With the Newton Rams enjoying a bye week this Friday, all Newton County eyes will be on Sharp Stadium tonight as the Class AAAA No. 8 Eastside Eagles (2-0) take on the Alcovy Tigers in the third installment of the “Newton Cup” rivalry series.
Alcovy will be looking for a better showing this time around than it had in its first in-county rivalry matchup when it lost to Newton 37-3 in a game that was called late in the third quarter due to lightening. The Tigers actually hung in fairly well with the Rams during much of the first half before unraveling in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, Eastside sent perhaps a few minor shockwaves through the local scene when it scored a 27-20 win over Newton last Friday in a game where the Eagles rushed for 210 yards — that following up a 317 rushing yard performance the week prior against Ola.
We’ll break down today’s matchup and provide predictions below.
The Matchup: No. 8 Eastside Rockdale Bulldogs (2-0) vs. Alcovy Tigers (1-1). Although Alcovy laid a bit of an egg against Newton in Week 1, there was some redemption last Thursday as the Tigers responded with a 25-19 overtime win over Rockdale. Coach Chris Edgar will tell you, though, that his team still made too many mistakes and left too many points on the field. The impressive thing about last week’s win, was how it happened. The Tigers’ offensive line paved the way for 390 rushing yards and almost three 100-yard rushers against Rockdale. Even in the Newton game, Alcovy showed some flashes — albeit brief and infrequent — that it could consistently run the football behind one of its most imposing offensive lines in years.
The interesting part of this game will be the fact that Eastside will likely want to run the ball as much as Alcovy. The Eagles are averaging 263 rushing yards per game through the first two games of the season, and are doing it without prototypical size up front.
The When and Where: Friday August 31, 7:30 p.m. at Sharp Stadium, Covington.
The Key Players: For Alcovy, a switch was made last week at quarterback, plugging in the more mobile Jaelen Campbell for Nick Simmons who’s more of a pure passer Although both quarterbacks played last week — and played well — Campbell’s threat in the zone-read game gave Alcovy a different offensive wrinkle that seemed to bode well for its talent upfront. Meanwhile, running backs Andrae Robinson and Natorian Holloway were beasts behind that line, and although Alcovy coach Chris Edgar is still looking for his wide receivers corps to gel, he made mention of freshman MJ Stroud, particularly as a blocking wideout down field.
For Eastside, the Eagles can go four deep at tailback, with senior Taylor Carter being the headliner. Carter followed up a 10-carry, 91-yard season opening performance at Ola with 126 yards and 2 touchdowns against Newton last week. But sophomores Quincy Cullins and Terrence Reid, and senior Jordan Rogers are more than capable ball carriers.
Where Eastside may have an advantage over Alcovy offensively is in the passing game. Junior Noah Cook is cemented as the guy behind center, and although he was relegated to more of a game manager role last week, his 255-yard passing performance at Ola shows he can sling it and the Eastside receivers, guys Jamari Brown who already has 12 catches on the season and Colby Shivers, can go get it.
Defensively, senior linebacker Jamari Brundage already has 28 tackles, with Cullins not far behind with 22, including 10 solo stops and two for losses, and coach Troy Hoff has been pleased with the production of seniors Jaylen Atlow and Hunter Williams up front. Atlow’s got four tackles behind the line of scrimmage and a quarterback sack through two games.
Alcovy wins…If it can sustain and finish drives with touchdowns, keep away from halting potential scoring drives with too many self-inflicted mistakes and force a couple of Eastside turnovers. The Eagles are, perhaps, one of the most well-coached teams you’ll find in the state, and they rarely beat themselves.
Eastside wins…If it continues to run effectively on offense, play mistake-free ball and, defensively, if it can load up the box to prevent Alcovy’s run game from gaining early momentum, forcing Tiger quarterbacks to beat them with their arms.
The Prediction: I believe both teams will be looking to establish the ground game, which means that both defenses will likely load up to try and stuff it. If that happens, I trust Eastside’s passing game to be more effective, based on what’s been shown so far. And a couple of big plays down the field could stretch the defense and open things up. Alcovy will be geeked up with the revenge factor, as it feels it could’ve won last year’s game with a few less mistakes, but ultimately, Eastside pulls away in this one. Score: Eastside 31, Alcovy 14.