Eastside Postgame with coach Troy Hoff
Postgame with Eastside DL Hunter Williams
COVINGTON, Ga. — Give the Newton Cup to Eastside.
Thanks to a dominating defensive performance that included three interceptions and a monster night from defensive lineman Hunter Williams, the Eagles defeated Alcovy 35-7 to complete the county sweep — its first since 2008.
“We just played a great game tonight,” Williams said. “Alcovy has a great team. They have a great offense, but you know, Eastside came out in the second half strong.”
But Williams was a tone-setter, particularly in the first half when he came up big with huge stops on a 2nd-and-4 and 3rd-and-7 plays with Alcovy approaching the Eagles’ side of the field.
It’s the third week in a row where Eastside’s supposedly undersized linemen played like the bigger team.
“It’s just working hard on the practice field and in the weight room, and doing what the coaches tell us,” Williams said. “Ain’t no secret to it. We work our butts off in the weight room and we practice hard.”
Those things have become staples in this Troy Hoff-coached program, but even in victory, the Eagles’ head man still wasn’t completely satisfied.
“We came out and played with a lot of effort, and that’s what we expect out of them,” Hoff said. “But a lot of things we can still clean up. We left a lot on the table tonight. We feel like we haven’t reached our ceiling yet, but we like it that we’re going into a bye week 3-0. You couldn’t script it any better than that.”
Same goes for the way Eastside started the football game Friday night.
After a couple stalled out drives by both teams, Eastside put together an impressive 11-play, 88 yard drive that, at times, looked similar to some of the offensive success the Eagles had last week against Newton.
That scoring drive was culminated with a 29-yard pass from Noah Cook to a wide open Jalen Brown who caught the ball on a curl route at around the 13 yard line and ran it in untouched the rest of the way, giving Eastside a 7-0 lead at the 1:46 mark of the first quarter.
The Eagles’ defensive line dominated an Alcovy offensive front throughout, with Williams in particular making big play after big play, including back-to-back tackles for losses — the latter being a sack of Alcovy quarterback Jaelen Campbell that forced the Tigers to punt.
Eastside would double that lead late in the second quarter when it engaged in another long drive — this one, one a 67-yard march on 12 plays where Cook found Brown once again in the end zone, on the receiving end of a 10-yard scoring strike.
The touchdown at the 3:50 mark of the second quarter allowed Eastside to take a 14-0 lead into the halftime locker room.
The Eagles appeared poised to stretch the lead even further after Antavious Cobb recovered the opening kickoff at the Alcovy 10 yard line, but the Eastside drive stalled out and Kade Mote’s 27-yard field goal drifted off just wide to the left.
Alcovy would go 3-and-out on its next possession, then Eastside’s Quincy Cullins fumbled after a 10-yard pick up on the Eagles’ first play of the possession. But Jordan Rogers would get it back and then some as he stepped in front of a Nick Simmons swing pass, snagged it and took it 45 yards to the house, pushing Eastside’s lead to 21-0 with 5:20 remaining in the third.
Such momentum shifting miscues have become all too common with the Tigers during the first three games of the season.
“It’s our mistakes for the third week in a row,” said Alcovy coach Chris Edgar. “Some guys didn’t have a really great week of practice, and it translated onto the field. And with a team like Eastside, you can’t make those kinds of mistakes.”
The Tigers would finally respond after their defense held the Eagles to a 3-and-out with their backs against their own end zone. A short punt gave Alcovy the ball on the Eastside 26, and after Holloway ripped off 10 yards and a first down pass to Stroud, Simmons would take on the scoring load himself, pushing in from three yards out to make it a 21-7 game at the 11:53 mark of the fourth quarter.
Edgar called Stroud, a 6-foot-1 freshman wideout who finished with three catches for 40 yards, a bright spot in an otherwise struggling passing game, and someone he hopes can continue to give his quarterbacks a reliable target.
“MJ’s the real deal,” Edgar said. “He’s tall, physical, smart, and he studies the game hard, even in the game. He just does everything he needs to do.”
But whatever crack there was in the door that could’ve led to a comeback was slammed shut by two late Eastside scores. The first was a 38-yard touchdown pass from Cook to Jerry Mays to give the Eagles a 28-7 lead with just over 10 minutes left.
Then, after a promising Alcovy response drive that included a 42-yard pickup by Holloway, Simmons telegraphed a pass right into the hands of Eastside’s AJ Royal who grabbed his second interception of the season, returning it 53 yards.
The turnovers Eastside was able to force indicates a part of the defensive game that regularly gets stressed by Hoff and his staff.
“We talk about all the time how in today’s age in football, yards mean nothing,” Hoff said. “It’s scoring defense and turnovers. We’re doing a good job in that area right now. Win those two areas, and you’re gonna win a lot of ball games.”
Three plays later, it would be Rogers who would tote the rock 28 yards for the nail-in-the-coffin score that gave Eastside its final margin with 5:32 left in the game.
Cook finished the night 11-of-15 passing with 137 yards and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, Holloway had another strong performance for Alcovy despite the loss with 102 yards on 11 carries.
The Tigers (1-2) will travel to next door county neighbor Salem (1-1) next Friday for a 7:30 p.m. before getting two weeks off to prepare for a trip to Class AAAAAAA No. 2 Colquitt County on September 28.
Meanwhile Eastside (3-0) will rest next week after notching its fifth straight win over a larger classification, and then enter Region 4-AAAA when it travels to North Clayton on September 13.
“It’ll be good to be able to get some people healthy and get ready for a region run,” Hoff said.