mistakes. When you (have) hustle mistakes, I'm not going to....if a kid's hustling and he makes a mistake, keep hustling, we'll take it."
For Cedar Shoals, the strategy was to run the football as hard and often as possible, which led to 51 carries for 270 yards.
"Oh, it was a great football game," said Cedar Shoals head coach Scott Wilkins. "I thought (Alcovy) played lights out all night long; great effort up and down the field on both sides of the ball."
Playing without six defensive starters, the Jags still managed to outlast the second-year Tigers, a much smaller and less experienced team, holding them to just 75 rushing yards on 20 attempts.
"There's a laundry list as long as my arm of guys (who) just stepped up," said Wilkins. "We had to play through some issues, but I was real pleased with the way our team held their composure."
Cedar Shoals wasted no time, scoring on its third possession of the first quarter after a 25-yard touchdown run by junior halfback Bubba Freeman. After the extra point by Taylor Lawrence, Cedar Shoals led 7-0 with three minutes and 26 seconds left in the first quarter.
The play followed a Tiger turnover after sophomore Rodrick Tolen fumbled a punt, setting the Jags up on Alcovy's 39-yard line.
"Those are the kind of breaks when you're playing quality teams you gotta have," said Hoffmann, "and we just didn't get them tonight."
But the Tigers would trim the lead after Timothy Walsh nailed a 37-yard field goal at the 5:34 mark. Despite a bad snap, Walsh was still able to put it through the uprights, making it 7-3.
However, the Jags scored on their very next possession after a 12-play drive that chewed up 5:17 on the clock to end the half. Led by senior quarterback Trent McGuire, the drive was capped off by an 8-yard touchdown run by junior fullback DeDe Lattimore.
The point-after had Cedar Shoals leading 14-3 entering the break.
Both halftime speeches must have registered with each of the defenses because neither team scored in the third quarter.
That is until the fourth, when Alcovy senior quarterback Ryan Ledford found wideout Eric Strozier for a beautiful 21-yard touchdown reception with 7:17 left in the game. After a successful two-point conversion, the Tigers trailed 14-11.
"I asked the kids to put it on the line and to play hard for 48 and not for 36," said Hoffmann. "They did and I take my hat off to them."
At this point, the home crowd was ecstatic, making it exciting like high school football should be. It was witnessing a team in Alcovy that refused to give up, leaving hope for a possible upset against a quality opponent.
But it wasn't to be, as the Jags responded with a 10-play drive of their own, ending with a 4-yard touchdown dash by Lattimore at the 2:46 mark. After the extra point by Joseph Harrison, Cedar Shoals led 21-11.
"We responded like I thought we would respond," said Wilkins, "and took the ball down the field and got the touchdown to seal the deal."
Despite a valiant effort on behalf of the exhausted Tigers, time expired and the Jags still remained undefeated.
Overall, Cedar Shoals had 325 total offensive yards compared to 235, yet Alcovy had three turnovers.
McGuire was 5-of-13 for 55 yards, while rushing for a game-high 120 yards on 20 carries. He also helped his own cause by grabbing an interception during Alcovy's first possession of the game.
In comparison, Ledford was 11-of-27 for 160 yards, one touchdown and one interception. On the ground, he had 13 carries for 78 yards.
Lattimore had 12 carries for 63 yards and two touchdowns, while Freeman added 39 yards and one touchdown. Freeman also led the Jags with two catches for 28 yards.
Alcovy's Malachi Outlaw, the leading rusher in Newton County, was held to just 1 yard on six carries.
Strozier had a game-high four catches for 50 yards. Cody Edwards and Outlaw each had three receptions for 45 and 56, respectively.
Defensively, the Jags were led by Lattimore (7.5) and James Gordon (5.5).
Alcovy's Kelvin Yates had a game-high 10 tackles. Keivan Rhodes followed with 8.5, while Outlaw had six tackles. Lucky Collymore and Chris Whitaker each recorded one sack for the Tigers.