STOCKBRIDGE, Ga -- By no means was it a master-class on high-powered offenses, but the spring game between the Alcovy High Tigers and the Woodland High Wolfpack, a 7-0 win for Alcovy, showed some year-to-year improvement from the Tigers and new head coach Jason Dukes.
The Tigers went through several changes since last fall, with the arrival of an almost entirely new coaching staff and the challenge of breaking in a new signal caller in rising sophomore MJ Stroud after both of last year's quarterbacks graduated. This season for the Tigers will be about how well they can integrate their new parts and put together a season that represents a new era of Alcovy football.
In Friday's game, however, it was apparent that there were some kinks to be worked out for both teams — particularly Woodland who only had a little more than half of their roster dressed to play.
Alcovy showed sharpness offensively, especially compared to the second half of last season, but the lack of cohesiveness in the offense – most notably the offensive line – was on full display in the first couple of quarters. It didn't stop Dukes, a former Georgia Tech and Jacksonville Jaguars offensive lineman, from seeing the potential.
“I believe we’re better up front right now than we’ve been in this program in a while,” Dukes said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys that are playing still. Work in the weight room is going to be extremely important, and then work in the film room is going to be important as well. We got a small fraction of our offense in right now.”
Halfway through the first quarter, neither team had scored or made it to the end zone, But Alcovy's offense showed displayed some punch. On one particular drive for Alcovy that started at its own 23-yard line, Stroud ripped off a pair of first down runs of 10-plus yards, but two consecutive holding calls pushed the Tigers back to a 2nd and long situation.
The next play saw the Tigers get whistled for a false start, costing the team five more yards.
Alcovy finished the drive with an incomplete pass and a pick from Stroud.
On the sidelines, coach Dukes continued to implore his offensive line to play with more intensity and employ the work the team put in during the spring months.
One bright spot for the Tigers throughout the game was their aggression on defense. All night, Alcovy stuffed the Wolfpack rushing game and got after the quarterback, totaling three sacks for the game.
More than halfway through the second quarter, the Alcovy offense began to settle in and gain a level of comfort in the plays, showing some flashes of what it could be come fall. The Tigers looked particularly sharp on the game's lone scoring drive.
It began with a Stroud incomplete pass. However, running back Natorien Holloway would bust through for a 13-yard run to the 43-yard line. Holloway would gain four yards on his next carry. Adrian Robinson would then carry it for an additional seven yards.
A four-yard scramble by Stroud would set up a first down at the Woodland 36-yard line. Then solid blocking by the offensive line allowed for Stroud to hit Robinson for a screen pass which he would take down the field to score the game’s first and only touchdown.
To end out the half, Alcovy continued to build momentum and had the look of a team ready to take charge of the game. Woodland's subsequent drive would end in two plays after Alcovy's Malik Goodson played the ball perfectly to pick off a pass from Woodland's quarterback, setting up an Alcovy drive at the 28-yard-line.
On the first play of Alcovy's new drive, running back Jamarius Strong would take a carry 13 yards. Stroud and Robinson would then combine for 13 additional rushing yards, giving the Tigers a fourth down at the Woodland 24-yard line. A Wolfpack personal foul moved the sticks for Alcovy, setting it up with 1st and 10 at the Woodland 12-yard line.
With the chance to take a two-score lead before the end of the half, Caleb Brown caught a pass from Stroud and made his way to the 5-yard line before a solid Wolfpack tackle caused him to fumble the ball. Woodland recovered the ball at the 16-yard line, ending the scoring threat.
Coming out from halftime, both teams seemed to have lost a bit of the spark that carried them through the end of the second quarter.
“Regardless of what you want to say about the officiating, we did not have one offsides penalty, we did not have one fumbled snap,” Dukes said. “We did have a fumble in the game -- we’ve got to work on that – that cost us a touchdown going in late in the first half. I think our players understood how much that hurt us, how much that hurt our momentum.”
Both teams were held to consecutive drives that resulted in three-and-outs to start the second half.
Frustration on both sides mounting, a third-quarter scuffle involving Alcovy’s Cameron Daniels and Woodland’s players ensued leading to a stoppage of play. Daniels was ejected as were two Wolfpack players.
A running clock at the end of the third and the entire fourth quarters gave the teams a chance to play some of the players who hadn’t seen time on the field.
After the game, Dukes expressed the level of growth he saw from his team.
“We made strides tonight,” Dukes said. “And here’s the deal: If we can get one percent better every time we’re on the field or every time that we’re in the weight room or every time that we’re in the film rooms, we’re just one percent better than we were the day before.
"From now until all of our meetings through the summer, all our work on 7-on-7s, all our work through campus, we’re going to be good when it comes to fall.”