COVINGTON, Ga. -- Here’s the scene.
It’s Friday night, September 13, 2013 at roughly just after 10:00 p.m.
The Alcovy Tigers football team and its student section have flooded the field in celebration. For just the third time in school history, and the second year in a row, the Tigers have beaten in-county rival, the Eastside Eagles 20-10.
The player in the middle of that celebration was likely quarterback Tristen Payne, who on that night was arguably the biggest factor in beating the Eagles.
Eastside’s defense seemed to have an answer for everything the Tigers put out that wasn’t related to Payne. They could sometimes stuff Jared Farley’s attempts at running the ball, and at times, they could lock down any attempt at Jaylin Penny to break free on a route.
However, when Payne broke free from the pocket and took off down the field, it was as if the Eagles froze in reluctance.
And he would use his legs several times that night — so much so that he did not record a single pass attempt in the second half — and there was one word he used to describe the feeling he had right after the final whistle blew.
“Exhaustion,” he said with a laugh. “But overall, the feeling was satisfying knowing all the hard work my teammates and I put in over the summer paid off.”
Payne knows how big this rivalry is for the county and both schools. Despite the Eagles owning a current four game win streak over the Tigers, he knows that every year there is still an intense feeling in the air when both teams run out onto the field.
“The Alcovy and Eastside rivalry is the biggest event in the county,” he said. “You can look out onto the field and you can’t see a seat empty. It sends cold chills down your body, and you know it’s showtime. They didn’t like us, and we didn’t like them. It’s for all the bragging rights for the year.”
Following that triumphant 2013 win, and a successful campaign that saw the Tigers finish 7-3 with a trip to the playoffs – their last playoff season to date – Payne would go on to play football at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama. After two seasons there, he decided to pursue new endeavors, and currently owns a marketing business called TakeOff Marketing.
But his memories of his accomplishments throughout his high school football tenure, specifically during that 2013 showdown, will always be there. And while Alcovy has not beaten the Eagles since that night, Payne believes this is the year they could do it and has a strong message for those on the Tigers squad looking to emulate that feat.
“Play from the heart, play for your brother beside you, and lay it all on the line.”