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Posted: November 3, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Eastside faces tough region foe Oconee Co.

Eastside storms into tomorrow’s matchup with Oconee County fresh off a dominant performance over Jackson County at home last week. All the Eagles did is drop 50 on the Panthers in the first half en route to the shutout.

"It gave us some confidence back," head coach Rick Hurst said. "It was a good game at the right time. It was good to get our young kids in the game and give some key guys some needed rest."

The Eagles got well after suffering the road upset a week earlier and dashing any hopes of an undefeated season. But Hurst said his team has to forget about those performances and better be ready to face one of the state's top quarterbacks, Zach Mettenberger.

"They have the Mettenberger kid, who has committed to Georgia. He’s a prototypical quarterback that has a canon of an arm so we will have to be ready because if you give him time, he will pick you apart," Hurst said.

Offensively, the Eagles are scoring at a clip of 30 points per game. With the Warriors giving up nearly that much in 29.3 a game, conventional wisdom says Eastside should be in good shape. But to be successful, Hurst said his team will need to control the line of scrimmage and open up some running lanes for his bevy of running backs.

"Fortunately we have Jarrett Hubbard back and that makes a big difference," he said. "Hopefully we can open up some seams and let our backs hit into the secondary. If we do that, I think we can pick up some big yards in the running game."

Defensively, the Eagles will have to stay in their zones, especially in the secondary. Mettenberger has a useful group of receivers and will find the open man if given time. The key for Eastside will be its ability to pressure the quarterback into making bad decisions in the passing game.

"That’s what worries me a little bit because we will have to stay in coverage," Hurst said. "If you look at our defensive line, that’s what we are built for is speed rushers. It ought to be a good matchup.

We will have our hands full with running corners in on coverage so we’ll have to get to the quarterback."

The Eagles will be at full strength for the first time all year. They welcome back two linebackers as well as Greg Griffieth, who was off to a fast start rushing before a hairline fracture sidelined him for the past month.

"We had a real spirited week and I hope it translates into a good game," Hurst said. "I feel like we match up really well with them. They give up some big yards in the running game and that’s our strength. We’re ready to get Justin [Wray] involved in the passing game too and I think we can have some success there as well."

Eastside needs a win to have any shot at the region title and a home playoff game. Even if the Eagles win out, if Hart County and Stephens County don’t lose again, Eastside would lose the tie-breaker as it comes down to Region 3A opponents outside the region and the Eagles played none.

"I told our guys we can’t worry about any of that," Hurst said. "We have to keep wining. If we do that, the playoffs will come. We have three more games left and we’re taking each one as they come."

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