The Alcovy football team's season came to an abrupt end as it fell to Winder-Barrow for the second time this year 17-10 on Friday night at Homer Sharp Stadium.
"I can't be any prouder of my group of kids," said Alcovy head coach Kirk Hoffmann. "Look at where we came from; let's not hang our heads, let's just use this as a building block."
Alcovy (2-8 overall, 1-5 Region 8-AAAA, Sub-region B) received the ball on its very first possession to start the first quarter.
Quarterback Ryan Ledford began to find his rhythm early, connecting with receivers Eric Strozier (8 catches for 175 yards) and Cody Edwards to build a 7-play drive. It was stalled after a short gain on the ground and two incomplete passes to force a Tigers punt.
But punter Tim Walsh's kick was partially blocked by Zach Mann at the 48-yard line for a 6-yard punt.
Winder quarterback Greg Dixon then called his own number for the Bulldoggs on their first possession, but was drilled on a gang tackle led by Kelvin Yates for a 3-yard loss. And on third and 13 at the Bulldoggs 39-yard line, Yates - along with Maurice Valentine - sacked Dixon for a 12-yard loss, bringing it to the Bulldoggs 28.
The Tigers continued to have trouble moving the ball against Winder (5-5, 1-5 Region 8-AAAA, Sub-region A) for much of the first quarter. They all but fell apart due to a holding penalty and a 12-yard sack by Detric Davis, driving Alcovy back to midfield.
Ledford recovered to connect with Strozier again, this time for 13 yards, only to have it come back by another holding penalty which forced the Tigers to punt.
However, Alcovy had a tremendous opportunity at the start of the second quarter.
Ledford lofted a pass to Strozier for 73 yards. But as Strozier fought to gain extra yardage, he lost control of the ball, recovered by Terrell Evans at the Tigers 3-yard line.
Regardless, the defense for Alcovy came to the rescue, getting the ball back in Ledford's hand with less than 5:03 remaining before halftime.
Ledford orchestrated a 10-play drive to the Bulldoggs 11-yard line. Walsh concluded it with a 17-yard field goal, and the Tigers were on the board first 3-0 with 3:00 left.
The start of the second half began with yet another huge play by the Tigers.
On first and 10, Yates terrorized Dixon along with Matt Gunnells, both putting a tremendous hit on him, causing a fumble recovered by Keldrin Strickland.
The Tigers capitalized on the turnover using a 5-play drive that ended as Ledford (14-of-24 for 197 yards) found Edwards (two catches for 43 yards) for a 29-yard touchdown.
With Walsh's kick, Alcovy extended its lead to 10 with 10:00 in the left in the quarter.
Winder didn't waste any time, mounting an 11-play, 47-yard drive which began at its own 41-yard line.
Babatunda Jegede, with assistance from Yates, sacked Dixon again for a 7-yard loss, preventing a key first down play. Jesse McGee hit a 35-yard field goal to cut the lead to seven with 6:30 remaining.
Winder then gambled on an onside kick, which proved successful as McGee recovered it at the Tigers 44-yard line.
With 6:23 left in the third, Winder executed a double reverse from Chris Wragg, who pitched out to Terrell Evans to pick up 29 yards, bringing it to the Tigers 15.
Dixon then found Jonah Huggins on a fade pass for a 15-yard touchdown. With the McGee kick, the game became a barnburner at 10 apiece with 5:46 remaining.
"I am proud of our guys fighting back when we were down by 10," said Winder-Barrow head coach Brian Allison. "It was just a great job of fighting back to win a ballgame."
The Tigers began to struggle at the start the fourth quarter; therefore, the defense stepped up.
Yates ran into the punter for a 15-yard penalty that kept the drive alive. On second and 7 at the Bulldoggs 44-yard line, Yates (7 tackles and 3.5 sacks) made up for his mistake by sacking Dixon for the third time, resulting in a 10-yard loss. After failing to convert for the first down, the Bulldogs elected to punt.
McGee boomed a 45-yard punt, pinning the Tigers at their own 5-yard line.
Alcovy again self-destructed in its initial series with multiply penalties (10 penalties for 75 yards overall) and a second sack on Ledford by Davis, taking the Tigers out of scoring range with 3:11 to play.
With 59.8 seconds left in the final quarter, Winder worked its way on an 8-play drive and scored a 38-yard touchdown as Dixon (165 yards passing and two touchdowns) connected with Taylor Bradberry on a go-ahead pass play, slipping by Edwards for the score.
"Our kids fought to the end. We got a great group of kids and a great group of leaders, especially our seniors," said Allison. "I am really proud (of) what they've done."
The point-after had the Bulldoggs leading 17-10 with 15 seconds left in the game.
"Last year we weren't as completive," said Hoffmann. "This year, we were completive. Next year, we (are) going to turn the corner."