COVINGTON, Ga. — The buildup to the 2020 high school football season has been far from conventional.
With the health and safety of coaches and student-athletes at the forefront of school officials around the country, the COVID-19 pandemic has repeatedly threatened the promise of sports being played this fall. Just two weeks ago, Newton County shut down all athletics and extracurriculars in response to the continued spread of the novel virus.
But all activities have since resumed in the county. And when the Alcovy Tigers travel to Cumming on Friday to open their 2020 campaign against North Forsyth, things will almost feel normal once again — if only temporarily.
“We’re extremely thankful for the opportunity to be able to play,” head coach Jason Dukes said this week. “Our kids have worked very, very hard this summer. They have endured having to make adjustments. Life hasn’t been normal in any respect this summer, so playing a football game this Friday is going to be a little bit of a return to normalcy for our kids, which is much needed.”
Dukes is preparing to begin his second season at the helm for the Tigers. He led Alcovy to a 2-8 mark in his first year running the program, highlighted by wins against Salem (41-2) and Grovetown (28-21), as well as close calls against Rockdale County (18-13) and Greenbrier (21-14).
The Tigers will be looking to start the year 1-0 for the first time since 2017, when they opened the season by handing Duluth a 37-22 loss.
Meanwhile, North Forsyth is coming off a 5-7 mark in 2019. The Raiders backed their way into the Class AAAAAAA state playoffs with a 4-6 record, but made the most of their trip by knocking off Brookwood in the opening round before getting bounced by McEachern the following week.
Led by head coach Robert Craft, North Forsyth is known for using an abundance of formations and motions to catch opposing defenses out of place. Alcovy must block out the smoke and mirrors and play fundamental football in order to sustain success.
“It’s going to be very important from a defensive standpoint to adjust to their formations and adjust to their motions to make sure that we’re gap sound,” Dukes said. “We have to execute and be sound on the defensive side of the ball.”
Alcovy will be rolling with sophomore gunslinger Ashton Evans under center on Friday. Evans took over as starting quarterback for the Tigers late in 2019 and locked down the job with a tremendous offseason.
“Ashton’s had a really, really good fall camp,” Dukes said. “He’s kind of solidified himself as the starter in that position, and we feel good about it.”
Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.