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Posted: October 4, 2011 5:09 p.m.

Eagles learned firsthand what it takes to be a No. 1 team

Remember the name Cole Garvin. I know everyone at Sharp Stadium Saturday night will. After ripping Eastside's heart out with one of the best throws I've ever seen a high school quarterback make to lift Sandy Creek past the Eagles 13-10 in the final minute of the game, Garvin is public enemy number one this week over at 10245 Eagles Drive. I'm sure down in Tyrone, the euphoria still hasn't worn off.

About the game. If it had been between two college powerhouses, it have been shown on ESPN Classic already. It was that good. Or that gut-wrenching depending on who you are. Eastside coach Rick Hurst called it "the worst loss of his career" — right up there with the loss he suffered in the state title game while offensive coordinator at Americus in the late '90s.

It's too bad for Eastside's kids, coaches and fans. They deserved to win based on the way the Eagles played for three-and-a-half quarters. Heck, they won the game for 46 minutes and 49 seconds. That doesn't mean they should have won. Unfortunately games are 48 minutes long. By virtue of one amazing throw and catch, the Patriots remained the best team in the state for a reason. Teams that good win those types of games. But you want to talk about a state of disbelief. I've never seen absolute ecstasy turn to despair so quickly. It begs the question, how in the world did Sandy Creek win that game? Well, let's take a look at it.

To begin with, Eastside has one of the top defensive fronts in Class AAA, maybe the state. There's no question their front seven can play with anyone. Sandy Creek's defense is decent but nowhere as good. This game came down to which team had the better offense and that was clearly Sandy Creek.

Garvin is a stud. There are quarterbacks in the NFL that don't make that throw — a 30-yard rope to a receiver in stride. Eastside was all over Garvin in the first half but then Sandy Creek's coaching staff dropped him in the shotgun in the second half where he had a couple extra seconds. Those extra few seconds made a difference. He was able to hang in there that much longer and find people. His poise and pocket presence were amazing, especially for a 10th grader. Sandy Creek is in very good hands this year and that offense can make up for a less than spectacular defense.

I've heard stuff about Sandy Creek's starting running back being out of the game and had he been in there, the game would have been much different. I beg to differ. I think that helped more than it hurt. If he's healthy, the Patriots' coaches may keep trying to run it up the gut much like they did last year when the game got really tight and that's like beating your head into a wall against Eastside's defense. Once they let Garvin throw it around every play, and he had time, Eastside's defense was in trouble.

It looked like Eastside's D may have run low on gas at the end too. It played inspired football for 36 minutes and that can be as much an emotional drain as it can be physical. I made the comment to defensive coordinator Jason Tester after the game that you can't ask your defense to play that good and hold a team that good scoreless, for the entire game. The way he saw it was, "You can. Whether they can do it is a different story". They almost did. In fact, Sandy Creek didn't pick up a first down until midway through the third quarter. The bottom line is, the defense gave Eastside a shot but the offense didn't do its part.

No quarterback play and a mediocre offensive line and running game will do that. You hate to pin a loss like that on one kid or one unit but the kicking game killed Eastside and the offense was unable to capitalize on the mistakes. You can't come away from three opportunities inside the 30-yard line with no points. Eastside had the Patriots on the ropes in the first half but let them off the hook. Eastside missed two more field goals. Colton Smith has struggled all season. He missed four in a game earlier this year. Like I said though, you can't pin it all on the kicker.

Eastside was one dimensional on offense. That simply won't get it done against top-flight teams. Coaches know this yet every week it's the same story — save for the Locust Grove game. But Locust Grove is Indian Creek Middle School compared to Sandy Creek. You must have quarterback play to beat great teams. You know, sorta like Sandy Creek has (to be fair, Garvin is a special player and will play Division 1 football). Not to mention Eastside's running game is mediocre at best. Sure it can dominate Spalding but against teams like Cairo last year, it's not explosive and doesn't consistently move the ball. Like the kicking game, Eastside is missing some key players like Jamondi Smith that could have made a difference but that's an easy excuse. You have to play with what you have.

Finally, I think the coaches were too conservative in the first half and got way to conservative at the end. After the second missed field goal, I'm taking shots in the end zone. There was stuff open in the middle and we didn't see Antonius Sims used at tight end once all night. On that last possession, the play calling was too predictable. Sandy Creek knew they were handing it to Chavis Griggs and he was going to just run between the tackles and fall forward. Eastside was obviously playing "hang on" football. That turned out to bite them in the butt.

If these two teams were to meet in the finals, we could see another epic battle. I think both teams would make adjustments based on what they saw the first time and we would see perhaps the two best teams in Class AAA — at least the state's top offense versus the state's top defense, go at it for all the marbles. I'm not sure if that will happen though. Eastside's offense is pretty inept right now and the defense will be under heavy pressure to carry the burden.

I talked to several coaches and some fans/parents I've come to know over the years after the game and there was a mixture of anger and disbelief. I'm sure in the minutes after the game; some players (and maybe even coaches) wanted to blame others for the outcome. Why didn't the offense do more with its opportunities? Why did they run out the clock at the end instead of staying aggressive and trying to get one first down that would have sealed it? How can you let that quarterback make that throw and let that receiver beat you? Why can't you make a field goal? The reality is, games are decided by the collection of plays. Sandy Creek made one more play.

The effort was there on both sides.. Saying anything less about that game is selling every kid on that field short. Again Eastside earned a team's respect. All anyone can hope for now is a rematch. Maybe anyone but Sandy Creek.

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