In a rivalry contest that only carries the weight of talk on social media between students at Eastside and Newton, the Eagles fell to their county rivals 27-7 in a scrimmage on Friday.
“I thought we came out the gate really well. We talked, start fast finish strong,” Troy Hoff, Eagles’ head coach, said.
Eastside looked stellar on their first drive, the only scoring drive of the game for them. Quarterback austin Holloway looked as ripe as ever, tossing the ball all over the field for crucial first downs as well as the Eagles’ lone touchdown.
The brightest star on the night, however, was Eastside running back Eric Stokes. Stokes, a 400-meter state champion in Region 4-AAAA coming off his sophomore year, was like a lighting bolt of speed on the field. The kid literally blew by the competition. He had two carries that went for 20-plus yards and his best carry came when he saw his whole blocked off and he reversed field racing down the sideline to get into Newton territory.
Stokes, Holloway and receiver Josh Sims are the staples on offense for Eastside, and they all showed why on friday night (Josh had a 50-plus yard touchdown score called back on a penalty).
“I’m not surprised by ‘em anymore. We’ve seen the standard of play that they’ve set so we expect it. Even though they’re only juniors they’ve set that bar high for themselves and they expect it,” Hoff said.
“As coaches we couldn’t ask for much better, they’re leaders of our team. Those two (Sims and Holloway) are captains, Caleb Allen and Cody Mash are our captains along with those two and they set the tone for us. Not only them, there’s a core group of guys that are playing really hard, playing together and everybody else kind of feeds off ‘em. From what they did tonight, very happy.”
Eastside lost star defensive end, Arthur Holmes but look to have added some size on the defensive line. The starters only gave up two touchdowns, so Eastside shouldn’t be a slouch defensively this year.
Execution, was Hoff’s biggest concern coming from the game. The team didn’t try and scheme up a way to beat Newton, because it was a scrimmage, but Hoff and his staff wanted to see if they could execute certain plays and what they’d do in certain situations. He says, that’s where they need to improve.
“We wanted to get out there, execute, push the tempo a little bit and just evaluate us against somebody else. Coach [Terrance] Banks and I talked, at this point you’re tired of hitting each other, it’s time to see how we’re gonna respond, see some situational football. Gives us a chance to see a third-and-two when it’s on the line and when you know what we’re gonna call, how our kids are gonna respond and attitude and effort,” Hoff said.
“We came out, execution isn't there, he added. “We did some things really good, I just told them, the effort’s there, but we gotta clean a lot of things up. Very, very happy with how they approached the game and how hard they played. I can’t say that’s the issues, but execution, as a coach, both sides of the ball, execution we gotta get better.”
Hoff added that his line on both sides of the ball has to get acclimated to rotating out on plays and playing a full game. He said he was thankful Newton pushed the tempo because that’s what the kids need to get used to/
Banks himself, believes Eastside will be a playoff team this year, and it’s likely with the talent that they have that they’ll get past the first round again.
“We’re just looking to take one more step forward and get better,” Hoff said.