Alexander has gotten off to an impressive start early in the 2014 season. The Cougars have won their first three games and have showed their dominance locally by defeating county foes, Douglas County and Chapel Hill, by a combined score of 79-23.
Alexander kicked off its season against rival DCHS. Since 2004, the Tigers have gotten the better of the Cougars, but Alexander proved to be better team head-to-head this season.
The county rivals had a tightly contested battled for the first three quarters. After leading at halftime 7-6, and taking just a three point lead, 9-6, into the fourth quarter, Alexander outscored Douglas 21-6 over the final minutes to pull away with the 30-12 victory.
A strong performance by their defense kept Alexander in the game. By completely shutting down the Douglas attack, holding them to negative rushing yards and combining for seven sacks, it allowed time for the explosive offense and skills positions for the Cougars to take over.
Led by a pair of seniors, the offense took over the game late scoring three touchdowns in the final quarter. Senior running back Caleb Freeman controlled the pace of the game on the ground, rushing for 111 yards on 25 carries with two touchdowns. Isaac Zico added 81 receiving yards and a score, connecting with Junior quarterback Baylor Whitfield through the air for an impressive 35-yard completion.
“When you talk about our skill guys you have to mention Freeman, as well as Baylor Whitfield who has done a great job leading the offense and keeping everything under control. Zico has made some big plays for us well, some timely plays,” said Coach Matt Combs.
The strength of the Alexander team is definitely their versatility. Alexander relies on a talented cast of players, with many of them playing both sides of the ball. Their second victory of the season, against Paulding County, proved that the Cougars are a complete team.
“We’re definitely a team, and we emphasize team, so not one player is more important than the other,” said Combs. “But if we can get all 11 players playing together every play, we like our chances.”
Trailing in the fourth quarter against Paulding, Alexander displayed an overall team effort to pull out the win. Down 31-27 with eight minutes remaining, Whitfield found Leon Agee, for the 5-yard go ahead touchdown. The defense then sealed the victory when Jordan Pounds returned an interception 61 yards for a touchdown, and the 41-31 win.
The junior Agee, who also had an interception earlier in the game, is proof of Alexander’s versatility.
“Leon has done a great job for us on both sides of the ball, at safety and receiver. I don’t think he came off the field at all in the three games we played,” said Combs.
Alexander’s last game was their home opener against county foe, Chapel Hill. Agee led the Alexander in receiving with 89 yards and a touchdown as the Cougars dominated from start to finish, dominating the Panthers, 49-11. Freeman carried the ball 16 times for 94 yards and a score, Whitfield connected on 9-of-11 passes for 297 yards and three touchdowns, and Alexander led 35-5 after three quarters.
The Cougars are averaging 40 points per game, and while the skilled positions are garnering the most attention, it is the progression of the Cougar offensive line that has been most impressive.
“When you talk offense the first people we got to give credit to is our O-line, they’ve done a good job in the run game and pass game. That was the number question from outside the program, could we replace five guys from last year?” said Combs. “But the five have stepped in and done a great job and have done what we needed them to do; staying on their blocks, being aggressive and playing physical.
While the offense seems to be gelling so far, averaging 300 yards per game, the Alexander defense has not disappointed.
I think the strength of our defense has been depth, guys stepping in and making plays when they need to. We probably played about 17 different players on defense, and all of them have contributed,” said Combs. “We have to give kudos to Trayzel Jureidini-Wyche, a sophomore, for stepping in. He may be leading us in tackles for losses and sacks.”
Alexander is looking to continue its three game win streak as they travel to Lithia Springs (1-2) Friday. The Cougars could potentially get a get a boost this week as Mikell Lands-Davis, one of the best running backs in the state, is eligible to return to the team. It is uncertain whether he will play.
“If we want to continue to win we have to keep improving and getting better, and we can’t become complacent,” said Combs. “I don’t care about how many points we give up or how many points we score, as long as we score one point more than the other team we are happy.”