2017-09-07 / Sports

Tigers sputter on offense, lose focus against Spartans

This Spartan is going nowhere as a trio of Tigers get him wrapped up at the line of scrimmage. This Spartan is going nowhere as a trio of Tigers get him wrapped up at the line of scrimmage. If the previous week’s solid win over Elbert County was something of a surprise, last Friday’s 20-0 loss to West Hall was even more of a surprise as the cohesive, determined, and no-penalty Tigers fell apart, lost focus, and got sloppy.

Considering West Hall is AAAA, maybe it’s not so bad – they were supposed to win (?). But they were “in the way” of the Tigers’ goals and, unfortunately, W-W let them stay there.

Or maybe not. If the new Tigers are going to learn some hard lessons, now is the time; not late this month when they open the region schedule against Lincoln County.

“You have to learn that it’s one week at a time and put good or bad behind you,” Tiger Head Coach Chad Alligood said. “I told them after the game that we can’t waste this opportunity to learn something.”

Gian Davis races ahead of a West Hall defender. 
Photos by MERCER HARRIS Gian Davis races ahead of a West Hall defender. Photos by MERCER HARRIS After what he called a “great week of practice,” Alligood said his team did exactly what he warned them about – they tried to “live off what they did the week before.” Consequently, they lost focus on West Hall and that old adversity problem crept up and bit them, well, you know where. Alligood says now he’s got to figure out why it happened and how not to let it happen again.

“Probably the most frustrating thing about the whole ball game was when it was 7-0 late in the third quarter and we lost our fight. I don’t know why,” he lamented. “It was still a close ball game and we were just one play away – and we had our opportunities for that play. But we missed some of those, and for some reason we lost our fight when it got late in the game. I’ve got to figure that out.”

The Tiger Defense keeps the pressure on upending the ball carrier in last Friday’s game. The Tiger Defense keeps the pressure on upending the ball carrier in last Friday’s game. West Hall played hard but it was the fact that the Tigers did not take advantage of some of the opportunities they had and they were also “undisciplined in some parts,” according to Alligood. There were penalties in spots where they couldn’t afford mental penalties, or not hustling, or jumping offsides. W-W was even guilty of roughing the field goal kicker, a mistake that turned out to be a big turning point in the game.

“It goes back to that adversity question – big time,” Alligood said. “Anybody can play hard when you’re ahead and when things are going your way. But can you play hard when things don’t go your way? To get the program headed in the right direction we’ve got to be able to do that and it’s my job to figure it out.” He added that he will spend some time this week “getting everybody to understand that it is a process and we’ll just go from there.”

The coach placed no blame on the game’s officials as he took ownership of the eight penalties called on W-W. A number of the penalties were what Alligood calls “hustle penalties,” like a late hit, or block in the back, or jumping offsides. He said those should never happen and are just part of losing focus.

Neither did he place any blame on the road trip or travel time since it was the third time in a row the Tigers have boarded the buses.

“When we kicked it off, I thought we were ready to play,” Alligood reiterated. “But somewhere in the game, after we went down 7-0 we sputtered on offense a little bit and just shut down. Good teams don’t do that. You learn to play the entire ball game.”

If the fact that West Hall is AAAA had anything to do with it, well, Alligood explained that W-W played about the same number of kids and were just as athletic as they were. “I think our guys just didn’t show up ready to play – and that’s my fault. I don’t think them being AAAA had anything to do with it,” he said. “On offense, we just could not string together a drive and they did. And we have to have those 8-10-12-play drives to be successful.”

The good news is that W-W had no turnovers in the ball game. Even though they did fumble the ball a couple of times, they didn’t lose it, and Alligood was pleased with the ball protection while disappointed in the offense’s execution.

“Our execution was about as bad as it could get,” he said. “And it goes around to everybody – up front, to backs, to receivers, to the quarterback. And since I’m responsible for the offense, I’m trying to figure out why.

“We are not a homerun-hitting team – we have got to execute and drive the ball,” he continued. “We never could put four or five plays together. We would have two or three and then a bad one. We cannot operate like that.”

Neither was it that West Hall threw them some curves. The Spartans lined up just like they were expected to and just like the Tigers had practiced for all week.

“I think it goes back to just a lack of focus and not being mentally ready to play,” Alligood said. “I think there was a lull after the win over Elbert County and I cautioned everybody about that. I hope it was a learning game. We are not going to turn the corner if we don’t learn from this. We are playing a really good football team this week.”

That really good football team is Jefferson County. They are AA as usual and the Warriors are ranked No. 10 in Georgia AA according to MaxPreps. (The Tigers are ranked 35th in Class A, still behind Lincoln County at No. 31.)

“It is going to be nice to play our first home game but we have got to get a lot corrected this week to prepare for a very athletic Jefferson County team.” Alligood said.

But the coach said he plans to keep the practice routine right on track with what the Tigers have been doing day to day. He said, good or bad, he never hits the panic button.

“Everything is going to stay the same and they have just got to understand that we have to focus.” He again pointed out that before the West Hall game, W-W had a really good week of practice and he thought they were prepared. “So, we’re not going to change [our method] and we’re going to see if we can learn from the video,” he said.

The coach reported that Jefferson County has strong and talented athletes at nearly every position as they most always do. “We are going to have to play disciplined football like we did the first week to give ourselves a chance,” he said. “We can’t afford penalties and we can’t give up the big play.”

The Warriors like to throw the ball deep and that’s their MO on offense. “They throw it as far as they can throw it and then go catch it,” Alligood reported. “The biggest thing I want to see us do is just execute, on both sides of the ball, and be disciplined. Then let’s see what happens.”

Return to top