After a long offseason to mull over what went down in 2010, the more than 400 high schools throughout Georgia embark on a common goal when the season opens tonight.
Alcovy and eastside get it started against each other when they face off at Sharp Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Newton opens its season on the road at Shiloh.
The Tigers and Eagles come into tonight's games with different objectives. For Eastside, it's all about getting off to a solid start with a new quarterback at the helm. For the Tigers, it's survival.
Alcovy suffered injuries to three of its primary skill players at the start of the 2010 season and never were able to get on track. After losing Devon Edwards in week one to a broken collarbone, the Tigers lost quarterback Bowen Braswell and wideout Kenard Murry the following week against Harris County. Alcovy coach Kirk Hoffman is hoping to get through tonight's game in one piece so the Tigers can get some continuity heading further on into region play.
"We have to get better as we play and make sure we don't do things that take us out of the game," Hoffman said. "They have a great defense and will be tough and can do some things that hurt you on offense so we have to make sure we don't commit penalties after a good play and just get better as we play."
Eastside ushers in the Cameron Boyd era after losing Califf Carnes to graduation. Boyd played in three games last year and is familiar with the offense but went 0-1 as a starter. Boyd won't have to do it all on his own. Alex Smith and Chavis Griggs will handle the rushing duties behind him while speed burner Jamondi Smith adds another wrinkle.
The Tigers will counter with a formidable pair of running backs themselves in Tre Sorrells and Edwards. Sorrells is coming of a 1,000-yard rushing season and is the school's all-time leading rusher while Edwards adds a speed element which can break plays around the edge. And Alcovy will need that speed as they go up against Eastside's highly touted defense.
Up front the Eagles boast one of the best duos in the state in any classification in Sheldon Rankins and Shaquille Huff. The tandem combined 29 tackles for a loss and 20 sacks in 2010 en route to All-Region honors. Eastside's defense doesn't stop there. Blake Rouse is back after a 116-tackle season at linebacker and Lance Davis is a playmaker at free safety that coaches are high on.
Handling the quarterback duties for Alcovy is junior Cornell White. White was thrust into the quarterback position after Braswell went down in week two and performed admirably with limited preparation. He threw for 468 yards and four touchdowns but more was more comfortable on the fly. Eastside's defense will look to contain White as he ran for 536 yards in eight games.
Both teams will use tonight's game as a barometer of where they're at and what work needs to be done before region play begins. Eastside has title aspirations while the Tigers look to get back on track before they take on the gauntlet that is the Region 3A-AAAA schedule.
While both teams want to win, Hoffman is more concerned with how his team progresses throughout the game and takes care of the ball. He admits beating the Eagles, which they did two years ago, won't be easy. But he said it isn't impossible.
"We have to play perfect football to win," Hoffman said. "When you play quality football teams, you can't go out there and hand the football over. We have to play errorless football. It's going to be a big challenge on both sides of the line but if we can take care of the football and get after the ball on defense, you never know what can happen."