As I was making a vehicular sprint down I-95 south from Jacksonville to Daytona Beach, Florida, my cell phone pinged with email notifications.
I wish I could say I pulled over to the side of the road so I could stop and check them and...well, for the sake of creating a safety-first narrative, let’s just say I did. Actually what I did do was skim the email from Dr. Kristopher Williams, Alcovy’s former athletic director and recently appointed principal, to see the news that the Tigers have a new man at the helm of its athletic department.
Because I knew I wasn’t in position to track down the story — I am on vacation and all — i forwarded the email to a very capable intern in Daniel Richardson. Praise God for capable interns.
Within 30 minutes or so, he had scored and interview with the new AD and had a story up online introducing the Covington/Newton County/Alcovy High School community to Thomas Lowe.
Now here’s where I actually did pull over. I had to edit the story and didn’t dare do that while darting past 4th of July roadsters on the highway. And as I was allowing the implications of another seemingly solid Alcovy hire sink in, my sportswriter soundtrack dialed in to the lyrics from legendary rapper LL Cool J.
“Don’t call it a comeback,” LL once said in that classic Mama Said Knock You Out cut. “I’ve been here for years.”
Kind of like Alcovy.
Though the youngest of the three GHSA competing schools in the Covington/Newton County area, Alcovy has still been around long enough to where we probably don’t need to call it “new” anymore.
In fact, if you carefully check the record, Alcovy’s been around long enough to have had the kind of history to make talks of a comeback plausible. After all, you’ve had to have been somewhere in order to come back to it. And although you’ve read more in these spaces about the school’s recent struggles in athletic completion, don’t get it twisted — Alcovy has had game changing talent before that has produced winning athletic programs.
Think about next-level talent such as Devon Edwards. The former Tiger not only starred at Alcovy, but went on to a more-than-solid career at Duke where he set single season school records and threatened NCAA and ACC records for kickoff return touchdowns before being sidelined for the 2016 season after tearing his ACL, MCL and meniscus.
He wasn’t the only football standout though. Alcovy fans will remember former college prospects such as Ikon Godwin who went on to star for Appalachian State. Godwin’s teammate Curtiss Benson was also an App State signee after the 2013 football season. Both were part of the last Alcovy team to finish a season with a winning record.
Lady Tigers basketball saw a string of solid seasons and state tournament appearances, especially during the three-season stretch that ran from 2010 through 2013. Those squads finished with a combined 55-16 record under then-coach Kidada Holtzclaw, and the 2011-12 squad that finished 23-3 overall with an unblemished 12-0 Region 3-AAAA mark was particularly stout.
That bunch finished as the state’s No. 21 team, regardless of classification, according to MaxPreps and lost by eight points in the Class AAAA semifinals to eventual state champion Miller Grove. That version of Alcovy girls basketball boasted eventual Alabama standout Ashley Williams.
Take a trip to the softball and baseball diamonds and you’ll see a similar story. The Monica Marks-coached Alcovy Lady Tigers finished 27-4-1 in 2012 with an 8-1 region record and state tournament appearance. Then two years later, coach Brandy Keeter came in with similar results: a 21-5-1 regular season record complete with the first of back-to-back Region 2-AAAAAA championships.
The baseball team shared in the softball program’s success around the same time, during the Case Bates coaching era, with the high-water mark for Alcovy baseball being a 2010 season where it finished 26-6 with a 15-1 Region 4-AAAA finish and a deep run in the Class AAAA state tournament.
These examples not only show that Alcovy hasn’t always been an also-ran, but it also proves that the Tigers have won and can win again across all sports, even while in the state’s second highest classification.
That’s where Lowe comes in.
He’s coached basketball at Stephenson. He’s coached tennis at MLK. He’s even worked with school bands, which means he’s seen a wide range of success among more than just the typical bread-and-butter sports that we often think of when we consider Georgia high school athletics. And he has experience in piecing together the entire high school athletics tapestry, from performance on the field or court to even establishing the things that bring about culture and atmosphere.
It helps, as far as he’s concerned, that Alcovy shows the characteristics of a school that wants to do athletics well and right.
“One of the things I’ve noticed is that Alcovy seems like it’s really working and trying to turn its programs around,” Lowe said. “And I want to get to the point where we have winning traditions across all sports. I mean, we definitely want to make sure we take care of ethics, of course, but once the ethics is out of the way, then we can get down to the business of winning. We want to do it the right way, but I still like to win.”
Solid pieces have already been put in place for that to happen. A look at the current landscape of Alcovy athletics will show that Lowe will step onto the shoulders of former AD, Dr. Kristopher Williams after Williams spent the last couple of years making some key hires virtually across all sports that he believes will inject some life, especially into every high school’s cash cow program, football.
But the interesting thing here is Williams’ philosophy and heart for Alcovy sports won’t be far. In fact, his promotion to Alcovy’s principal will ensure that he’ll still have a major hand in the future progress of the school’s athletic program. He’ll be working hand in hand with Lowe, and that only means that the school’s upward trajectory should continue.
In many places, the athletes are already there. Alcovy’s football team may trot out arguably its most comprehensively talented bunch since that 2013 team. Softball has impressive young talent to go along with a young coach. Baseball boasts one of the top players in the country in Ryan Spikes, and coach Jimmy Hughes — now heading into his second year at the program’s helm — comes from one of the state’s winningest baseball operations in Loganville.
I think the thing that impresses me most about Lowe, however, is how he spells success. It’s not just through wins and losses, and most refreshingly, it has nothing to do with what he can accomplish for himself.
“The crazy thing is I’m really not looking to gain anything from myself,” Lowe said. “It would be nice to be known as the athletic director who came to Alcovy and became a part of a winning tradition in various sports. But, I mean, to me, my success comes from the success of the students. As long as the students get what they need to get, and they’re becoming young men and women who end up pursuing their dreams, that’s my gratitude right there.
“But, again, I still like to win.”
Gabriel Stovall is the sports editor at The Covington News. He can be reached for tips and story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @GabrielStovall1.