Alpha Omega ready for fresh start in playoffs

Joseph Brown | The ItemAlpha Omega running back Cole Garrison looks for running room during a home game against Conroe Covenant earlier this season.

The Alpha Omega Academy Lions are looking forward to an opportunity to reset their record as they prepare for the TAPPS DII six-man football playoffs.

Alpha Omega was able to reach the postseason this year with a record of 4-4. The Lions will head on the road to face Faith Academy Marble Falls in the first round, with kickoff set for Saturday at 2 p.m..

“They are going to be a challenge,” Alpha Omega head coach Jeff Norris said. “They get the ball downfield pretty well and their quarterback extends plays. Once again, it’s going to challenge our defense.”

Defense has been up and down for the Lions throughout the 2020 season. They gave up 294 points in the regular season — good for an average 36.75 points per game, despite holding opponents to under 10 points on four occasions.

Senior Cole Garrison has been a mainstay for the team on both sides of the ball, awith Boyd Hanagriff being another top defensive contributor for the Lions. Garrison’s 64 solo tackles are the most on the team by 38.

“We’ve kinda just built this thing around Garrison,” Norris said. “In all of our games we’ve played well in the first half — with the exception of Allen Academy, every other game we’ve been ahead or tied at the half. I think our guys just get worn down. We’ve worked some schemes to get it funneled back to him and Hanagriff in the middle.”

As for the offensive side of the ball, the Lions have regressed in some ways since last year. However, the regular-season finale did provide room for optimism.

Junior Harrison Allen leads the team in passing with 1,278 yards, coming off an all-state sophomore campaign in which he threw for over 2,000 yards. Norris acknowledges that the team has struggled to protect Allen at times, but notes that his quarterback was able to thrive last week — completing 80 percent of his passes for 103 yards and two scores in a 54-6 win over Galveston O'Connell — with better protection.

“He’s been back and forth also. We’ve had some trouble protecting him,” the coach added. “He did really well last week, getting him some max protection, some easy reads and some play-action to go with it. He has done a really good job this year protecting the ball. He does a really good job of running the offense, even when we are trying to establish the running game.”

Garrison not only leads the team in tackles, but he also leads the Lions’ rushing attack with 906 yards. The Lions have already out-gained last year’s rushing total of 1,611 yards, with 1,628 through eight games in 2020.

“We’ve gotta find guys that can block,” Norris said. “I feel like Garrison and (Blaine) Ringo are really good athletes. … We have to put the focus on those two guys, especially in the playoffs.”

While the season has not been normal for the Lions, or anyone else, they have still managed to work their way into the playoffs. Now, they’ll see how far they can go.

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