On a night when Alcovy needed to be perfect, Griffin was a little better and the Tigers saw their season come to an end at the hands of a 35-16 defeat.
Malachi Outlaw did his part, rushing for 211 yards and a touchdown, but the Tigers were unable to stop the Bears, specifically Sheldon Hancock, during a nine-minute stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters. Griffin put together a 16-play, 90-yard drive to take a 28-16 lead with 8:17 left in the game and Alcovy was unable to answer.
"You know, we’d get them [the Bears] at third-and-3 and they would get it," Alcovy coach Kirk Hoffman said. "It was one of those drives – you know – we slanted to it, we pinched to it, we brought linebackers to it and a couple of times we had him [Hancock] hit and he would fall for the first down or he’s miss a tackle. That’s a pretty good football team right there."
The game started with a bang. Alcovy’s Nick Wilson appeared to give his team an early 7-0. when took the opening kickoff the distance for the score, but an illegal block in the back negated the touchdown and the Tigers settled for a Kyle Vojtesak, 23-yard field goal to lead 3-0 with 9:08 left in the first quarter.
A penalty cost the Tigers again on their next possession. After the defense recovered a Griffin fumble, Alcovy lined up to go for fourth down deep in Bear territory. But a false start forced Hoffman to send out the punt team. Bad turned to worse when Griffin blocked Vojtesak’s kick and received the ball on Alcovy’s 29-yard line.
"The penalties, if you look at them, they’re not good, but they were hustle," Hoffman said. "On the returned kickoff for a touchdown, that kid has played hard all year and he’s still playing hard. We’re going to get there."
The Bears took advantage of Alcovy’s mistake. Bear quarterback Marcus Waller shook off a dropped touchdown pass a fired an 11-yard strike to Hancock for the touchdown and Griffin led 9-7 with 2:15 to go in the first quarter.
Alcovy struck pay dirt on its fourth possession. After Matt Gunnells pinned the Bears deep in their own territory and forced a punt from the end zone, the Tigers cashed in the good field position with a nine-play, 40-yard drive capped off by a 2-yard Rod Tolen run. Griffin blocked the PAT and the Tigers led 9-7 with 6:41 remaining in the half.
After Griffin returned a punt down to Alcovy’s 15-yard line, Hancock scored again, this time on a 10-yard run and the Bears led 15-9 at halftime.
Griffin scored on its opening possession of the second half but Alcovy stormed right back. Outlaw and quarterback Rod Tolen shared the rushing load and the two worked the ball inside the Bear’s 5-yard line before Outlaw punched it in to bring the Tigers to within one score at 22-16.
Griffin went back to work from its 10-yard line and put together what would be the back-breaking drive. Hancock was too much for the Tigers’ defense all night, and when Alcovy needed a stop, it wasn’t in the cards. No matter what kind of scheme they threw his way, Hancock picked up first down after first down until he finally found the end zone for the third time.
That was as close as the Tigers would get. Alcovy tried to answer on its next drive and moved the ball to the Bear’s 11-yard line, but Griffin stopped Outlaw for no gain on a fourth-and-1 and took over on downs with less than five minutes remaining in the game.
Hancock tacked on a late touchdown to inflate the final score to 35-16 and finished with 191 yards and four touchdowns.
"The kid is a helluva player," Hoffman said. "I’ve known him for years. We slanted to him [Hancock] a lot but he just made plays."
Outlaw’s 211 yards added to his record year and he ended the season as Alcovy’s first 1,000-yard rusher.
"What else can you say?" Hoffman said. "There’s nothing more I can say than I haven’t already. He is a great kid and probably as good a running back as I’ve ever coached."
After the game, Outlaw reflected on his career and said he hopes he is just the first of a long line of successful running backs in a burgeoning program.
"I’m happy and sad. I have all kinds of feelings. I’m leaving my boys," Outlaw said. "Rushing for 1,000 yards makes me feel good, but I just set something for the guys coming up to reach for."
The Tigers finished 5-5 overall and 4-4 in Region 4-AAAA. Considering the Tigers won more games this year than in their first two years in existence combined, Hoffman felt his team had a great season.
"The kids brought this program to another level," he said. "That’s where we need to be. We’ll get there."