COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton County’s eyes will be glued to the action in Sharp Stadium this Friday.
For the first time this fall, fans from around the area will have the opportunity to flock to Sharp Stadium to take in a live football game. Friday night’s main event will be a slugfest between cross-county rivals Alcovy and Newton, who are squaring off on the gridiron for the 11th time.
The Rams come into the game with history on their side. Last August’s 45-0 rout marked their sixth consecutive win over the Tigers, and their seventh in 10 tries. But with each program bringing a second-year head coach into the fight, a new era could produce different results going forward.
At Alcovy, head Jason Dukes spent the offseason harping on the importance of bolstering his offensive and defensive lines. The former NFL lineman understands the pivotal role the trenches play in constructing a successful team, and he’s looking to see growth in that area this fall.
The Tigers will also have a fresh face under center in 2020.
Last year sophomore MJ Stroud was converted from wide receiver to take the reins of the offense at quarterback. Stroud adapted to the position, but by season’s end, it became apparent his athleticism could best be utilized in other areas on the field.
In stepped freshman Ashton Evans.
After getting the nod to start the final game of the season, Evans solidified his spot as QB1 this offseason. He took snaps with the first-team offense when the Tigers kicked off their season at North Forsyth last week, and is expected to do so again against the Rams.
Alcovy struggled to shake the rust of a lengthy offseason last Friday on the road against the Raiders. Their lack of physicality and sound execution left them exposed in a 35-3 loss to open the year.
The team's early jitters were expected from Dukes and his staff, though. They believe the lessons learned from that loss will serve as a platform to structure the rest of the season around.
“Usually you have time during the spring to iron out things and learn new things, and then you have preseason games and scrimmages that lead up to a first game. We didn’t really have those this year, so our first game really gave us a base point to build off for this year,” Dukes said this week. “We saw things we need to improve on, and other things we were solid at.”
Meanwhile, Camiel Grant Jr. will have his hands full in his second season at Newton.
Grant graduated an abundance of talent on both sides of the ball last year. He’s now tasked with breaking in a new quarterback of his own — he tabbed junior lefty Jevarra Martin for the job — as well as filling holes throughout his defense.
But the Rams continue to be loaded with talent. There’s an adage that says good teams rebuild while elite teams reload, and Newton can certainly make a case for the latter.
With sophomore stud Justin Benton and senior sensation Nyland Green in tow, the Rams might not see too much of a drop-off from the tenacious defense that haunted opposing offenses last fall.
Friday night’s game is scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m. Per the guidelines set in place by the Newton County School System, Sharp Stadium’s attendance will be capped at 25% capacity in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.