Coming off a 2021 season where the Alcovy Tigers made history by capturing their first-ever region championship, 2022’s forecast predicts an almost complete reset for the program.
Almost all main contributors to the Tigers’ success a season ago have graduated or departed from the program, including former head coach Jason Dukes who departed after last season for a defensive coaching role at Thomas County Central.
That means many new faces will be roaming the sidelines and taking the field on Aug. 19 when Alcovy’s season commences with a matchup against Lithonia at Sharp Stadium.
Nevertheless, new head coach Spencer Fortson, who was hired away in May from his previous post as Newton’s defensive coordinator, has full faith that he and his team are ready to make noise in 2022.
“We’re going up against good competition this year being in a new region,” Fortson said. “And our guys are going to prepare Monday through Thursday to play on Friday. So, we want to be sure we bring our A-game on Fridays. Right now, it’s about executing plays that are called and just having fun.”
Though there will be many new faces surrounding Alcovy football, a few leaders have emerged from the pack who the Tigers will lean on this season.
It starts with senior quarterback Ashton Evans. Throughout his Tiger career, Evans has shown considerable improvement.
In his junior season, Evans threw for 1,781 yards and 13 touchdowns with four additional rushing scores. Evans’ season stats earned him Region 3-AAAAAA Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Braxton Crawford, Alcovy’s specialist, will also enter his senior season. Crawford is the region’s reigning Kicker of the Year, too, going 4-for-4 on field goal attempts in 2021.
Taylor Richardson is the third player specifically mentioned by Fortson. As an incoming junior safety, Fortson said Richardson has been a vocal leader to help motivate and uplift his peers and teammates all offseason long.
“Those three guys stand out a lot from everybody,” Fortson said. “But we have other guys that we see growth in and who are going to develop into leaders. Those three guys there are who we’re looking to put the ball in their hands and task them with getting the team on one accord.”
Fortson has been hands-on with every phase of the Alcovy program, but his specialty is defense, which makes sense considering his previous role at Newton.
While there, he labeled the Rams’ defense “Blue Swarm.” This year, Fortson said defensive coordinator Jaquon Henderson — a former 4-star defensive back prospect at Newton who went on to play at Georgia Tech — has named Alcovy’s defensive unit, “Black Swarm.”
“[Jaquon] tells the guys, ‘We’re going to swarm around the defense, surround the ball carrier and make it seem that we just black out everything. It gets dark around their ball carriers every time.”
Fortson stressed, though, that it has been a work in progress implementing this defensive identity during the offseason. But he’s beginning to see more signs that his unit is grasping all the concepts.
“We want to make sure they understand the basics before we continue to build upon what we want to do defense wise,” Fortson said. “I trust the defensive staff to get our defense attacking, be fundamentally sound and all hats to the ball.”
It’s no secret that the Tigers are coming off one of its best seasons since the program’s inception in 2006. However, Fortson and Alcovy have not let that steal their focus away from this upcoming season and the success it could bring.
And, while the Tigers are still high on being the reigning region champions heading into this season, they don’t plan to rest on that. Instead, they’re full speed ahead toward keeping the program moving forward.
“The success Alcovy had last year was great,” Fortson said. “But we want to continue to build upon that. Our mindset is to come out and compete every Friday and leave everything on the line. We’re not so much about winning certain games, we want to come out and compete every game. And then let’s put ourselves in a position to win every game.”