that almost knocked off county rival Eastside last month.
“One thing I never believed in as a coach is running the option,” he said after Newton’s near upset over Eastside. “When I decided to run it, I told the guys, ‘you’re going to think I’m crazy, but we can run the option against these guys.’ We felt if you give us time and we keep going, it would work.”
Hurst said what makes McCray so effective in running the option is his ability to sell the pitch and make the read to find the gap. A perfect example came against Redan Friday when he took the option cut-back 75yards for a score in Newton’s 4236 overtime win.
“The kids rally around Demetrius,” Collins said. “He is a quiet leader that gives us a chance to win. What else can I say?”
Alcovy coach Kirk Hoffman can probably relate with Collins. After the Tigers lost starter Eric Strozier to graduation, the quarterback job was an unknown coming into 2008. After P.J. Thompkins earned the job over the summer, the Tigers got off to a slow start. They squeaked out a win over Newton but failed to score an offensive touchdown until week three.
Thompkins went down in the Tigers’ game against North Clayton and defensive back Rod Tolen, who was listed as the backup, came in and led Alcovy to its first offensive score.
With Thompkins ailing, Hoffman turned to Tolen as the starter and like McCray, he’s provided a spark.
“He sees the field really well,” said teammate, running back Malachi Outlaw. “He can really run. I wish I could run like that.”
Tolen chewed up Stockbridge on the road in his first start to the tune of 163 yards and a score and the Tigers’ picked up their first road win in school history.
Tolen carried his team to its second straight win the following week against Jonesboro and Alcovy sits at 2-2 in Region 4AAAA with four games remaining.
Eastside had the luxury of returning staring quarterback Justin Wray and it’s shown. Wray has led his team to a perfect 5-0 start, the best in school history, and he’s matured into a true dual threat. Saturday against a Stephens County team that hadn’t lost a region game in four years, Wray threw for more than 100 yards and made several key reads in the passing game including a 28-yard bootleg off play action that gave his team a two touch- down lead in the third quarter.
Hurst said the key for Wray has been his ability to read what the defense is giving him while going through his progressions.
“It’s not always easy for a quarterback to look up field,” Hurst said. “Justin has really improved his accuracy, and he’s finding his number one option deep. If that’s not there, he’s reading his check down options and finding guys to pass to.”
Wray is completing his passes at a 63 percent clip and has thrown fro more than 500 yards while rushing for an additional 300. In all, he’s accounted for nine offensive touchdowns and even scored on a fumble re- covery as he plays safety when needed.
When Hurst came to Eastside four years ago, he said he remembers meeting Wray and his father and the conversation they had about being quarterback. Since then Wray has made his mark as a prolific quarterback and has his team poised to make a serious run in the state playoffs.
“I thought coming into the season that we had a chance for a special year,” Hurst said. “So far, we’ve played well, but we have a lot of football left. We don’t want to think about going undefeated but it’s on the back of our mind. The just have to play each game as they come.”