Alcovy dominated every aspect of Friday's game on its way to a 47-31 victory over favored Starr's Mill.
The Tigers opened up an aerial attack, throwing four touchdown passes of 19, 29, 38 and 41 yards. When the passing game wasn't on full throttle, the offense methodically ran the ball, the defense forced turnovers and special teams recovered kickoffs.
The win was Alcovy's first of the season and came as a bit of a surprise, as Starr's Mill was 2-0 entering the game, following a 2010 season where they made it to the AAAA title game.
Alcovy set the tone early, forcing Starr's Mill to a three and out to open the game. The Tigers offense worked quickly. After an 11 yard run by quarterback Cornell White, he then sent a 42-yard pass sailing down the right sideline into the hands of a wide open Kenard Murry.
The drive was finished off with a 19 yard pass touchdown pass to receiver Elijah Jones. Alcovy would never trail in the game.
White and Murry were the undisputed stars of the game as the two combined for touchdown passes of 38 and 41 yards.
The Tigers exploited Starr's Mill soft coverage all night with deep fade routes. The Panthers never adjusted and left receivers wide open the entire game. White took advantage, completing 11 of 16 attempts for 246 yards.
Murry had a monster game, catching five balls for 170 yards. He added an interception on defense in the third quarter for good measure. Jones chipped in with three receptions, including two touchdown catches of 19 and 29 yards.
"I've been saying all along Cornell's been getting better, and I think he did some things tonight. We were able to spread the field. We were going no back, one back, two back, giving them different formations and trying to get the matchups we need," Alcovy coach Kirk Hoffman said. "Then they rolled over on Kenard and Elijah Jones made some great plays. We've still a long ways to go, but we're getting there."
On the other side of the ball, Starr's Mill rarely went to the air, completing only one pass in the first half, including a few ugly incompletions.
The Panthers second possession was worse than the first, as quarterback Dylan Autera had a hard-thrown pass tipped into the air by Jerry Anderson and picked off Curtiss Benton. That led to an Alcovy touchdown, putting the Tigers up 14-0.
Panthers running back John Smith would respond on the next drive, bouncing a run to the outside and racing down the sideline for a 65 yard touchdown run.
Three drives later, a bad snap on an Alcovy punt attempt gave the Panthers the ball at the 27 yard line. Smith would fumble on a 21-yard run, but Starr's Mill would recover it. Smith then finished off the drive with a bruising six yard run up the middle to tie the game at 14 points apiece.
Alcovy responded with a touchdown pass.
Starr's Mill then drove down the field, but lost Smith to a game-ending injury and had to settle for a field goal. Alcovy added a field goal of its own putting them up 24-17 with only 48.2 seconds remaining in the first half.
A squib kick by Alcovy was mishandled by a Panthers player leading to a scrum where Alcovy recovered the ball. After a one-yard run and an incomplete pass, Alcovy chose to play it safe on third down with a run up the middle.
One of the highlights of the game was kicker Rysan Richardson's 45-yard field goal to end the half with Alcovy leading 27-17. Richardson's other field goal was from 33 yards out.
The quarterback, Autera, and fullback Zach Hughes led Starr's Mill to a touchdown on its first possession in the second half. However, the offense would stagnate after that as the Panthers struggled to replace Smith.
The rest of the game belonged to the Tigers as running back Devon Edwards came alive breaking off a 44-yard run to set up a White touchdown pass.
Alcovy then recovered another squib kick which bounced directly off a Panthers player.
"My special teams coach had done a great job of scouting them, and we felt like (their) front line was leaving early, and we felt like we could do some things. I told some of the kids, I said ‘Guys were going to cut loose and try them.' And you look good when it works," Hoffman said.
On the very next play, Edwards broke a 48 yard touchdown run down the sideline, putting momentum squarely in Alcovy's favor and putting the game away for good, 40-24.
"Devon Edwards not getting to play last year crushed him. These last three games you've see a kid who is determined and motivated. What a game he had tonight. If you get the ball in his hands - it took a while for us to figure out a way to get the ball into his hands," Hoffman said. "He stayed patient, stayed patient and good things happened."
Edwards and Murry are both coming off injury-shortened seasons, and the seniors look like they're making up for lost time in 2011.
White would throw a pick later as he tried to throw across his body, but he'd make up for it on his next drive by running in a six-yard touchdown of his own.
Starr's Mill turned to backup quarterback Hayden Beyer, who was little better, but did manage to complete a few shorter passes en route to the game's final touchdown.
While the defense allowed some big plays, it also had a few of its own, including two interceptions, two sacks, one forced fumble and a few tackles for loss. Sophomore Ryan Adams was active in the backfield, recording one of the sacks and a big tackle for loss.
"We're not a bad football team and we haven't been, it's just our schedule has been so brutal and then you top (it with) the injuries. You go in and say ‘How long is it going to be before something falls your way and we turn the corner?'" Hoffman said. "And hopefully this game will be that. Maybe this will be the game that turns the corner for us."
Alcovy will look to even its record at 2-2 when it faces Union Grove Thursday at Sharp Stadium.