COVINGTON, Ga. — Big breaks and costly mistakes.
That’s the short, sweet rundown on the 12th edition of the Alcovy-Eastside rivalry. The Eagles were victorious, 16-6, in a game that could’ve easily went the other way.
And for Alcovy coach, Chris Edgar, it was hard for him to hide his disappointment. After the postgame huddle with his team and the customary gathering in front of the Alcovy band, Edgar sank down to one knee, head held down, and remained there for a moment.
Then he emerged with misty eyes, wrestling to find the right words to quantify his emotions.
“It’s a lot,” Edgar said. Then a long pause before continuing to speak. “We’ve gotta create our own breaks because we’re definitely not getting them. It’s the second week in a row. I can’t talk about the refs, but it’s a difference in the ball game.”
A week after feeling like his team was on the wrong end of two costly penalties against Meadowcreek, Edgar saw tough officiating calls take points off the board for his Tigers Friday against Eastside.
“You can’t blame the officials,” Edgar said. “Our guys battled. They played hard. They fought. Our defense stepped up and played all night. Offensively every time we get something going, something changes our momentum and our rhythm.”
Perhaps the one fortune-shifting call that was the death knell for Alcovy’s hopes of winning its first game against Eastside in four years came while the Eagles were leading 10-6. Eastside running back, Taylor Carter took a kick return to the Eastside 45-yard line, and appeared to fumble the ball. The Alcovy sideline erupted, believing a Tiger had recovered it, but the officials ruled Taylor down before the ball came out.
Those were the kinds of bad breaks that went Eastside's way instead of Alcovy's Friday night. But it was the Tigers' self-inflicted mistakes which truly made the difference.
Alcovy had four possible touchdowns called back due to miscues. Two of them — dropped passes — had nothing to do with the officiating, however.
The first one came on a 3rd and 13 situation when Alcovy quarterback Cameron Anderson fired a deep pass to Kameron Phuong who was streaking past an Eastside safety down the middle of the field. The ball literally slipped through his fingertips, incomplete. If he caught it, it would’ve likely been an 87-yard score.
Instead, the Tigers were forced to punt, and Eastside would score the game’s first touchdown when freshman Quincy Collins scampered in from 15 yards out at the 25.6-second mark of the first quarter.
The next drop came on Alcovy’s ensuing drive. Anderson fired a perfect strike to a wide open Dee Fanning in stride who bobbled the ball before falling to the ground empty handed. If he held on, it would’ve been a 74-yard touchdown.
The next two scores, however, were subtracted, thanks to penalties. The first one came when Quindrelin Hammonds danced and weaved his way to what looked like an 83-yard touchdown run, only to see it negated by a holding call five yards behind the original line of scrimmage. On the next drive, Anderson’s pass to Jairus Anthony was waived off because of a holding penalty. But three plays later, Anderson would find Fanning on a 19-yard scoring strike.
The Tigers thought they had renewed hope on Carter’s near fumble. But after Eastside took possession, the Eagles’ running game took over. Tyon Davis ripped off gains of 5 and 11 yards, while Carter got a 14-yard chunk to give Eastside a first down at the Alcovy 12.
On that play, Alcovy defensive linemen Andrew Binion appeared to sustain an injury serious enough to stop play for about 20 minutes in order to cart him off the field. But on the very first play after the game resumed, Eastside quarterback Brayden Harper scored from 12 yards out on a zone read keeper at the 3:50 mark of the fourth quarter.
Harper, who has replaced injured sophomore starter Noah Cook, made several gutsy plays with his legs, including a seven yard run on 3rd and 6 early in the third quarter that kept a crucial drive alive.
He also threw a first down pass on a rope to sophomore Colby Shivers for 32 yards right before the third quarter ended to put Eastside in prime scoring position.
Eagles coach, Troy Hoff said it’s the kind of play he’s expected from his senior quarterback, despite it being his first year starting under center, and having to get readjusted to being under center after Cook’s injury.
“Brayden’s just being Brayden,” Hoff said. “He’s going to do what he needs to do to get the job done. Noah is coming along. He’s progressing well. Don’t know the time table on his injury, but until then we’re in good hands. Brayden’s getting used to playing quarterback again, but we’re going to be okay.”
Alcovy tried to mount a last gasp drive to get back into the game after Harper’s 12-yard touchdown run, but a deep Anderson pass to the endzone was picked off by Eastside’s Jamari Brown, sealing the Eagles’ win.
As most true rivalries are, it was a dogfight for most of the night.
After a defensive stalemate through most of the first quarter, it was Eastside freshman tailback Quincy Cullins putting the Eagles on the scoreboard first when he found the end zone on a 15-yard run on a jet sweep.
Cullins made a nifty juke move at about the eight yard line that gave him a clear path to the goaline and Eastside a 7-0 lead at the 25-second mark of the first quarter.
The score stayed 7-0, Alcovy into the half and until Cade Mote nailed a 50-yard field goal for Eastside to give the Eagles a 10-0 advantage at the 10:52 mark of the third quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Alcovy finally found the end zone when Anderson capped off a 14-play, 70-yard scoring drive by connecting with Fanning on a 19-yard touchdown pass. The point after was no good, but reduced the Eastside lead to 10-6.
The Eastside (2-1) win allowed it to bounce back from the tough 41-0 defeat at the hands of Newton last week ahead of next week’s home game against Loganville. Alcovy (1-2) dropped its second straight as it will prepare to travel to McDonough to play Henry County (0-2) next Friday.
Hoff acknowledged that Friday’s win was anything but pretty. But he reinforced how proud he was of what he saw from his team.
“Our guys came out and fought, played hard and battled until the end,” Hoff said. “And give credit to coach Edgar and that Alcovy squad. He’s got them playing good, hard, physical football and they just keep getting better and better. It was a dogfight tonight. We just have to keep working to get better.”
Meanwhile, Edgar says his top priority is to keep his team believing in themselves and the process.
“We’re being tested,” Edgar said. “If we can come back and still believe in each other and come together, great things can still happen for this football team. But right now, it feels like it’s us against the world. And if that be the case, bring it on. We’ll take it.”