After two years, the Newton-Alcovy rivalry gets renewed on the football field today.
Thanks to the Georgia High School Association's recent reclassification, both Newton County teams are now in the same region after being separated during the 2010 and '11 football seasons.
It also marks the Rams' first Region 2-AAAAAA game, of the season and Alcovy's second after coming off a 24-21 overtime victory over Luella. Both teams are looking for an important early region win, and a victory over cross-town rivals and friends.
"Being our first region game it's important for us, and it's also for bragging rights in the county," Newton coach Cortez Allen said. "This game has a lot riding on it; we're excited to be able to play in it and we look forward to Friday."
Both Alcovy and Newton have already played Eastside, with the Tigers coming away with a win and Newton falling short, setting up today's game as a way for Alcovy to claim a spot as the county's top team. The Rams are looking for both county bragging rights and their first win of the season after starting out 0-4 in non-region play. To do so, the Rams defense will have to continue to lead the way. Newton has managed just seven points all season, but its defense has been strong against strong teams such as Eastside, Lowndes and Valdosta. Last week, Newton gave up 10 points against a Langston Hughes team, which had good field position throughout most of the game. Against Alcovy, the Rams will need to keep an athletic quarterback and running back in check.
Alcovy's running back Cornell White should be back from injury for the Newton game, and brings a tough challenge for the Rams and an athletic weapon for the Tigers (2-3).
"They have very athletic kids, and we're looking forward to playing them," Allen said. "They're very athletic on the front with the defensive line; it's going to be a big test for our guys."
Newton is looking for an improved offense behind running back James Hardeman, and a week of practices where the Rams' offensive unit was tested by the defense.
"Tuesday was a pretty spirited practice, we stepped up the competition with an intra-squad practice," Allen said. "The defense kind of picked on the offense (Tuesday). The offense took a couple of shots then picked it up."
There's not a better time of the season for Newton's offense to finally get on track as region play determines state playoff berths and seeding.
"For us, the preseason is over and the part of the season that matters most to us is here," Allen said. "We're 0-0 in region and are going to look to Friday night to get our first win of the season and our first region win to make sure we get to the goal that we set forth at the beginning of the season to be one of the top teams in the region, making the playoffs."
Adding another layer to the head-to-head matchups of Alcovy versus Newton is the fact that some of the Tigers came up through Newton's system before rezoning two years ago.
"Some of the kids started out in the program and went over there with rezoning," Allen said. "Getting to see those kids starting in high school here, watching them play up close and personal and then competing against them hits home to us."
Along with opposing players who had been teammates before high school and into little league matching up against each other Friday, it will also give Newton and Alcovy fans a chance to see both teams at the same time.
"It's good to have them back on the schedule," Allen said. "It does a lot for the community to be able to come out in drones and support both schools."
The community will also have a chance to contribute to a good cause as both schools are combining to make Friday breast cancer awareness night. Both teams are collecting funds to donate to the American Cancer Society during what will be a pink-out at Sharp Stadium. Players from both teams will also be wearing pink in some fashion during the game.
"I think the big thing is both us and Newton's coaching staffs said the same thing, that this is a rivalry that can be a good rivalry for both schools," Alcovy coach Kirk Hoffman said. "Not seeing each other for two years, we kind of left a void and both programs are excited to bring the rivalry back."