It’s time to rewind!
We’ve got a ton of stuff to recap from the past weekend and look ahead to in this week’s rewind, so we’ll just jump right in, first with a little looking back.
Edgar digs in heels on late game decision
I’m going to start with Alcovy, because we’ve already pretty much exhausted every angle possible from the much-talked about Eastside-Woodward Academy game.
Perhaps because the game was played in the Evans/Augusta area, the late-game drama in the Alcovy-Lakeside game flew under the radar a bit.
Alcovy lost it 16-14, due to a 34-yard Lakeside field goal as time expired. It kept the Tigers 0-for in Region 3-AAAAAA, still in search of that first region win in the Chris Edgar coaching era.
Some of the drama came, in part because of the field goal, but also because of how Lakeside even got to the point of kicking it in the first place. Alcovy had the ball late, and instead of opting for what Edgar said would’ve been a 49-yard attempt by Jose Ramos, Alcovy gave the ball back to Lakeside to make it drive the length of the field.
Some say, bad call. But Edgar says, “I’d do it again.” And he had numbers to back it up.
At the point of the game when Edgar made his decision, Lakeside had only 48 yards of total offense in the second half. In the first half, the Panthers were able to muster just 96 yards of offense, with 62 of them coming on one play.
Armed with those stats, Edgar said he and his coaching staff saw no reason to believe that Lakeside could drive the length of the field for a go-ahead score — that is until it got 59 yards on two plays.
“One was a busted coverage,” Edgar said. “The other is a circus catch where it was questionable whether or not the receiver stayed in bounds.”
Then there was the winning field goal.
“It was a 34-yarder and it maybe cleared the crossbar by three inches,” Edgar said.
So the next time you hear someone refer to football as a game of inches, believe them. Of course, hindsight is always 20-20. For every person who says Edgar made the wrong call, and should’ve attempted a field goal, those same people would probably praise him for his caution and trusting his defense if the Tigers could’ve held on.
Either way, the cold, hard facts now are that Alcovy (3-5, 0-2) must win its last two games against Heritage (4-3, 1-1) and Greenbrier (5-2, 0-2) in order to make the playoffs.
That said, Alcovy has the week off to heal and prepare. Big shout out to junior quarterback, Nick Simmons and senior linebacker, Stephon Jefferson for playing some quality football in tough situations. More on them later in the week.
Newton Rams ready for Grayson without Middlebrooks
Last time we saw Newton Rams quarterback Myron Middlebrooks, he was carving up second-ranked Archer’s secondary and engineering a seemingly unstoppable offensive onslaught that helped Newton bolt out to a 12-0 lead two weeks ago.
Then we saw him on the sidelines, pads off and an ice pack resting on his shoulder, applying early attention to a broken collarbone. And according to Rams coach, Terrance Banks, the next time we may see the senior signal caller is “game 11.” That means playoffs.
It also means sophomore Neal Howard will be the likely starter Friday against No. 3 Grayson. How’s that for a baptism into varsity high school football? Your first two games against Nos. 2 and 3 teams in the state? Sheesh.
But Banks says he has confidence in Howard. And now that Howard knows he’s the guy, preparation will be different, not just for him, but the whole team.
Howard was effective in his surprise action against Archer when he threw laterally with wide receiver screens, as well as hitting receivers on slant routes. But let’s make no mistake about it: The ground-and-pound aspect of Newton’s offense will be front in center if Newton wishes to make good on its worst-case scenario of going 2-1 in the last three games.
Currently, Newton (5-2, 1-1) sits in a four-way tie for second place in the six-team Region 8-AAAAAAA with Grayson, South Gwinnett and Shiloh. The Rams have already defeated South Gwinnett, and Shiloh and Rockdale — both teams Newton has left on its schedule besides Grayson — have just one win apiece on the season.
Class 7A is wide open
One thing both Banks and I agreed on is that Class AAAAAAA is wide open when it comes to playoff time, with only new No. 1 Lowndes seemingly running ahead of the pack.
