EVANS, Ga. — Alcovy’s quest for its first region title in program history came to an end Friday night.
On the road facing Evans in a de facto Region 3-AAAAAA championship, the Tigers gave the host club all it could handle for four quarters. However, it proved to not be enough as the Knights escaped with a 40-30 victory to claim the region crown.
Despite the final result, Alcovy head coach Jason Dukes couldn’t keep a smile off his face during his postgame message to the team.
He empathized with their pain. He reminded them that their ultimate goal of competing for a state title wasn’t finished. But above all else, he told his players he was proud of the way they fought until the game’s final whistle.
“I’ve coached state champions,” Dukes said, “but I’ve never been more proud of a group of players than I am tonight.”
He later echoed those sentiments when speaking to The Covington News.
“I’m very proud of my team,” Dukes said. “This is been a weird year with a lot of different things that we’ve had to deal with, but our kids have not made an excuse out of that stuff. Not one bit. They’ve come out and worked extremely hard, and I love them for the hard work they’ve put in.
“I guess the payoff is being able to have a home playoff game. We’re looking forward to that.”
With the loss, Alcovy (2-6, 2-1) finished second in Region 3 and will enter the Class AAAAAA state playoffs next week as the No. 2 seed. Consequently, the Tigers will host a first-round playoff game for the first time since 2011.
After getting off to a hot start, Alcovy surrendered 27 unanswered points to put itself behind 27-16 early in the third quarter. But the Tigers didn’t hang their heads. Instead, they clawed right back.
Sophomore quarterback Ashton Evans launched a 22-yard passing touchdown to junior MJ Stroud at the 9:36 mark in the third quarter to give Alcovy new life.
With 33 seconds remaining in the third period, Evans ounce against found Stroud, who broke a pair of tackles on his way to a 28-yard touchdown to give his team a 30-27 lead.
With just over four minutes left in regulation, Alcovy was denied on fourth down inside the red zone. As a result, the Knights took possession on their own 16-yard line, trailing by three points.
Evans went straight to work.
The Knights plowed their way down the field before exposing a bust in Alcovy coverage for a 33-yard passing touchdown from junior quarterback Kaleb Jackson to junior Reid Akins. The score put the home team in front, 34-30, with 2:17 left.
Alcovy was given another opportunity, but it resulted in a picked off pass that was returned for a touchdown to seal the game.
“These games are fights. It’s going to be the teams that work hard and don’t let go of the rope that come out on top,” Dukes said. “We came up a little short tonight, but I think this is a huge step in the right direction for our football team. I’m looking forward to the future.”
The Tigers stormed out to a 16-0 lead in the first quarter behind a 23-yard passing touchdown from Ashton Evans to Stroud, a safety and a 4-yard quarterback rush from Evans.
The Knights responded with a 20-point second quarter. They then opened the second half by taking the opening kickoff back for a 67-yard touchdown.
Alcovy and Eastside each secured first-round home playoff games, meaning one team will play next Friday, Nov. 27, while the other plays Saturday, Nov. 28.
The playoff schedule was not finalized before The Covington News’ deadline.