For the Patriots, their mission was simple: beat the Tigers on their home field to keep their playoff hopes alive.
On a chilly Friday evening, Heritage (3-6 overall, 1-4 Region 8-AAAA, Sub-region B) spoiled Alcovy's "Senior Night" by winning 28-24 at Homer Sharp Stadium.
It was a close, hard-hitting ballgame that saw six lead changes, with each team racking up 310 yards of total offense.
"We played hard," said Alcovy head coach Kirk Hoffmann. "Give both teams credit; they both played hard. (It) was a heck of a ballgame."
Alcovy (2-7, 1-4) wasted no time getting down to business, scoring on its first two possessions of the game.
On their first possession, the Tigers scored by way of an 8-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Ledford to Eric Strozier with seven minutes and 59 seconds left in the first quarter. It was set up by a 25-yard pass to Cody Edwards two plays earlier.
After the extra point by Timothy Walsh, the Tigers led 7-0.
Another strong performance by the Alcovy defense forced yet another punt. Soon after Ledford struck again at the 1:45 mark, this time on an 8-yard touchdown pass to Rodrick Tolen. Previously, Tolen put the Tigers in good field position by hauling in a 44-yard reception.
The point-after by Walsh had Alcovy leading 14-0 entering the second quarter.
But the Patriots responded with a 10-play drive of their own, resulting in a 3-yard touchdown run by Zach Cheek, his first of three on the night. After the extra point by Garrett Kelly, Heritage trailed 14-7 with 8:30 remaining until halftime.
Overall, Cheek had 18 carries for a game-high 110 yards.
Heritage tied the game just 10 seconds before the half after a 1-yard touchdown toss from quarterback Kenny Seabolt to Cheek. Earlier a 26-yard catch by Garry Peters and a 19-yard run by Cheek put the Patriots in scoring position.
Seabolt finished the night 11-of-18 for 178 yards and two touchdowns.
On Alcovy's opening possession of the second half, the Tigers compiled their longest drive of the season - 22 plays lasting 9:55 to be exact. The end result was a 25-yard field goal by Walsh, returning the lead to Alcovy, 17-14, entering the final quarter.
"Well, I just told them that we've got 24 minutes and let's play hard," recalled Hoffmann as to what he told his team at halftime. "The thing that I'm proud of is these kids have battled their butts off all year long. We just can't get over the hump. It's going to happen - we're (going) to get over the hump, but I tell you what I wouldn't trade any one of these kids in for anybody."
However, it took just seven seconds before Heritage had its first lead of the game. In fact, on fourth and two at midfield, the Patriots scored on the first play of the fourth after Seabolt hit a streaking Mikel Hunter for a 50-yard touchdown pass over the middle.
After the extra point by Kelly, Heritage led 21-17 at the 11:53 mark.
No matter, the Tigers would recapture the lead on their next possession, this time on a 9-yard touchdown dash by Malachi Outlaw. Previously, an amazing 36-yard reception by Strozier put Alcovy in prime scoring position.
The point-after by Walsh had Alcovy leading 24-21 at the 7:24 mark.
But the Patriots simply would not go away. After 11 plays, Heritage regained the lead when Cheek found the end zone after a 10-yard run with 1:55 left in the game. The point-after by Kelly had the Patriots back on top, 28-24.
In the end, the Tigers fell short after Ledford was picked off by Zane Barefield.
Overall, Ledford was 9-of-19 for 160 yards, including two touchdowns and one interception. On the ground, Ledford had a team-high 81 yards on 19 carries.
Outlaw had 61 yards on 16 carries, including one touchdown.
Heritage's Tim Parker had 34 yards on six carries.
Hunter led all receivers with four receptions for 111 yards (27.75 yards per catch) and one touchdown. Peters also had four catches for 55 yards.
Strozier led the Tigers with four receptions for 78 yards and one touchdown. Tolen finished with three catches for 47 yards and a touchdown. Edwards had two receptions for 35 yards.
Defensively, Alcovy's Keivan Rhodes led all tacklers with 9.5. Bryan Daniel had 6.5, while Gary Wilkins had five tackles.
Heritage was led by Brandon Coleman with 6.5 tackles. Cheek had 5.5 tackles, while Hunter and Peters each had four.
"Life's not easy," said Hoffmann after the game, "but we've just gotta keep battling."