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Eagles use scrimmage as measuring stick for 2021
Eastside Scrimmage
Saabir Berrian (1) collects an 11-yard touchdown completion for Eastside during the team’s scrimmage in Monroe on Aug. 12. - photo by Garrett Pitts

MONROE, Ga. — The Eagles came up short in a hard-fought scrimmage against the Monroe Area Hurricanes on Aug. 12 as they lost 35-28 in the high scoring shootout.

This is the first season as head coach for former offensive coordinator Jay Cawthon, and the scrimmage against a tough Monroe Area team would be a good test to see where the team is at as the 2021 season quickly approaches.

The Hurricanes got the ball to open the game, but it would be the Eagles that would open strong as senior Ramon Hernandez would come up with the fumble recovery for Eastside.

“We [have] a lot of kids on defense who have never played on Friday night, we thought we might get hit early,” Cawthon said. “But they [turned it up] and they were flying around.”

Following a three and out from the Eastside offense, Monroe Area would not miss their next opportunity as the Hurricane offense would drive down the field and eventually score on a touchdown pass from quarterback Selatian Straughter Jr. to put them ahead 7-0.

On the next Hurricane drive, the Eagles defense would force their second turnover as senior Jonathan Wright would pick up the fumble inside Monroe Area territory to set up junior quarterback Johnny Crowe with great field position. Crowe would not waste any time as he found junior wideout Saabir Berrian for the 11-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.

The celebration would be short lived as it would only take the Hurricanes one play to strike back as Straughter Jr. would score again on a 79-yard touchdown pass to open the next Monroe Area drive and take the lead 14-14.

The second quarter would start off slow for both teams, but the last five minutes before halftime both teams started to pick up the pace. Multiple big plays from Crowe to drive the Eagles down the field led to a 15-yard rushing touchdown by senior Dallas Johnson to tie the game back up at 14-14.

During last season, the Eagles were a run first offense due to an injury at the quarterback position, but the addition of Crowe into the offense can open new doors for what the team is capable of.

“[Having a consistent pass game] means they cannot stack the box against us since we can attack outside more, we think we need a good balance,” Cawthon said.

During the last two minutes of the half, the Hurricanes would put together two scoring drives by Straughter Jr. as two passing touchdowns would give Monroe Area a sizeable 28-14 lead going into halftime.

As the second half of the game began, the starters for both teams took a seat to give playing time to the second and third teams for both Eastside and Monroe Area.

“[The younger players] practice just as hard as the varsity,” Cawthon said. “It Is good to see them play, and it was exciting to see them succeed.”

The third quarter would be scoreless for both teams as the defenses dominated coming out of the break.

The game would go without a score until the last three minutes of the fourth quarter as the Hurricanes would connect on another big passing touchdown to extend their lead to 35-14.

During the final minutes, the Eagles were able to put together a few scoring drives to bring the game closer. Junior quarterback E’sean Arnold would find junior wideout Aeron Gresham down the middle of the field for the 40-yard touchdown pass.

A quick stop from the defense would allow the Eagles to score on their last drive of the game on a 3-yard rush from freshman Tyler Marks to bring the final score to 35-28 and a win for the Hurricanes ahead of the new season.

Despite a loss in the scrimmage, Cawthon believes the team is ready and will use the next week off to piece together the team ahead of week one.

“In two weeks, I think our guys will be ready to go up to the hostile environment in Winder- Barrow,” Cawthon said.

The Eagles will open their 2021 season on the road in a non-region game as they take on the Winder Barrow Bulldogs Friday, Aug. 27.