CONYERS - Alcovy head coach Kirk Hoffmann has stressed all season long that his second-year team has faced all kinds of adversity.
On Friday night it was no different, as the Tigers came up short to Salem 27-7 on the Seminoles homecoming night at Evans Memorial Stadium.
"To be truthful I thought we played fairly well," Hoffmann said. "You can tell we're young on defense, that's the bottom line - we are young on defense. I am really happy with our offense. I thought that we did some things against a pretty good defensive team that kind of shocked them."
With the passing game struggling, the Tigers (2-3 overall, 1-1 Region 8-AAAA, Sub-region B) pounded away on the ground with running back Malachi Outlaw and quarterback Ryan Ledford.
Outlaw finished the game with 96 yards on 13 carries while Ledford added 85 on 12 rushes.
"They've done a good job for me offensively," Hoffmann said of his dynamic duo. "What can you say about Outlaw running the ball like that for us? (Ledford) has really come 180 degrees from last year, and he has gotten a whole lot better."
But it was Salem running back Alex Miller who was the class of the game, tallying up a game-high 139 yards on 16 carries and three touchdowns.
"Alcovy is much improved and I'm just pleased our guys got their second (sub-region) win," Salem head coach Chad Estes said. "I want to give Coach Hoffmann at Alcovy at lot of credit. They had an excellent game plan, and he's brought that program a long way in two years."
But Salem (5-1, 2-0) exposed Alcovy's young defense, which has only four senior starters, from the very first drive of the game.
That particular drive took four minutes and 26 seconds. It was capped off when Miller found a seam up the middle and made a sharp cut to get by the Tiger defense and into the end zone from 17 yards out.
Salem's next drive was not any better for the Tigers.
This time it was quarterback Terrance Davis who took charge, displaying his athletic ability with his arms and legs, leading his team from its own six-yard line.
On the drive, Davis rushed for 32 yards on three carries before connecting with Sammy Ahonen on a 44-yard pass that took the Seminoles to the three-yard line. Miller ended the drive with his second touchdown run of the day.
Kicker Koy Manget nailed the extra point to put Salem up 14-0 with 31 seconds to play in the first quarter.
But Alcovy's offense came to life in its next possession, responding with a touchdown of its own.
Eric Strozier got the team moving by returning the kickoff 37 yards all the way to the Tigers' 42-yard line. Outlaw carried the ball four times for 17 yards on the drive and Ledford added 27 yards on five carries, including the touchdown run from one yard out.
Kicker Timothy Walsh added the point-after to make it 14-7.
However, that touchdown almost never happened. On the drive, Ledford threw an ill-advised pass up the middle that was picked off by Tyler Askew, but was nullified when the Seminoles were called for roughing the passer, giving Alcovy the ball at the Salem five-yard line.
The Seminoles faced some adversity of their own when Davis was injured with four minutes and ten seconds remaining in the first half.
Before the injury, Davis completed 4-of-6 passes for 83 yards and added 62 yards on seven carries.
Quarterback JoJo Smith took over the drive that led to a 31-yard Manget field goal to put Salem up 17-7 with 1:35 left in the half.
Manget added three more points on a 25-yard field goal with 8:54 remaining in the fourth quarter.
On Alcovy's following possession Ledford scrambled for 12 yards on the second play but lost control of the ball when he was hit, to which the Seminoles recovered at their own 49-yard line.
On the fifth play of the drive Miller ran up the middle and fought through a crowd of Tiger defenders, then bounced out to his right for a 31-yard touchdown dash. Manget added the extra point to make the score 27-7.
"It was on okay game," Outlaw said afterward. "We came out hard, but I think, we kind of lost our intensity in the second half, especially with penalties and stuff like that."
Hoffmann stressed that his team is continuing to improve.
"We're getting there," Hoffmann said. "When you are playing up and down, you're becoming a better ball team. We're going to get there. We've come a long, long way and we've got to just keep getting better. I'm not disappointed in them; we're getting there."
The Tigers are back in action Friday when they host Cedar Shoals at Homer Sharp Stadium.