COVINGTON, Ga. — Since the Alcovy Tigers completed their epic comeback in that 23-20 win over Salem that seems like eons ago now, after back-to-back bye weeks, it seems like everyone around Alcovy’s camp has been obsessing with talk about its next opponent.
Everyone except the Alcovy football players, perhaps.
When Friday comes, Alcovy (2-2) will travel three hours south, just outside of Moultrie, to take on Colquitt County. Yes, that Colquitt County. The same Colquitt County ranked No. 1 in Georgia no matter which poll you consult.
The same Colquitt County that MaxPreps says is the ninth-ranked high school team in the country.
The Packers, 2017 Class AAAAAAA state runners up — they missed a state title by the margin produced by a walk-off field goal — coached by the renowned Rush Probst, and fresh off a 26-14 win at No. 4 Grayson, also once considered one of the top programs in the nation.
Thanks to a last minute schedule change that shifted the Alcovy-Eastside game to an earlier-than-desired point in the season for coach Chris Edgar, Alcovy’s been the recipient of back-to-back bye weeks to prepare for the Packers. So naturally that means Alcovy’s been eating, breathing and sleeping film and preparation for the South Georgia powerhouse, right?
“Actually during that first bye week, we didn’t even talk about Colquitt one time,” Edgar said. “We focused on ourselves. Toward the end of last week we started talking about Colquitt. Those two consecutive bye weeks were actually not ideal for us. It’s hard to get those guys to get motivated to practice when there isn’t a game.”
But this week there will be. Alcovy and Colquitt will square off at 8 p.m. Friday during the Packers’ homecoming in a game that conventional wisdom suggests should be decided long before the fourth quarter.
But Edgar says he and his staff haven’t been concerned with bombarding his guys with any shock-the-world rah-rah speeches as much as just motivating them to go down to Mack Tharpe Stadium and take advantage of the situation at hand.
“Our theme is this: It’s just a great opportunity for our guys,” Edgar said. “Colquitt is a fantastic team. Everybody knows that. They’ve got guys sought after from college programs all over the country. But if our guys can go down there and compete and play and have some positive things happen, who knows? It’ll be something, though, that they can put under their hats and say, ‘We were able to play with those guys.’”
Edgar said he’s got other reasons for sending his squad south for the weekend. Among them, being battle tested for region play and taking away the shellshocked factor for his bunch when postseason time comes.
“I want them to see what big time South Georgia football is all about,” Edgar said. “I want them to experience that kind of atmosphere. If we make the playoffs, it’s possible that on Week One of the playoffs, we’ll draw a Southeast Georgia team and have to go on the road. I don’t want them to be like, ‘I’ve never seen this before.’”
One thing Alcovy as a program has never seen before is a win against a top five opponent, let alone a No. 1 ranked team.
Since the school’s inaugural season in 2006, Alcovy is 0-4 against teams ranked in the top five. The two highest ranked teams Alcovy has ever face are No. 2 Lovejoy (a 27-8 loss on Nov. 8 2013) and No. 1 Griffin (a 34-14 loss on August 31, 2007).
Colquitt may be a better, deeper team than all of them.
For the Packers, it starts with a two-headed monster at tailback in junior Daijuan Edwards and senior Ty Leggett. Combined, they’ve rushed for 1,085 yards and 16 touchdowns. Edwards alone has 11 of those scores while averaging 6.2 yards per carry and 112.3 per game.
Then there’s quarterback Jaycee Harden, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound junior that’s been efficient if not spectacular with his 917 passing yards and 10 touchdowns tosses to just one interception. The offensive line is anchored by 6-foot, 285-pound Kameren Barnes and 6-foot-3, 325-pound Kam Bell, a 3-star prospect who has offers from the likes of Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss, Kentucky and Mississippi State.
Defensively, Colquitt is surrendering just 10.8 points per game while effectively corralled every team’s attempts to establish their ground game against the Packers.
That presents a particularly formidable challenge to Alcovy, as its bread and butter offensively has been its rushing attack.
“Colquitt’s defense is just nasty,” Edgar said. “To my knowledge, they haven’t had a running back get any success against them. And they’ve played a lot of quality teams. But I told our guys, hey, it’s a good team. Step up to the challenge. If a guy like (NaTorien Holloway) was to have a good game against those guys, that says a lot about the kind of guys we have on our team.”
Holloway has been the offensive star for the Tigers with his 485 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He’s averaging 7.3 yards per carry, and fellow junior Andrae Robinson isn’t too far behind, with his 6.4-yards-per-tote average and three rushing scores.
One thing the two weeks off has done has helped some of Alcovy’s standouts heal and rest. Quarterback Jaelen Campbell who went down midway through the Salem win with an ankle injury is better and ready to go Friday, according to Edgar.
“Jaelen has made great progress from that ankle sprain, which, I guess is a good thing about being off for two weeks,” Edgar said. “He’s been able to work on it. We’re going to play (the quarterback position) by ear, as we know Nick (Simmons) came in and did a great job against Salem, but if Jaelen’s ready to go, he’s probably gonna get the start, and we’ll keep playing the rest by ear.”
Ultimately, Edgar said, the goal is to go down there, be lose and not be afraid to compete.
“We don’t have anything to lose,” Edgar said. “So let’s just have fun and enjoy an experience that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”