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Eastside boys soccer wants to continue blueprint under new regime
EHS boys preview
Members of the Eastside Eagles 2023 team have gone through preseason workouts to help prepare for the season kickoff next week. - photo by Phillip B. Hubbard

COVINGTON, Ga. — For a decade-plus, the Eastside boys soccer program has been under the direction of Eagles alumnus, Champ Young. Now, Eastside will be led by first-year head coach Anthony Williams. 

Even though this is Williams’ first year at the helm, he is far from being unfamiliar to the program.  

In addition to being an assistant last season, Williams received a special gift from Young, who vacated his previous post to accept the promotion to Eastside’s athletic director. 

“One day, [Young] sent me this Google Drive with all of these years’ information on it,” Williams said. “He’s definitely given a solid blueprint and I just want to follow in his footsteps.” 

Don’t be mistaken, though. Williams stressed how he aspires to bring his own flare to what the boys program does and looks like in 2023. 

“I want to bring in a high level of energy and want the kids to have fun at the end of the day,” Williams said. “At the same time, we want to continue the Eastside tradition.” 

Task No. 1 for Williams and assistants Jabari Bennett and Anthony Lee has been replacing Rodney Williams — a player who was an offensive machine a season ago. 

Williams recognized how it’s nearly impossible to replace a player of Rodney’s stature, but there are a few people vying for the mantle. 

Jace Shirah, Ethan Manley and Thomas Hill are all returning starters from last year and, over the offseason workouts, have demonstrated strong leadership. 

There are also some newcomers to the fold such as Matthew Emerson and Benjamin Weaver who took Williams and his staff by surprise in their progression. 

In total, there are 17 players on the varsity squad for the Eagles. But Eastside had plenty of options when tryouts commenced, which was another difficult task Williams had to take on. 

“We had 56 athletes come out for tryouts,” Williams said. “It was a tough three days to try and figure out who would make the final cut.” 

But once the team practices started, Williams realized early on that they made the right choice. 

He has even identified how this team has gelled together almost automatically. 

“Our team’s strength will be the team chemistry and their enjoyment of playing with one another,” Williams said. “Win or lose, I think this group will be solid together.” 

The final, and some might say, the most important task the Eagles have in front of them is a return to the state playoffs. 

Last season, Eastside went 4-10 overall with a sixth place, 2-6 record in Region 8-AAAAA. That marked the first time since 2016 — the 2020 season notwithstanding — the Eagles missed the playoffs. 

Williams was adamant, though, that everything he and his team does on a daily basis will be with the intention of preparing for the state playoffs in 2023. 

“I want to see a commitment to getting better each day,” Williams said. “We want a mentality to not stay the same. Each practice and game, we need to take something that makes us better.”