Without a doubt, the 2007 Alcovy Tigers have certainly made tremendous strides on the football field when compared to their inaugural campaign one year ago.
That was then, and this - oh, you know how the saying goes.
On Thursday, Alcovy (1-3) will enter Region 8B-AAAA play by hosting the Rockdale County Bulldogs (0-4) starting at 7 p.m. at Homer Sharp Stadium.
But the Bulldogs will see a completely different squad this time around, nothing like the 2006 version in which they abused the first-year school, 48-6. That alone should give the Tigers all the more incentive to win.
And should that happen, it will be Alcovy's first ever region victory, giving the Tigers a powerful boost toward making the playoffs.
Alcovy head coach Kirk Hoffmann has done an incredible job sustaining the enthusiasm within the program and keeping the faith alive for his team under extreme circumstances, like establishing a solid football foundation. Hoffmann has made his players realize that they can achieve anything if they just believe in themselves.
At this point last year, Alcovy was 0-4 and had already been outscored 121-35 by opponents - the same opponents the Tigers have faced this year (Habersham Central, Newton, Winder-Barrow and Apalachee).
Boy, what a difference 365 days can make. This year, the Tigers have scored 66 points while allowing 86 in four games. More importantly, they have already done something they failed to do in 10 games last year: win.
Arguably, their best performance came against crosstown rival Newton on September 7, in which the Tigers shocked the Rams, 23-0, winning their first game in school history.
By far, the most impressive and most often overlooked statistic against Newton was how many total offensive yards the Alcovy defense allowed: 24. Plain and simple, the A-defense stepped up and delivered.
But if the Tigers have any chance of topping the Bulldogs, their defense must do it once again by not allowing the big play.
On paper, the edge goes to Alcovy. Not only are the Tigers averaging five more points per game than the Bulldogs (see inset on 1B), but the Tigers are allowing 10 fewer points. Defensively, the Tigers have allowed 1,071 total offensive yards overall in four games (267.75 per game).
But penalties have plagued the Tigers, forcing the defense to spend more time on the field rather than resting on the sideline. In comparison, the Bulldogs have also suffered in this particular category, which should play to Alcovy's advantage on Thursday night.
Meanwhile, Alcovy's offense isn't too shabby, either; if anything, it's a bit underratted. In fact, the Tigers have a triple threat in quarterback Ryan Ledford, running back Malachi Outlaw and wide receiver Eric Strozier.
Ledford has quickly become a leader among the team. Entering last week, Ledford had completed 18-of-41 passes (44 percent) for 262 yards and two touchdowns. He is also the second leading rusher among the Tigers.
On the ground, the No. 1 leading rusher has been Outlaw - who has relished becoming a household name - rushing for over 400 yards on a limited number of carries and three touchdowns. In fact, he has already established himself as one of the better backs in the county.
Like last year, Strozier has proven to be Ledford's primary target, leading all receivers in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. The only difference between the duo is that they have another year of experience under their belts. Basically, if Ledford throws it up then Strozier usually takes care of the rest, proving to be a mismatch for nearly every defender.
As long as the Tigers can limit their amount of turnovers and not give up the big play against the Bulldogs, Alcovy will soon be 1-0 in Region 8B-AAAA action.
Rockdale County visits Alcovy to kickoff a three-game home stand this week for Newton County high schools. Eastside hosts Salem at 7:30 p.m. Friday, while Redan visits Newton at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.