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Eastside football expects to be 'underclassmen driven' in 2023
EHS Spring Football
Across 10 practice sessions in May, Eastside went through various drills in preparation for the 2023 football season. - photo by Phillip B. Hubbard

COVINGTON, Ga. — For the past few weeks, the Eastside football team has been going through spring practice. The Eagles have registered 10 days of padded practice across May 1 and the 10th day was on May 19. 

Head coach Jay Cawthon — who is entering his third season as head coach — shared his impressions of the players’ progression. 

“The kids are doing everything we ask every single day in the weight room, on the field and on the track. I can’t ask anything more of them,” Cawthon said. “It’s a process in the spring. We have a lot of new faces out here and they’re learning. So, we’re not playing as fast as we will be. All in all, I’m happy.” 

Over 90 students participated in the practices, which bodes well for a squad who graduated many players from the 2022 squad. 

Players like 3-star linebacker Jean Claude Joseph III, D’Von Duplessis, who recorded 100 tackles last year, quarterback E’Sean Arnold and star running back Kenai Grier were included in the class of 2023. 

Only 10 seniors will be a part of next year’s squad and, with that, Cawthon expects underclassmen to step up. 

“We lost some good guys. We had seven signed to an NCAA school,” Cawthon said. “But we also have a lot of kids returning that actually played in the fire. It’s a good mix. We have some new faces out here that are trying football for the first time and there’ve been a couple of surprises. 

“I think it’s going to be an underclass driven team. Not to say our seniors won’t lead by example and do a great job, but it’s a small senior class.” 

But Cawthon highlighted many players on both sides of the ball who he expects to build off of their showings from a season ago. 

On offense, Cawthon mentioned offensive linemen junior Tagen Brown and Carlton Belgrave, junior running back Jayden Barr and sophomore gunslinger Payton Shaw. 

Senior Jacorey Jackson returns to anchor the defensive unit with the help of junior safety Elijah Davis, junior linebacker Bailey Benson as well as sophomore defensive end Xavier Joseph. 

Following back-to-back weeks off — the week of Eastside’s graduation on May 26 and the Georgia High School Association’s first dead week the week of May 29 — Eastside will be back at it for summer workouts beginning Tuesday, June 6. 

Over the summer, the Eagles will compete in three passing leagues at Union Grove, a padded camp at Social Circle on June 27-28 and a final padded camp from July 17-18 at Parkview. 

Heading into what Cawthon refers to as Eastside's “second quarter” of the season, Cawthon is eager to answer one big question. 

“We’re throwing a lot at them right now and their heads are swimming. But we’re just working to install stuff and getting in shape and seeing what our identity is going to be,” Cawthon said.

“From year to year, your identity changes. The last couple of years, we’ve been really run heavy. I personally think you’ve got to run the football to be able to win. That’s what I’m looking forward to is seeing what our identity is going to be.”