Many celebrated Halloween on Thursday, but Alcovy defensive end Curtiss Benton handed out the treats for the Tigers, and the tricks for the Rockdale County Friday night at Reid Stadium in the Tigers’ 22-7 region victory over the Bulldogs.
Benton tallied five sacks, a tackle-for-loss and recovered a fumble for a touchdown in the Tigers’ seventh win of the season, pushing Alcovy’s record to 4-1 in region play. The win over the Bulldogs sets up a region title showdown with Lovejoy at home next week.
The Bulldogs, who gained just 16 rushing yards and were held to -15 yards on the ground in the second half, fall to 2-3 in region play and 5-4 overall with the homecoming loss.
It was the third consecutive win for the Tigers over the Bulldogs, but neither team seemed excited at the end of the night in a contest that featured 10 turnovers, including eight giveaways in the second half.
“I told everyone from day one,” Alcovy head coach Kirk Hoffman said, “our defense is going to have to carry us. We won. We didn’t play well, but we won. Now what we have to do is keep getting better. Keep getting better every week.”
Alcovy scored 22 points off the Bulldogs’ miscues, finding the end zone in the second quarter after Rockdale fumbled the ball deep in Tigers’ territory. A misplaced Rockdale handoff bounced into the end zone and was recovered by the Tigers, setting up an 80-yard, 10-play drive that gave the Tigers their first points of the game.
Alcovy quarterback Tristen Payne connected on 6-of-9 passes during the late second-quarter scoring drive, marching the Tigers down the field with a 14-yard pass to Jaylin Penny and a 17-yard strike to D’Anthony Bell. The Tigers’ drive looked stalled, however, after Alcovy was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, but Payne found his receivers twice more facing a 1st-and-25 from Rockdale’s 48-yard line.
Payne hit wideout Toyous Jefferson for a 19-yard completion and then found Bell for an 18-yard touchdown pass over the middle of the Bulldogs’ defense. Jason Trowbridge added the extra-point for the Tigers, sending Alcovy into halftime with a 7-0 lead.
In the second half, a flurry of turnovers hit foggy Reid Stadium. The Bulldogs and Tigers combined for four turnovers in a 2-minute period, with the Tigers losing the first of four takeaways on a Payne fumble.
Payne’s fumble was recovered by the Bulldogs’ Julian McKnight, but Rockdale quarterback Tajee Steele returned the favor on the Bulldogs’ next possession, throwing an interception to the Tigers’ Okon Godwin.
Payne was picked off by Rockdale’s Anthony Davis on the Tigers’ second possession of the half, but the Bulldogs were unable to capitalize on the miscue, fumbling the ball on a pitch inside of their 20-yard line.
Alcovy converted the turnover into points three plays later, crossing the goal line on a 2-yard Godwin touchdown run. Payne added a 2-point conversion for the Tigers, pushing Alcovy’s lead to 15-0 in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs’ lone score came with 1:55 left in the third period. On 4th-and-14 on their 16-yard line, the Tigers mishandled a snap on the punt, giving Rockdale short field position at the Tigers’ 14-yard line.
The Tigers were called for a pass interference penalty on the scoring drive in the end zone, giving the Bulldogs’ a 3rd-and-2 attempt from the 6-yard line. Steele found his only bit of running room of the game on the third down conversion, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 15-7 on a 6-yard touchdown run.
Steele’s late score, however, was too little, too late for Rockdale, as Benton terrorized the Bulldogs’ backfield during the final quarter of play.
The Alcovy senior tallied a pair of sacks in the quarter and picked off a Rockdale pitch for a 10-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown with 5:14 left in the contest on the Bulldogs’ fourth turnover of the game.
Benton’s touchdown sealed the win for the Tigers, setting up a showdown next week at Sharp Stadium with the Wildcats.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of our kids,” Hoffman said. “It’s a big win for us. What would it mean for anybody if they could knock Lovejoy off? I mean, there is no doubt about it, they are a good football team."
Payne finished 12-of-24 through the air with 130 yards passing. Payne had a touchdown and two interceptions in the win, while also adding a game-high 75 yards rushing.