COVINGTON, Ga. — Athletic programs nationwide adopt mantras and sayings as a way to motivate the program’s players. Sometimes, those mottos vary from year to year, but that’s not the case for the Eastside Eagles.
For the past several seasons, the Eagles have had the mantra, “Tradition never graduates.”
Out of the 16-member senior class of players, D’Von Duplessis and E’Sean Arnold have taken that mantra to heart.
“‘Tradition never graduates’ for me means setting an example for the underclassmen,” Arnold said.
The “tradition” aspect of the motto is multifaceted.
First and foremost is the Eagles’ stretch of playoff appearances. Eastside’s first round matchup at Calhoun on Saturday, Nov. 12 marked seven years in a row that the Eagles have competed in postseason action.
But, according to Duplessis, it means more than just the results on the gridiron.
“We are sure to be disciplined as a team,” Duplessis said. “We have to do our thing on the field and off the field, then let that carry over to Friday night in that environment.”
Arnold piggybacked on Duplessis’ statement and said that another aspect of the football tradition is playing together as a team.
In fact, that was at the forefront of Duplessis’ mind leaving the field for the final time.
“I was really thinking about how I’m going to miss the atmosphere with the fans and playing with my brothers and coaching staff,” Duplessis said. “We are like a family.”
Arnold feels like the seniors’ family dynamic separates them from past classes that have graduated from Eastside football.
“This senior class has a lot of chemistry,” Arnold said. “We see each other every day and have the strongest bond on and off the field.”
Duplessis and Arnold have played unique roles for the Eagles throughout their careers.
Not only has Duplessis played linebacker for Eastside, but he has served on the team’s offensive unit as a running back and on special teams as well. Arnold has been the Eagles’ starting quarterback the past season and a half in addition to starting on the defense as a safety and handles all punting responsibilities.
And, while Arnold’s personal mantra is “I’m just an athlete who makes plays,” he views his numerous roles as a way to do his part.
“I feel like that’s something you have or you don’t,” Arnold said. “You have to step up.”
Each senior did his fair share in leading the Eagles in their last hurrah.
As quarterback, Arnold completed 63% of his passes while throwing four touchdowns and rushing for an additional three scores with 954 total yards. Defensively, Arnold had the sixth-most tackles with 63 along with an interception. As a punter, Arnold pinned opposing offenses inside the 20-yard line four times. His longest punt on the season was 44 yards.
Duplessis wouldn’t be outdone on defense. He led the unit with 100 total tackles, an interception, nine sacks and 20 tackles for loss. A few times throughout this year, head coach Jay Cawthon drew a fake punt in which Duplessis executed to perfection on many occasions just to give opponents something else to consider.
Both players credited the mantra and coaches as proponents behind their success individually and as a team, which is what being an Eagle football player means to them.
“It’s our standard,” Duplessis said. “Everybody just wants to win. The coaches have a good plan for us and we have good players who have skills to make it happen.”