COVINGTON, Ga. - It was a tale of two halves as the Evans Knights (6-2, 4-0) came alive in the second half to defeat the Alcovy Tigers (2-7, 1-3) by a score of 38-15.
The Alcovy Tigers started the game by playing robust defensive football all night long and did an outstanding job of keeping the Evans Knights out of the end zone. In the first half, the Tigers had not one, but two goal-line stands to keep the Knights out of the end zone.
On the first goal-line stand, the Tigers forced a fumble on the half-yard line and recovered the ball. On the second goal-line stand, the Knights only got as far as the 2-yard line before they were backed up by penalties and a strong Tigers defense to hold the Knights to just 3 points in the first half.
Head coach Jason Dukes was most pleased with his defense’s effort and their ability to keep the Tigers in the ball game in the first half.
“We played as hard as the defense could play in the first half. In the first half, our defense played lights out to give us an opportunity going into the half 3-3,” Dukes said. “This was a four-quarter ball game against a really good football team, and we didn’t make the plays on the back end to let us be successful.”
The Tigers broke out some different looks in the first half against the Knights, which included starting freshman quarterback Ashton Evans at quarterback and regular starting quarterback, M.J. Stroud at his old receiver position. Dukes went into what led to the change and why they decided to try that look Friday.
“In the opportunities that Ashton has been given, not only at the varsity level but at the JV level, he’s done a very good job of picking up our offense and understanding what we are doing,” said Dukes. “We wanted to give him an opportunity, and we’ll have to go back and look at the film to see how he truly did.”
Both offenses were stagnated in the first half and kept out of the end zone. It was not until the 4:41 mark of the second quarter that either team put up points on the scoreboard. It was the Knights taking the early 3-0 lead on a 27-yard field goal by Donnie Crawford.
The Tigers responded as the clock expired at the end of the half with a 23-yard field goal of their own by Braxton Crawford that deadlocked the game at three at the halftime break.
The Knights did not wait around in the second half as they took their first play from scrimmage in the second half for a touchdown. JoeFranStar Graham carried the ball 73 yards and to the house to give the Knights a 10-3 lead with 11:40 to play in the third quarter.
That play seemed to jumpstart the Evans as offense as they went on to score touchdowns on two out of their next three offensive plays. Every third-quarter touchdown for the Knights went for over fifty yards.
The second Knights touchdown was a 51-yard touchdown run by running back Joe Hampton. They followed that score up with a 68-yard touchdown run by quarterback Lleyton Lackey and went into the final quarter with a commanding 24-3 lead.
The Knights would not let up in the fourth quarter as Graham would take the ball to the house again, this time on a 46-yard touchdown run. The combination of Graham, Lackey, and Hampton was potent for the Knights as each rusher finished with over 100 yards rushing.
The Knights would add on another late touchdown behind a short rush by Chance Taylor to give his team their final point total. This was a hard performance to watch by a Tigers defense that has been a bright spot all season long. Dukes was less than pleased with his defense’s performance in the second half and knows that they will have to improve as potential playoffs loom.
“We’ve got to get better and do better in order to win football games,” said Dukes. “As a defense, especially in that second half, our run fits have to be better. We’ve got to do a better job of tackling and getting players on the ground.”
Despite a strong rushing performance by both Natorrien Holloway, who finished with 77 yards rushing on 14 carries, and Andrae Robinson, who finished with 60 yards rushing on nine carries; both touchdowns came through the air.
Ashton Evans seemed to find his groove late against the Knights defense and looked more comfortable in the final stages of the game. Both of Evans passes were connections made with wide receiver Mathias Height, who had a big night despite the early passing struggles as he finished with 77 yards on five catches and two touchdowns.
The Tigers have a crucial game next against the Greenbrier Wolfpack (1-7,1-2) that should determine the final playoff spot in Region 3-AAAAAA. Dukes knows his team will have to find their focus and play more sound football on both sides of the ball if they want to be a factor in the postseason.
“We have to have a phenomenal week of practice, we really do, and we just have to go back to the drawing board and clean up a lot of things,” said Dukes. “We have got to do a better job of capitalizing on the opportunities that we get.”