In the eyes of the Salem and Eastside varsity football teams, the only thing that matters is getting a win tonight. The past is dead: history.
Both teams enter Region 8B-AAAA play tonight at Homer Sharp Stadium, each combining for an overall 7-1 record so far this year.
The Eagles (4-0) have already flown toward uncharted territory this season, and a victory against Salem (3-1) would be a first in school history. On top of that, it's homecoming for Eastside, which should have a full house on hand to bear witness.
Eastside will try to do something it has failed to do in five attempts, which is beat Salem. Since 2002, the Seminoles have posted a 5-0 record, outscoring the Eagles 152-44. In fact, the average margin of victory for the Seminoles is 21.6 points per game.
"Our kids this year have taken care of a lot of "nevers," said Eastside head coach Rick Hurst. "This is just one more on the list, and it's not going to be easy. It's going to be a physical ball game."
The matchup should also be an exhilarating thriller, a showdown between two elite quarterbacks: Salem's Terrance Davis and Eastside's Justin Wray.
Davis has already verbally committed to play football at Mississippi State University next year. Naturally, the reigning First Team All-Area Rockdale Citizen Offensive Player of the Year would like to add to his already impressive numbers against the Eagles, but more importantly get a region victory.
"Obviously, (Davis) is a great player," said Hurst. "He scares me. Last year we had him under control until the second quarter. We've got to do a better job (tonight) of keeping him in the pocket and hoping he's not very accurate."
But Eastside has a young up-and-coming junior quarterback of its own who has done wonders for his undefeated squad.
Wray, the reigning All-County Player of the Year, has managed his team quite effectively on the gridiron this year, completing 47-of-76 passes (61.8 percent) for 572 yards. More impressively, he has thrown 7 touchdowns compared to 0 interceptions.
Combining his rushing totals (55 carries for 444 yards and 2 touchdowns), Wray has already accounted for over 1,000 yards of total offense (1,016).
"We just have to execute on offense," said Wray. "We have to get to the ball on defense and stop Davis."
Not to be overlooked, Wray has utilized his skilled receivers, particularly Andrico Bailey, who is tied with Broderick Alexander (3 touchdowns) with 14 catches. In addition, Bailey leads the team in receiving yards (263) and yards per catch (18.8).
Of course, it begins with the starting offensive line, arguably the group least appreciated by fans and media alike, yet highly respected by coaches and especially its quarterback.
Eastside's Jordan Ritchey (left tackle), Kyle Durand (left guard), Russell Corley (center), James Johnson (right guard) and Brandon Durepo (right tackle) have done an exceptional job providing protection up front. The group has let Wray manage the game effectively, allowing him more time to read the defensive coverage and find the open receiver.
Defensively, both teams have posted similar numbers in four games (see inset). Salem has allowed 28 points, while Eastside has allowed three fewer.
"I think (Salem) will be the best team overall we've played," said Hurst. "They've got the size and speed. They'll be well-coached and will do things right. It's going to be a dogfight."