The Eastside Eagles football team will see plenty of changes in 2014 — a new region, new opponents and new postseason opportunities — but the most startling difference on their 2014 schedule released last week may be the loss of a rival.
The Eagles kick off their season Aug. 15 against Newton High at home in a scrimmage contest, but the preseason battle will be the only time the Eagles and
Rams take the field, ending a 12-year rivalry battle.
Eastside will not host the Rams during the regular season this year, ending its in-county fued with Newton in a deadlocked 6-6 tie.
In a rivalry of streaks, the Eagles had won the last two contests against the Rams, including a 34-28 season-opening victory over Newton in 2013. Newton won three straight from 2003-2005 and again from 2009-2011, with the Eagles winning a trio of consecutive games from 2006-2008.
Eastside won the first contest between the two schools with a 14-7 win over the Rams in 2002.
"We were able to pick up one of the county games this year, but we were still able to keep Newton as a scrimmage game," Eastside coach Rick Hurst said. "We battled within ourselves whether we wanted to have two scrimmage games or use a 10-practice spring season, but in the end, we decided that our guys would get more out of having an extra scrimmage game than practice early in the season."
The Eagles will also take the plunge into Region 4-AAAA this season after moving from Region 8-AAAAA this winter during statewide realignment.
Eastside will play its first region game on the road Sept. 12 at Griffin before hosting Jonesboro a week later in the first home region contest of the year for Homecoming.
The Eagles will host home contests this season against Locust Grove (Oct. 11), Hampton (Oct. 24) and Walnut Grove (Nov. 1). Contests against Locust and Walnut Grove will be played on Saturday, with the Walnut Grove game serving as Senior Night for the Eagles.
In region road action, Eastside will also play at Eagle's Landing Sept. 26 and at Henry County on Oct. 17.
Both of Eastside's non-region match-ups will be on the road this season. The Eagles face Alcovy in the season opener on Aug. 29 before traveling to Madison County a week later to take on the Red Raiders.
"I like our schedule and I think moving to a new region is going to be good for us, especially in terms of travel," Hurst said. "It's not going to be easy. We're going to face the defending state champions in Griffin and they return a lot. We also have a region crossover game with Jonesboro and they're going to be tough. I think we're going to be able to make a postseason run in this region and our schedule is going to prepare us well."
Eastside and Alcovy will renew their rivalry for the ninth time this upcoming season, with the Eagles holding a slight 5-3 edge.
The Eagles have lost two straight to the Tigers after winning the series' first three contests.
Eastside has won three straight over Madison County, including a 31-14 win at home last season.
The Eagles are 7-1 all-time against their upcoming region competition. The Eagles are 2-0 all-time against Eagle's Landing, Locust Grove and Walnut Grove and are 1-1 overall against Henry County. Eastside has never played Griffin, Jonesboro and Hampton County.
Eastside's regular season will wrap up with a region play-in game on Nov. 7 to determine the top four seeds in the region before the opening round of the state playoffs begin on Nov. 14.