For the first time in their brief 13-year head-to-head history, their meeting Friday night at Sharp stadium will reward either the Eastside Eagles or Alcovy Tigers with their first victory of the season.
Both Covington based schools find themselves in uncharted waters with an 0-2 record, a start neither Eastside head coach Troy Hoff nor Alcovy head coach Jason Dukes had envisioned having to begin the 2019 season.
For the Eagles, their 0-2 start marks their first such losing streak to begin a season since 2005 and their first under Hoff. Having a short term memory and continuing to improve on a daily basis have been two key points of emphasis Hoff has stressed to his team.
“Nobody likes losing, especially coming off of some seasons where we haven’t lost a lot,” Hoff said. “This is a new position for us, but it’s a new team. We’ve played two really good football teams that are higher classifications. We felt like last week we took steps forward.”
As for the Tigers, their 0-2 start to the 2019 season is new to them, too. While they currently hold an 8-game losing streak dating back to Week 4 of last season, the Tigers have not begun a season with two consecutive losses in four years.
Despite holding a brief lead over their Week 2 opponent last Friday night in Rockdale County, the Tigers’ hopes of bringing Dukes his first career win and snapping their losing streak ended without success.
While the Tigers haven’t beaten the Eagles since 2013, taking them lightly is the last thing Hoff and his coaching staff intend to do in their preparation leading up to Friday.
“When you’re 0-2, you can’t underestimate anybody and that’s our approach,” Hoff said. “We’re going into it with the idea that we want to play better, execute better and continue to get better. That’s our standard and that’s what we’re looking for regardless of who we’re playing on Friday night.”
From an athleticism standpoint, the likes of Alcovy sophomore quarterback MJ stroud sits atop the list of players Hoff and his young defense will look to slow down.
“(Alcovy) has a lot of athletes,” Hoff said. “Athletically, they have guys that can run and that are good in space. It presents a challenge because you have to defend the entire field. We have to do a good job in space and handle the line of scrimmage. It always starts there. Our defensive line has played some real quality football these last couple weeks at times. We’re looking to take the next step there because it always starts up front.”
Stroud finished his second career game playing QB for the Tigers 11 of 31 for 142 yards and one interception. Andrae Robinson was the leading rusher for the Tigers with 71 yards on 15 carries.
After allowing 557 yards of total offense to Newton in a 41-7 loss last Friday, Hoff not only hopes to see his defense execute better, but also have his offense step it up, too. The Eagles’ offense turned over the ball four times in the first half, leading to 21 points.
The Eagles were able to hold the Rams scoreless in the third quarter, though, something Hoff and his defensive staff can build off of heading into Week 3.
“We took some steps forward, but we have to make some more plays and execute a little better,” Hoff said. “We have to do some things fundamentally better and that will give us a chance to win some football games. We put our defense in a tough position Friday night against a very good offensive football team. For us to hold up like we did defensively, we feel like we’re going in the right direction.”
From a consistency standpoint, Hoff pledged just that as being their biggest challenge moving forward.
“We’ve seen it,” Hoff said. “It’s not a complete loss. It’s not that everything is broken. It's the little things and we’ve shown that we can do them. It’s just consistently doing them snap after snap. Then obviously it’s ball security, third down and fourth down. Usually whoever wins those situations is going to win the football game. Those are going to be points of emphasis for us.”
A win over the Tigers would give the Eagles some much-needed momentum heading into their first Region 4-AAAA contest against North Clayton on Sept. 20.
“They’re a hardworking crew,” Hoff said. “We’re just getting in that phase of learning how to practice better. We had a great week of practice last week and it showed. Convincing them that being locked in every rep and it starting in practice is how you win the game. It just carries over into the game on Friday night. We’re definitely excited about the opportunity.”
The Tigers will be in search of their first win over the Eagles in six years and will look to end their losing streak at eight games. Their 8-game losing streak marks the third-longest in program history.