2007 Al­covy Tigers Eye of the wiser Tiger

Al­covy still gun­ning for first win in school his­tory

The Covington News - - FOOTBALL PREVIEW - By Eric L. McDon­ald

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.”

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.