It’s quite simple for the Alcovy Tigers. Win tomorrow night and their in the playoffs. To do so, they will have to beat a tough Griffin team that has the same aspirations. That may be easier said than done.
Griffin comes into the game at 6-3, 5-2 in Region 4-AAAA and is scoring 33 points per game. Conversely, Alcovy is holding teams to 14 points a game so conventional wisdom says something has to give.
"Griffin is an outstanding team that knows what it takes in these type of situation," Alcovy coach Kirk Hoffman. "We are preparing for everything that could possible occur during the game. Griffin is well coach and very athletic. They have great speed in the skill positions. We can not let them get into open space because they have the ability to score in a hurry."
Alcovy enters the game fresh off a convincing 38-21 win over Forest Park. In that game, the Tiger’ Malachi Outlaw rushed for 156 yards and became the first back in school history to surpass the 1,000 yard barrier. To beat the Bears, the Tigers will need more of the same.
Hoffman said his team has prepared this week much the same as it has all year. But Thursday game has a different meaning and that has not gone unnoticed by his players or coaches.
"As a staff, we talk every week about the next game being the most important game," he said. "Well this week it is a very important game for us. As a fairly new program and having the opportunity to be playing in a game that could put us in the playoffs is great for not just the football program but also the school."
The offense will have to do its part by picking up first downs and sustaining long drives. The Bears are prolific in the running game and Hoffman knows the best defense will be a ball-controlling offense. But defensively, the Tigers continue to get inspired play out of its front line, especially defensive lineman Matt Gunnells.
"[Matt] Gunnells has played well for us all season," Hoffman said. "His leadership and play has been a spark for us defensively. He has made some big plays that have given the team as a whole a shot of energy."
Alcovy will need the defense to play well. Two weeks ago against Mt. Zion it gave up 32 points in a loss. But when it is on, the Tigers are tough to beat. The Tigers will need the team that shutout Ola earlier in the month and held Forest Park to 21 points last week.
"We must contain the speed that Griffin has in all three phases of the game," Hoffman said. "On offense, we need to take care of the ball and play sound football."
Rod Tolen and Outlaw have provided the bulk of Alcovy’s rushing attack with DeVon Edwards and Trey Sorrels adding a change of pace element. That won’t change Thursday as Hoffman expects to go with what has worked so far.
"If you would have told me we would be in this position at the beginning of the year, I would have taken it," he said. "You can’t ask much more from a new program."
Both teams have a playoff berth riding on the outcome. At 4-3, the Tigers would move to 5-3 and in a tie with Griffin, but would beat them in a tie-breaker. If Jonesboro and Dutchtown both win, Dutchtown would get the other spot as Alcovy defeated Jonesboro earlier in the season. Whatever the case, as long as the Tigers take care of business, it doesn’t matter what anybody else does. They control their own destiny.
"A win would mean that we will be playing another game," Hoffman said. "As a coach and a player, everyone strives to play that extra game every season."