Troy Hoff has spent 12 years with the Eastside High football program. During that time he’s served as an assistant coach, and is now in his second season at the helm after taking over for Rick Hurst who brought the program to prominence.
We had a chance to catch up with Hoff after a recent practice to talk with him about the progress of Eastside football and what he’s learning about his team as it chases another playoff berth after a 2015 postseason hiatus.
Also, make sure to pick up a Sunday edition of The Covington News for our feature on highly touted Eastside defensive back, Eric Stokes.
The Covington News: Coach, you’ve been here at Eastside for a long time in various capacities. How have you seen this program evolve over time?
Hoff: “Well I’ve got the unique perspective of having been here to see it rebuild. This is a pretty interesting school. It started as transition school, and the numbers kind of changed and we got caught in a tough transition. But really it’s all about kids and players. We’ve been fortunate to have good players over the years, and now our enrollment fit, I think, is where we can be competitive, from there it’s just about us sticking to our plan. We’ve got good kids, great administration and a really, really good coaching staff. With all those things in place, let’s play ball.”
TCN: You talked about “the process” and sticking with the plan with your kids after practice. How would you describe that plan?
Hoff: “It’s every rep, every day. In the classroom and outside the classroom. It’s about not looking too far outside of ourselves. Every day we talk about controlling what we can control. At practice it’s all about showing and doing the little things to get better. I think these last two days of practice you’ve really seen that. They know they don’t play on Friday, but they still got in two good days of technique work. We preach that every rep matters, and when you concentrate on those things it tends to show up on Friday night.”
TCN: Last week you guys had a pretty tough, 44-6 loss to a great Woodward Academy team. What does a football team take from losing by that kind of margin?
Hoff: It’s little things, details and execution. I mean we played hard. It definitely wasn’t effort an effort thing. When you play a really good team as they are, you can’t let little details slip. And that means I’ve gotta coach better and we’ve got to play better. It’s top to bottom, but it’s the little things, and they are fixable. A team like Woodward is tough to defend and move the ball against anyway. That might be the best team I’ve seen in four or five years. They don’t have weaknesses. That makes you play every snap and assignment. It’s about execution, and if you don’t do it, a team like that, they’ll take advantage of it.”
TCN: This season, who would you say are some of your team’s top pace setters? Who’s been consistent for you?
Hoff: “For us, I think it starts with the quarterback. With Austin (Holloway) being the field general, you know, it’s usually about the quarterback. He sets the tempo for us at quarterback, particularly now that he’s back healthy and he’s got us playing good football. Then we look at the offensive and defensive lines collectively. We have Josh Sims right now, and a few injuries. We’re struggling a little with that. We’re not the same team we were four or five weeks ago, and it’s frustrating. But (injuries) is the thing we can’t control in this game. I hate it for our seniors who, some of them were highly decorated. But that’s just the way of the game.”
TCN: How big is the Salem game next Friday?
Hoff: Big, big game. They’re playing good football. It’s gonna be a great challenge, and it should be a good environment with us being at home and it being senior night. It’s definitely important in the region and for the playoffs. And it’s going to be big for Salem too. They’re going after the same things we are. Anytime you’ve got a region game combined with dealing with that kind of adversity it’s a big game.”
TCN: You told your players after practice that all of this team’s goals are still in front of them. What are the goals of this squad as of today?
Hoff: “Get in the playoffs and host a first round game. Any time you can do that you give yourself as shot. Not saying we can’t do that on the road, but you’d love to get game 11 at home. And, I mean, when you get in the tournament it’s all about who’s playing the best football – who gets hot. It’s matchups and all that, and you see crazy things happen in the playoffs. So, yeah, our goal is to get there, and once you get there, everything resets. Everybody’s 0-0 and you just play football. We’re excited about the opportunity. Friday night will be fun, for both of us. Like I said before, Salem’s got as much on the line as we do.”