2007 Alcovy Tigers Eye of the wiser Tiger
Alcovy still gunning for first win in school history
It’s 9 p.m. on a warm and wet Friday evening. A storm has made its way onto the practice field at Alcovy High School.
All of the football players and coaches are huddled together within the confines of the softball and baseball dugouts, waiting for the storm to diminish from the sky. Once the dreary weather had passed, the Tigers were ready for work, as they had plenty of it left to do.
Yet having to wait out a little bad weather is nothing compared to the pain of suffering through an entire winless season, such as the Tigers experienced last year (0-10).
Still, second-year Alcovy head coach Kirk Hoffmann and his players learned how to deal with a lot of hardship during its inaugural campaign.
“The kids learned how to handle adversity,” said Hoffmann, who has 23 years of coaching experience. “(It) has not affected us in a negative way.”
As a matter of fact, there is nothing negative about what the 2007 Tigers are trying to build compared to last year. There are currently 22 seniors on board this season, including 37 returning varsity lettermen. However, the upper classmen had to earn it.
“Some of last year’s juniors weren’t ready to lead,” admitted Hoffmann “but now, for the most part, they are ready to lead.”
The Tigers only lost four seniors from a year ago and one starter due to graduation, all-county cornerback Marlon Jackson. Jackson had 41 tackles and two interceptions last season.
This year, when the Tigers have the ball they will spread the field with a new wing-T formation.
Senior quarterback Ryan Ledford will be the starter for the Tigers. Ledford is dangerous on the run and has improved a great deal regarding his passing since one year ago. Junior Patrick Tompkins is waiting for his chance as Ledford’s backup.
Junior all-county running back Malachi Outlaw (74 carries for 651 yards) will be alongside Ledford in the backfield.
But one of the stronger leaders among this new offense is all-county — and potential all-state candidate — senior wide receiver Eric Strozier.
At 5-foot-11 and 166 pounds, Strozier got busy during the off-season, increasing his bench press and power clean to 280 and 215 pounds, respectfully. He also improved his time in the 40-yard dash (4.53 seconds).
“He is (our) quiet leader,” admitted Hoffmann, “but he leads by example.”
Last season, Strozier led the Tigers with 21 receptions for 461 yards and six touchdowns. As a kick returner — and a dangerous one, at that — he averaged 21.1 yards per return. But with all his personal success on the field, Strozier is looking to make the entire team successful.
“We have got to win games,” said Strozier. “We have come together in a short period of time, and we are looking to make the playoffs this year.”
The offensive line consists of all-county candidate Keiven Rhodes — the heart and soul of the Tigers.
“0-10, never again,” remarked Rhodes.
Rhodes is one of the leaders who brought a new kind of swagger to the Tigers that should make others in Region 8-AAAA take notice.
“Rhodes enjoys playing the game,” said Hoffmann. “He was one of those juniors who didn’t know how to lead. But now he is a senior who knows exactly how to lead.”
Also returning to the offensive line are seniors Britt Gammon and Brett Carson, including junior Maurice Valentine and sophomore Roy Parham.
Carson, a former Eastside offensive tackle, enjoys his new home and is ready to face his old school for the last time.
“I was on the varsity team (at Eastside) and didn’t get a chance to start,” said Carson, “(but) now I have a chance to play here. It really worked out for me.”
When the Alcovy defense is on the field, it will take on a “50” defense, a style designed to stop the run and cover much of the field in the secondary.
Senior Kelvin Yates will anchor a much improved defensive line for the Tigers. Yates was an all-county defensive end last year with 73 tackles, four hurries and four sacks.
Senior Matt Gunnells will lead the linebacker unit. Gun- nells is a throw back of old school linebackers — very aggressive, especially against the run. If needed, Outlaw will also see time at linebacker.
Overall, leadership is lacking in the secondary, thanks in part to the departure of Jackson. Junior Cody Edwards and sophomore Rodrick Tolen will help pick up the slack in a very thin secondary that suffered throughout most of last season. Poor tackling and a lack of concentration in the defensive backfield led to the defensive breakdown.
Regarding the special teams unit, senior Tim Walsh will handle all kicking duties for the Tigers.
Alcovy will open its second season against the defending Region 8-AAAA champions, Habersham Central. Last year, Habersham defeated the Tigers, 44-7.
In addition to its rivalry against Newton and Eastside, Hoffmann is fired up about this season and is ready to take the new and improved Tigers into the promise land.
“I’m excited because the kids are excited to play,” said Hoffmann. “There is an opportunity here, and the kids are truly excited about good things happening this season.”
Catch me if you can: Alcovy’s Eric Strozier, right, breaks free from a tackle against Apalachee last year. Stozier is one of many returning starters for the second-year Tigers, who are hoping to win their first game in school history. In 2006, the Tigers were 0-10.