The Eastside Eagles have shown strengths in all three aspects of their game this football season, with the offense, defense and special teams all coming through with big performances.
However, all three aspects haven't yet come together at the same time. The Eagles are 2-2 headed into their second Region 8-AAAA game of the season at Madison County today, looking to snap a two-game skid.
To do so Eastside will need to continue the defense that forced nine turnovers in its first two games and improve on special teams, which tallied a 45-yard field goal and provided strong field position but couldn't convert a two-point conversion in last Friday's 57-56 double-overtime loss to Chestatee. They also need to build on the offense that tallied 429 yards against the War Eagles.
Eastside has failed to put all aspects together in its last two games, with the offense committing key turnovers in a 24-10 loss to Alcovy on Sept. 14 and the defense faltering in last Friday's loss to Chestatee.
"We didn't play well defensively, and I have to give them credit, they do what they do and they did it very well," Hurst said. "They stuck with the game plan and did exactly what we thought they would do.
"Any time you score 56 points, you have to win. The defense didn't play Friday like we've played here for the last seven years."
That defensive unit played against Chestatee without two of its star players in Antonius Sims and Marcus Griffeth. Sims has been out since hurting himself in the first week of the season, a 32-0 win against Newton, and Griffeth served a suspension at Chestatee. Anthony Henderson was also out.
Hurst said he thinks Henderson will play today, while he is hopeful that Sims can return against Lanier Oct. 12. Griffeth will make his return today as well, marking his first game since coming up with 11 tackles, an interception, two forced fumbles and one fumble return against Alcovy.
"I expect him to have a great game," Hurst said.
Alex Smith returned from a suspension against Chestatee and had a great performance of his own, rushing for 128 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries. He will continue to be a go-to option for Eastside as it travels to Madison County.
Helping the cause will be the return of offensive lineman Jared Floyd.
"Having Jared Floyd back, that's a huge lift for the offensive line and the whole offensive unit," Hurst said.
The Eagles offense will be going against a Madison County defensive unit that has given up 30.5 points per game, just 0.2 points less than the Eagles have scored per game this year. Madison County has lost all four of its games, including a 49-0 defeat against North Oconee on Sept. 14 and a 14-7 loss to Lanier last week.
"They're a quality opponent even though their 0-4," Hurst said. They have been outscored but they've done a lot of things to hurt themselves.
We need to take advantage of the situations they put us in and hopefully we'll come out on top."