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Friday night lights: What to watch for

With the playoffs on deck for Newton, likely Eastside and possibly Alcovy here’s a look at what to watch for with each team as their final stand edges closer.

Will youth be the death of Alcovy?

The Tigers have just one win on the season and several losses as of Thursday, and with that you get a team that has many glaring issues to fix heading into the postseason if they in fact make it to the postseason. The Tigers have a legitimate chance at making it to the big dance, but they’ll need to look in the mirror if they want to win at least one game.

Alcovy will struggle because they’re young and you can’t teach experience, but the lack of experience is Alcovy’s greatest weakness.

Inexperience and a combination of young players can and sometimes leads to little mistakes that have big repercussions such as players being out of position or not knowing the playcall, and – the most costly mistake – not knowing what to do in certain game situations.

This has plagued Alcovy throughout the season. The Tigers strengths reside in their ability to run the ball and put pressure on the opposing quarterback with a stout defensive line. However, even if you have talent, it doesn’t matter if you can’t execute the plays.

Having played almost 10 games on the season, the Tigers have gotten better as a unit, but they’ve yet to play that perfect game yet. Doing that in the playoffs could put them in position to upset a No. 1 seed.

Can Eastside play a full 48?

Eastside football is extremely talented and their junior class is loaded with playmakers. The Eagles are solid on both sides of the ball, but they’re best attribute is probably their offense. However, the offense is also a part of one of Eastside’s question marks heading into the playoffs.

With Eric Stokes, Andrew Henderson, Austin Holloway and Josh Sims, Eastside is a problem for opposing defensive coordinators, but despite their number of talented players, the Eagles can sometimes struggle to finish drives. It’s less of a problem of ability and more of an execution issue.

Missed opportunities sum up why Eastside hasn’t put up more points in games this season. Eastside beat Eagle’s Landing 24-7 earlier this season, but the 24 points came in the first half. It’s not like the Eagles just laid down and took the win either, they had multiple drives into Eagle’s Landing territory, but failed to execute because of missed opportunities (missed blocks, dropped passes, errant throws), penalties and turnovers.

You can’t win like that in the playoffs, which is why head coach Troy Hoff says he hasn’t seen his team play a full 48 minutes yet. The Eagles have to put together that full 48 with top-notch execution – which they can – but have failed to do so in the regular season.

The closest the Eagles have come to playing a full game was on Friday against Walnut Grove, but even then the special teams was gashed for a kickoff returned for a touchdown, the second-straight week the Eagles have been hit up for a long gain on a kickoff return. However, the offense and defense were clicking on all cylinders in teh 36-19 victory over the Warriors, and outside of the kick return special teams was pretty good.

Peaking at the right time will allow any team to make a run in the playoffs, and Eastside could be the “hot team” that catches fire in the playoffs if they can put it all together with the talent they have.

Will Newton keep Newton from succeeding?

No that’s not a typo. The Rams, like Eastside, are one talented bunch and Newton is its own greatest opponent, standing in the way of a chance to make a second-straight deep playoff run.

Missed tackles cost Newton against Lovejoy and they almost cost them against Rome early in the season. Missed tackles will kill any team, but it’s something that can be cleaned up.

It’s not just the missed tackles either, sometimes Newton just doesn’t execute. They’ll miss on throws to open receivers or they can’t get the push they need from the o-line to convert on fourth-and-one. When the Rams lost to Lovejoy, even without starting QB Romario Johnson, they did so because they beat themselves.

With the talent they have sometimes it can seem like the Rams should go to one of their talented players more. Maybe they should throw it up to JJ Holloman or Deandre Huff, but then what about Kurt Taylot, Augustus Murray and/or Artice Hobbs. It's a good problem to have, but one that the coaches will have to maneuver during the playoffs.