At the conclusion of last year’s Week 4 meeting between Alcovy and Salem, a game the Tigers won in stunning fashion, 23-20, two drastically different routes were taken by each program.
For Salem, the loss sparked a great run through Region 4-AAAA play in which the Seminoles finished as the runner-ups before playing host to Columbus in the first round of the playoffs.
For Alcovy, they didn’t win another game and have still yet to snap what has turned into a grueling 9-game losing streak dating back to last season.
The Tigers enter the matchup losers of three in a row, but that hasn’t phased Salem head coach Jarrett Laws’s thinking one bit about the type of opponent they will see at Sharp Stadium on Friday night.
“We’re facing probably the best 0-3 team in the state of Georgia,” Laws said. “They’re right on the edge of competing with several high-quality teams. It hasn’t been that they’ve been dominated. They’ve just made mistakes.”
In many cases, Laws’s rebuild of the Salem program thus far in 2019 has featured a lot of the same mistakes. They Seminoles enter with an 0-2 record and have managed to score just one touchdown on offense.
Through the Seminoles’ first two games, a lack of execution was one of their topics of choice during last week’s BYE.
“We just have to execute,” Laws said. “With our kids, I want to be able to look at them at the end of the week and have a strong feeling that we’re not going to go into a game unsure of how to execute what we do.”
If we can finally get to the stage of talking about why we’re doing what we’re doing, then we’ll have a chance to make some plays and more than anything, keep our defense off the field, keep the chains moving and shorten up this game a little bit.”
In order to keep Laws’s defense off the field, the Seminoles will be tasked with attempting to slow down Alcovy sophomore quarterback MJ Stroud. In the Tigers' Week 3 loss to in-county rival Eastside, Stroud accounted for three touchdowns. The sophomore rushed for 98 yards and threw for 87.
“They make it no secret, it begins and ends with their quarterback,” Laws said. “They’ve got a very effective rushing game. They’re going to come at you from different ways and they have multiple schemes. They can zone you, they can gap you, they can trap you. Their offensive coordinator does a very good job of mixing in the schemes. You can tell that he has a little mathematics going along with his call.”
Laws also made it known that their focus is still on Alcovy senior running back NaTorien Holloway, who has yet to play a game this season due to a knee injury sustained on the first day of school.
“We know that we have not seen their best offensive performance because they have yet to line up NaTorien Holloway,” Laws said. “The minute he steps out onto the field, the whole context with what they’re doing could probably change in a heartbeat because he’s probably the No. 1 home run hitter in the area with respect to his combination of power and speed.”
We’re cognizant of his ability to show up and change the direction of the game. I just think offensively they’re starting to find their way. Anybody that puts 28 points on Eastside, you automatically know that they’re got something special brewing.”
From a defensive standpoint, Laws expects Alcovy’s defense to give his offense fits, especially from their 8-man front.
“They’ve got one of the more aggressive fronts that I’ve seen on film this year and that’s with all respect to every other team in the area,” Laws said. “We full well expect for them to play downhill at the linebacker position and try and try to dominate with their size at the line of scrimmage.”
For us, we’ve got to get a whole lot better, a whole lot faster, at dealing with teams that out-weigh us. You combat that through technique, so we spend an inordinate amount of time on how to play certain looks so that we’ve got a chance to play and get this game into the fourth quarter.”
After spending all of last week getting back to the basics during their first of two BYE weeks, Laws said his team is striding in the right direction.
“I think the best thing that we got out of last week is that we’re learning how to practice,” Laws said. “It’s been very hard at the beginning of this year because all of the young kids and newcomers don’t stand the importance of getting through every period of practice.”
Last week was the first week where we actually got through enough time in practice where we could start to talk about some things that are not normally planned for. When you’ve got time to discuss that, you tend to think that you can get the kid’s IQ a little higher.”