The Tigers are on the verge of capturing Alcovy’s first outright region football championship. They won the subregion title two weeks ago and have had an extra week to prepare for the title game. The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. It gave the Tigers extra time to prepare for perhaps the best team they’ll have faced so far.
Northgate enters play with a perfect 9-0 record. As a result the Vikings come in as Region 3B-AAAA champs and the No. 9 ranked team in Class AAAA according the GACA Coaches’ Poll. But that all means very little if they can’t get past the Tigers.
Standing in Northgate’s way is an Alcovy team that has shocked many with their spirited run thus far. The Tigers steam rolled their way through region play. After dropping their first two games to open the season, they reeled off five straight wins to put a stranglehold on the subregion. A loss to Dutchtown in week eight temporarily derailed their subregion-title run but the Tigers bounced back the following week with a convincing win over Woodland to capture the school’s first football championship of any kind.
Both teams have already secured the top two playoff seeds from the region. Tonight’s game gives the winner the No. 1 seed and homefield advantage through at least the first two rounds.
While the Tigers could be content with the No. 2 seed, don’t expect any letdown. Head coach Kirk Hoffman said after the subregion clincher he won’t change the gameplan and doesn’t expect to rest anyone for fear of injury. With the Tigers already assured of a home playoff game it would be understandable if Hoffman sat his star players. But the Tigers have an opportunity at a region championship and a top seed. As Eastside has proven over the past three years, a No. 1 seed is much better than a No. 2. As a top seed you play a fourth then third seed in the first two rounds, barring an upset in the other one-four game. The Eagles are 5-0 in home playoffs in three years and just 1-3 on the road.
The Tigers will look to keep up an explosive offensive attack that led the subregion in scoring. They score 26 points per game and have shown big-play ability in the running and passing game as well as special teams. Speaking of special, Devon Edwards was a one-man highlight reel through the first nine games and the only thing that could stop him was the bye week. Edwards has scored touchdowns in all three of those phases of the game and nearly returned an interception for a score against Woodland before being tackled at the 1.
While the offense has been explosive, turnovers — or the lack of, have played a big role in Alcovy’s turnaround. Mistakes cost the Tigers wins against Harris County and Dutchtown or they could easily be 8-1. Something else that’s aided them has been the evolution of a young defense. A trio of sophomores, Ryan Adams, Curtiss Benton and Okon Godwin, has bolstered a front seven that had eight sacks against Woodland. The Tigers are giving up 23 points per game but the first-team defense is coming off a shutout. That defense will surely be tested as Northgate scores 35 points per game — tops across the entire region.
Experience could be a factor. If it is, both teams are on similar ground. While Alcovy’s defense is young, the secondary has two seniors Edwards and Kenard Murry and junior Cornell White — also the Tigers quarterback. Senior Tre Sorrells, Alcovy’s change-of-pace back, also plays linebacker. Those same veterans comprise all of Alcovy’s skill positions on offense.
Northgate has a veteran team as well. But neither the Tigers nor the Vikings have been in this position before. Alcovy suffered through a dismal 1-9 season last year and are in the playoffs for just the second time in school history. Likewise for Northgate who went 5-5 last year and 3-7 the year before and have been the playoffs just twice since 2004. Neither team has won a region championship. That will change tonight.