It takes the testimony of a pair of Eastside seniors to rightly summarize Eagles’ progress after last week.
After losing its region opener to Luella, the Eastside Boys’ soccer team needed a strong display against Chestatee High School, ranked No. 9 in Class AAAA, to cement themselves as a threat in their region.
Despite a 1-0 loss to Chestatee, the Eagles, indeed, showed their grit and toughness. And that’s what has senior Billy Love encouraged.
“I think the team is doing generally well,” Love said. “(In our last game) we just had spots where we were unable to finish. We can compete with any team out there, in my opinion.”
Not much happened in Friday’s game with Chestatee to dispute that. Chestatee showcased its attacking threats early on in the game with some impressive passing, Eastside dropped more players behind the ball in order to help strengthen their defense and keep their opponents out of their defensive third.
That change in play-style, however, gave Chestatee the chance to maintain possession and the War Eagles delivered several chances on goal within the first 20 minutes of the game. Finally, at the 21:00 mark, Chestatee capitalized after one of its wingers made a pacey run down the field, which drew Eastside’s defense out of position, allowing him to pick out a pass to Chestatee’s striker who placed a header into the bottom corner of Eastside’s goal for a 1-0 lead.
Eastside continued to attack, despite the goal and proceeded to maintain some good possession for the rest of the first half, but were still unable to score.
The Eagles had their chances, however.
As the second half edged on, Eastside looked destined to grab an equalizer after Jackson Jolley came up on a 1-on-1 situation with Chestatee’s keeper at the edge of the box, but Jolley couldn’t find the net. Another opportunity came just minutes later as Eastside won a free kick just outside of the penalty area, which was placed perfectly for a header, but the effort scraped the top of the net, inches away from a goal.
Still down by one goal and with just a few minutes left in the game, Eastside would find one more golden opportunity to score. With two minutes left in the game, the Eagles had an opportunity with a well-placed pass by Eastside’s Billy Love finding Chestatee’s final third, but no one was there to capitalize.
The loss dropped Eastside’s record to 5-4-1 on the season, ahead of two region matches in the coming week. Both Eastside boys and girls will play host to Woodward on Tuesday and then travel to Henry County on Thursday. And senior Will Gregory believes these upcoming region matches will tell the story of what he believes is his team’s upward trend.
“We’re a team with senior leadership, but we have underclassmen playing key roles who are stepping up as of late,” Gregory said. “We’re just starting to hit our stride with 16 goals in the last four games, so I’m excited for our remaining region matches.”
Gabriel Stovall also contributed to this report.