Pieces of paper hang throughout the Eastside football team's locker room. They've been there all week for players to read as they go about their business - get dressed, whatever. They're not motivational speeches from legendary head coaches or inspirational quotes from great leaders. It's trash talk.
OK, maybe they're there for motivation. Head coach Rick Hurst put them there for just that reason as the Eagles prepare for their second round playoff game tonight against Carrollton at Sharp Stadium. They'll take all the help they can get. It's the playoffs.
Hurst is familiar with the defense. Carrollton defensive coordinator Ronnie Glanton served in the same capacity with Hurst at Americus and the two went all the way to the state title game together in 1997. But he admits a lot has changed in 11 years and he expects Glanton's defense to be well-prepared.
"He's a great friend of mine," Hurst said. "We've been having fun this week, talking back and forth a little bit, but I told the kids, ‘he's a great friend and he was in my wedding, but I want to beat his tail."
The Eagles defeated a sound defensive team last week in Creekview. Offensively, Eastside's line seemed out of sync and the Grizzlies' constant line shifts caused several false start penalties. This week, he expects Carrollton to do the same thing as the motion consistently kept Eastside off balance.
"This defense is as good if not a little better," he said. "Creekview played their butts off and was ready for what we were going to do. We are going to have to stay patient because I expect Ronnie looked at the tape and I'm sure he's going to try and do the same thing."
Offensively, the Trojans do a lot of the same thing the Eagles saw against Creekview. Carrollton's objective will be to keep the ball as along as possible and sustain long drives, something Hurst said he doesn't want to happen.
"They are a lot like Creekview," he said. "Their offensive line is similar and their backs are a little better. They are the type of offense that will go on a 10-play drive and take 10 minutes off the clock and that's frustrating when your offense is sitting over there and can't do anything about it, so we will have to take advantage of our scoring opportunities."
Eastside held Creekview without a first down in the first half and six points for the game. The Trojans will have to deal with the tandem of Jacorey Maddox and Karl Williams who possess great speed and size at the defensive linemen position.
"Our defense is going to have to play well," Hurst said. "I really don't think they [Carrollton] have played somebody a team with the overall team speed that we have and that should play to our advantage."
The Trojans played teams with similar speed with mixed results. Cartersville and Ridgeland have similar defenses and the latter beat Carrollton 28-13 to end the regular season. But Hurst believes even those teams don't trot out the total defensive package the Eagles have shown over the past six games.
"I think our team is faster that Cartersville," he said. "Ridgeland, one of the teams that beat them has good speed too, but overall, I think our 11 run better than anyone they've played."
Stopping the running game will be priority number one and Hurst said he'll pack the box if needed.
Offensively, the Eagles are looking to build on what it found in the second half against Creekview. The Grizzlies managed to hold Eastside to six points in the first half, but the tandem of Rashad Hill and Broderick Alexander wore down the Grizzlies' front and, once the Eagles' back broke, into the secondary, Hill's speed and Alexander's power were able to put the game away in the second half.
Don't be surprised if the Eagles go to the air early and often. Eastside quarterback Justin Wray had his best all around game and passed the ball effectively all night. He will again look to get receivers Antarius Terrell and Andrico Bailey involved early and look for Zach Johnston to be an asset in the slot, especially on third down.
Git Aiken and Alexander will look to establish the run early and Hurst said he will go to Hill as a change of pace.
"They are going to be bound and determined to take away our running game, but we feel like we can come out and throw the ball if we need to," Hurst said. "We want to establish something where we get them off of us a little bit and get them worried about the pass, then I think running lanes will open up and give our guys a chance to run."
Eastside has a chance to do what the 1997 team couldn't. That Eagle team, led by quarterback Matt Schell, fell to Clarkston 14-12 in its second round game.
Hurst knows it won't be easy and the farther his team goes, the tougher it will get.
"I feel good about the game," he said. "You know, you get to this point and you know everybody is good. But I know what we are facing. I told a friend of mine, we win a round and we are rewarded with Carrolton, so it just gets harder each week. Everybody can beat anybody. We're just happy to be here and it will take a total team effort, but I know our kids are ready