The Vikings ran its record to 8-0 after pulling away from a very game Tift County bunch, beating Tift 51-38 in what will probably be the toughest ball game Lowndes will have this season. You will recall (even if you don’t want to) how the Vikes manhandled Newton to the tune of 57-0 earlier in the season. They’ve been virtually untested since, until traveling to Tift County.
This week, the new top-ranked team in Georgia will head to Kingsland to face Camden County (3-4, 0-1), before ending its regular season against fellow South Georgia power, No. 6 Colquitt County (7-1, 1-0).
But for the first time in a while — at least as long as I’ve been covering high school football in Georgia — there are a number of beatable looking “name brand” teams in the state’s highest classification, including Archer and Grayson.
Newton might feel better about its chances against a Grayson team that lost to an Archer team that should have lost to Newton, if the Rams had Middlebrooks. But strange things happen once teams get on the football field. And if the Rams can get its quarterback back under center for the postseason, who knows what could shake down.
Here’s me, though, reinforcing my earlier pick for a state championship game in Class AAAAAAA (provided the brackets align this way): Lowndes vs. Archer, and if it were being played today, I’d pick Lowndes by seven.
But we’ve got a long way to go before we get there.
Eastside-Woodward Academy aftermath
As sometimes is the case, when you throw out opinions about a game you’ve watched or covered on social media, members of the other team can intercept that communication and run with it. Such was the case with some fans from Eastside and some folks from Woodward Academy who engaged in playful banter after Friday’s game.
And listen, as much as I hate how that one ended, I love how it was played. Don’t allow the bad no-call to subtract anything from the fact that two high level, Class AAAA football teams played one whale of a game. It’s a shame we can’t see that one again.
Moreover, I couldn’t allow the loss to negate the fact that I saw one of the state’s most electrifying players in Woodward’s Tahj Gary. The 5-foot-9, 200-pound junior wowed fans on both sides of Woodward’s Colquitt Stadium as he rushed for 189 yards on 25 carries and two scores.
Now here’s the fun part: Gary’s 7.6 yards per carry that he averaged in Friday’s game was the third lowest yard-per-carry number he’s put out this season! That means Eastside’s defense played him about as good as anyone has played him this year, despite the yards, and he still put up all-state numbers.
He leads the team in rushing and receiving, and the three-star athlete is starting to garner major attention. His first offers came from primarily mid-major programs, but trust me when I tell you: If this kid continues to do what he’s been doing this season, Power Five conference offers will be the least of his concerns.
The scary part is several Woodward Academy onlookers remarked how huge of a jump Gary made from last year to now. To think he’s got another season to make another sizable skill leap is almost unfathomable.
Fall sports shoutout
In the south, football seems to always get the top billing, but we’ve got to pause and give a great shout out to our other fall sports teams who have excelled this season, as well as those athletes still pushing in the postseason.
First, we give a game ball to Newton softball coach, Erin Steele. We’ll soon have a Q&A feature on Steele’s first year at the helm of the Rams’ program, but what a tremendous feat to lead the Lady Rams to a state tournament appearance in year one.
Newton gave Parkview all it wanted in the first round as well, despite losing. Suffice it to say, the future looks bright.
Next game ball goes to Eastside softball who’s still active in the postseason. The prevailing talk around Eastside softball goes something like, “Wait until next year when these girls have more experience.” But this year’s bunch is pretty good, too.
The back-to-back region crowns. The dominance against first round opponent, Hephizbah, and a chance to push forward against a good, but definitely beatable Spalding squad is a testament to coach Heather Wood’s ability to push the right buttons on her young squad, and the Lady Eagles’ willingness to respond to coaching.
Lastly, we throw one out to Eastside volleyball coach, Maggie Johnston. Although Johnston’s squad ended its season with a first round 3-2 state tournament loss to Perry at Perry, the Lady Volleyball Eagles’ season accomplishments can’t be ignored.
Finishing with a 22-10 overall record and 7-1 mark in Region 4-AAAA is nothing to sneeze at. Johnston also had the privilege of coaching one of the top players in the Newton-Rockdale area in Chasity Smith.