COVINGTON, Ga. — In the season debut last Friday, Eastside’s defense had an impressive showing shutting out the Luella Lions 34-0. A large part of the defensive prowess began at the line of scrimmage.
The defensive line — composed of sophomores Luke Rister and Xavier Joseph, freshman Decorey Crumbley and senior Jacorey Jackson — was constantly a disruption for the Lions’ offense.
Head coach Jay Cawthon was pleased with what he saw out of, not only this particular unit, but all of his players.
“We got a lot of young guys. We were wanting to see as a coaching staff how they react in front of the lights,” Cawthon said. “I couldn’t ask for any more effort from them. They were on the field the whole second half and they wanted to keep that goose egg up there.”
On multiple occasions, the four lineman were in the backfield, forcing turnovers and, generally, not allowing much room for the ball carriers to move.
Jackson looked back at the group’s work with defensive line coach Anthony Williams over the offseason as a difference maker.
“We got right mentally and physically,” Jackson said. “We have that drive and initiative. It’s our mental state, too, of ‘We’re the best.’ That’s exactly how we’re going to push ourselves to be.”
Jackson had eight total tackles, one tackle for loss, two quarterback hurries and one fumble recovery. Rister contributed a tackle, too, in addition to Crumbley’s four tackles and one quarterback hurry. Joseph concluded the game with five tackles, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry as well.
Following Friday’s outcome, Joseph highlighted how he believed the unit displayed such command.
“Just be better than the man in front of you,” Joseph said. “Have better stamina, have a better drive and just keep outworking them.”
It was the Eagles’ first shutout victory since Sept. 17, 2021 when they downed Johnson at home 65-0. Week one's performance was also coming off a 2022 campaign where the Eagles only allowed an average a 16 points per game and, on eight occasions, didn't surrender more than 14 points.
But a main difference this go round is the youth of the squad across the board, including the defensive line group.
However, Joseph emphasized an aspect the unit worked on in the offseason to counteract the youth.
“We got connected. We think together,” Joseph said. “So, we’re going to show it on the field for real.”
After putting together a game like last Friday seemed to provide a lot of motivation for the Eagles all around. But, for the defensive lineman in particular, they know they have room to grow.
Jackson and Joseph both stressed their desire to improve with their conditioning, pass rush, pursuit to stop the run and “getting off the ball faster.”
By focusing on those areas, Jackson believes the unit can accomplish their ultimate goal to “dominate” the rest of the season.
“We’re just ready to showcase all of it,” Jackson said. “And we’re just getting started, too.”