COVINGTON, Ga. — For the third week in a row, Homer Sharp Stadium will be the site of an intense county rivalry game on Friday.
This time around a pair of teams will take the field aiming to cleanse themselves of a bitter defeat in Week 3.
Alcovy High School (0-3) will be playing host to Eastside High School (1-1) in the 15th all-time meeting between the two Newton County programs. The Eagles will be looking to win their seventh straight in the series, while the Tigers will be trying to repeat the magic of the 2013 season that ended with a postseason berth.
Alcovy’s 2020 season has gotten off to a rocky start.
The Tigers opened the year with back-to-back blowout losses as the designated road team against North Forsyth, 35-3, and Newton, 27-0. They went back on the road again last Friday night and dug themselves into too large of a hole early on to escape a 42-27 defeat at the hands of Duluth.
But while they found themselves in the loss column against the Wildcats last week, there was plenty of positive for the club to take away from the game. Facing a 28-0 deficit at the end of the first quarter, Alcovy easily could have folded and called it a night.
But that’s not how second-year head coach Jason Dukes operates.
Instead Dukes allowed sophomore quarterback Ashton Evans to air things out, and the results were overwhelmingly positive. Evans threw a touchdown pass late in the second quarter before tossing another pair in the second half.
Question marks still remain about the ability of the Tiger defense to prevent the big play, but the offense showed significant signs of life that could promote potency in the weeks ahead.
“I expect them to come out and play hard,” Eastside head coach Troy Hoff said of Alcovy this week. “They’ve got three games under their belt, and their season hasn’t started the way that they’ve wanted it to. I’d expect nothing less than their best effort. I know they want to turn things around and get going on the right foot here, and they’ve got a chance to do that in a rivalry game.”
Hoff’s Eagles will be looking for a bounce-back performance themselves.
Eastside kicked off its season in triumphant fashion by rushing for 468 yards in a 27-14 win at Class AAAAAA opponent Winder-Barrow. Last week, playing up two classifications against rival Newton, the Eagles continued to sustain success on the ground to the tune of 196 yards.
Unfortunately, it proved to be not quite enough as they allowed the Rams to pull away late in a 21-7 loss.
“The Newton defense has a lot of speed, and they were obviously very conscious of our run game, which made things difficult,” Hoff admitted. “But we just stayed with the plan. We were close on a couple of plays where Dallas [Johnson] was a step away from making something happen.”
Johnson, the junior running back, finished the night with 180 yards on 21 carries. His biggest run of the night provided Eastside’s only points, as he burst through he middle of the field for a 79-yard touchdown.
An outstanding defensive performance allowed Eastside to enter the fourth quarter trailing 7-0. Thanks to Johnson’s touchdown, the Eagles eventually trailed 14-7 and had a chance to drive down the field to tie the score in the game’s final moments.
Like Alcovy, in spite of a loss, Eastside proved to itself that it has the ability to come back and compete after being punched in the mouth.
“Like we tell our kids playing against anybody, we want a shot to win the game in the fourth quarter. They did that,” Hoff said. “Our kids gave themselves a chance to win that game in the fourth, and Newton just made a couple more plays than we did.”
Both the Eagles and Tigers will be eager to get off to quick starts offensively this Friday night after lethargic opening quarters a week ago. But if anything can be learned from the losses suffered in Week 3, it’s that no lead is large enough to be considered safe when these programs take the field.
That should make for yet another intense rivalry matchup.