Despite all that went wrong for Eastside leading up to Friday’s winner-take-all season finale at Henry County, the Eagles still had a shot at the playoffs. Late turnovers proved to be too much to overcome though and the Warhawks will be the region’s fourth playoff team after a 34-24 win.
The Eagles trailed 27-24 with two minutes remaining in the game and had a chance to mount a tying or go-ahead drive but fumbled a punt return and gave the Warhawks the ball back and they quickly scored to seal a 10-point win.
“It was a great game we just made some mistakes that hurt us,” Eastside coach Rick Hurst said. “You can’t do that against a good team. They had some players that made some plays. What makes me proud is we never quit. We kept playing hard and seeing how they respond when things aren’t going their way, that’s what the joy of this job is.”
The loss ended Eastside’s three-year playoff run. The Eagles finished 5-5 overall after losing four of their last five games. By virtue of finish at .500, Eastside avoided its second losing season under Hurst.
“With all that went wrong this year — with all the injuries, we fought to the very end,” Hurst said. “We just couldn’t recover. Starting 4-1 but then going through that stretch made it tough. I wanted to get in (the playoffs) more than anything but you know that doesn’t always happen.”
Demario Terrell threw a pair of touchdown passes to Dante Blackmon but also threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns.
Eastside trailed 20-17 late in the fourth quarter when Terrell threw his second pick six.
Justin Bates responded with a long kickoff return down to the Henry County 8 and Blackmon caught a 6-yard touchdown pass to get Eastside with three with 4:01 left in the game.
The defense held Henry County to a three-and-out but Quan Moton tried to make a play on a tough bounce on the punt and was unable to recover the mistake.
Henry County took over at its own 22-yard line and scored a meaningless touchdown late.
The Eagles drove down the field but ran out of time inside the 10-yard line.
Both teams made plays on defense. Blake Rouse and Bates each made key interceptions in their final games. The Eagles capitalized off Rouse’s to score a touchdown and Bates’ came in the end zone when Henry County looked like it was going to score.
Terrell threw three interceptions but also impressed coaches with his play. In only his second start, the sophomore got a jump start on what Eastside hopes will be a bright future.
“The kids played hard. They laid everything out tonight,” Hurst said. “As a coach, that’s all I can ask for and I’m proud of them. We have a bright future. I saw a lot of good things out of these kids over the past month or so. We'll be back”