Alcovy’s worst fear came to fruition Friday in its Class AAAA playoff game against Tri Cities. With the score tied at 21, the Bulldogs reeled off four straight touchdowns and the Tigers were unable to counter. Tri Cities tacked on a safety late and cruised to a 51-28 win.
“We got in a shootout and when you do that, your defense has to be ready to play,” Alcovy coach Kirk Hoffman said. “They lined up and came right at us with those big ole kids.”
For the Tigers, that first playoff win eludes them once again. They fell to 0-2 in playoff games after losing their first postseason game in 2009 to Thomas County Central.
Both teams made their fair share of big plays but were plagued by turnovers. In the end, Tri Cities made more and had less.
The Tigers turned the ball over five times and Tri Cities scored 21 points off of them. The Bulldogs gave it away three times leading to one Alcovy touchdown.
“You can’t turn it over like that. Too many turnovers,” Hoffman said. “The kids battled though. How do you get on kids who are trying to get extra yards and they turn it over?”
Devon Edwards, playing in what turned out to be his last game, racked up more than 200 yards of all-purpose yards most of them coming on an 81-yard touchdown catch and run and a 91-yard kickoff return. But Edwards was also bitten by the turnover bug.
The Tigers record-setting running back fumbled three times including one that was returned for a touchdown late in the first half and he threw an interception on a halfback option that pass. Edwards’ pick wound up not hurting the Tigers but his first fumble proved costly.
“It was just one of those nights for him (Edwards),” Hoffman said. “The good ones have them. But what can you say about him? What a special athlete.”
With the score tied at 14 inside of two minutes to play in the first half, Edwards was stripped and Jeremiah Walker scooped up the loose ball and returned it 12 yards for a touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 21-14 lead at halftime.
“We had run the option before and got some yards on it and we went with it on that side and a kid stripped the ball and made a play,” Hoffman said. “That hurt us. If they don’t go in there and it’s 14-14 at the half, maybe it’s a different ballgame. When you get to this level, you have to make those plays.”
Alcovy was unable to contain Tri Cities’ explosiveness, especially quarterback Oscar Ross and scatback Xavier Robinson. Ross threw two touchdowns — one a 34-yarder to Robinson, and ran for two more while Robinson added a back-breaking punt return for a score early in the fourth quarter.
Tri Cities also stifled the Tigers’ passing game. Cornell White wasn’t able to get comfortable in a pocket that was rarely there and outside of Edwards’ big play, was rendered ineffective.
“We couldn’t handle them upfront,” Hoffman said. “We didn’t do a good job handling them up front and they were giving us coverages with some read routes that I thought, given some time to throw we thought we would be all right but we were having to get rid of it very quickly.”
Alcovy’s lone bright spot was in special teams. Kenard Murry’s 72-yard punt return gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead in the first quarter and Edwards notched his fourth kickoff return for a touchdown. Tri Cities also made plays on special teams. With the Bulldogs leading 35-21, Robinson fielded a punt at his own 44 and took it back to put his team up 42-21 with 10:23 to play.
After the Tigers fumbled the ball back to Tri Cities on the ensuing kickoff, Ross hit Torei Jones for a 10-yard touchdown to make it a four-score game.
The Tigers immediately turned the ball over to start the second half on another fumble but the defense held Tri Cities on a fourth-and-2 play to get the ball right back. Alcovy regrouped with a six-play, 65-yard drive to tie the game at 21 apiece. The Tigers gashed Tri Cities inside and out on the drive with Tre Sorrells and Edwards and Sorrells capped the drive with a 15-yard burst up the gut for a touchdown.
“I thought we made some good adjustments it was just — you’re talking about a senior-loaded team,” Hoffman said. “Our kids came out in the second half and knew we had to make some corrections. We did and we had a great drive. They just outplayed us tonight. Give them credit, they outplayed us.”
The Tigers looked like they got the break they needed on the ensuing kickoff. A short kick landed in a soft spot of the Bulldogs' return team and Alcovy fell on the live ball to set them up at the 26-yard line. A false start backed the Tigers up five yards and they were unable to take advantage of the turnover. The Bulldogs blocked a 48-yard field goal attempt.
Things spiraled out of control for the Tigers from there. The Bulldogs drove down the field and scored on Ross’ 4-yard run then went right back to the ground game on their next drive for another touchdown, this time on a 36-yard run by Roger Ward.
“We didn’t capitalize,” Hoffman said. “We got it down there but we had a penalty on the drive and this time of year, you can’t have those types of penalties.
After a three-and-out, Robinson delivered the knockout blow with his punt return the first time Tri Cities touched the ball in the fourth quarter.
“There were a couple of ways we shot ourselves in the foot but I thought our kids played hard,” Hoffman said. “We just fell short. But I’m proud of our kids. People picked us to finish fourth in the subregion and here were are in the state playoffs. What a great group of kids.”