ATLANTA, Ga. — Smash-mouth football is the only way you can describe the Eastside Eagle’s domination of the Druid Hills Red Devils in their first region 4-AAAA game since the season opener against Luella.
A 52-14 final was amassed to the tune of 424 yards of total offense, with 324 of that coming on the ground.
“We always come out trying to establish the run,” said Eastside coach, Troy Hoff after stating the ground-and-pound attack just “kind of happened” during the game.
“We had them in some looks we liked and challenged the offensive line to come out and establish the run,” Hoff said.
The depth of the running attack was on full display as seven different players, including quarterback Brayden Harper carried the ball tonight.
“We feel like we have a great set of backs, even all the way down to the babies as freshmen,” Hoff said. “If they can get loose, they are hard to tackle.”
Hoff also noted with a laugh that running seven different players was part of the plan once the game got out of hand.
“You don’t go into the game thinking you will run all seven that much, but with a running clock, those guys need reps.”
Those reps were not an issue to pass around tonight as three different backs toted the rock more than five times. The team’s leading rusher was freshman Quincy Cullins, who totaled 94 yards on seven carries.
However, the game didn’t start out as dominant as the Eagles had hoped.
With Eastside getting the ball first, Harper threw an interception on third down that would set up an eight-play, 32-yard drive resulting in the first score of the game for the Red Devils to take the early lead.
They wouldn’t score again until eight minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles would take the ball right back, and in methodical fashion, march 77 yards down the field in seven plays, including a 36-yard pass from Harper to Jordan Rogers.
It was only the beginning of an Eagles scoring spree in the first half, as they hurried down the field again on their next possession, running just three plays that led to a 14-7 lead late in the first.
The special teams wanted a piece of the action as well, as they blocked a Red Devil’s punt deep in their own territory that was scooped up by Spurgeon Gaither near the endzone. Gaither would score on the play to extend Eastside’s lead.
“We take that third phase (special teams) of the game seriously,” Hoff said. “We spend a lot of time in it, and those guys executed, bottom line.”
Heading into the second quarter, senior running back Taylor Carter would punch in the next two touchdowns for the Eagles, one being off a 22-yard screen pass, while the other was a 3-yard run to increase his touchdown total to three for the game.
Even with the ball back with 49 seconds left in the half, the Eagles would not let up. It only took two runs of 31 and 19 yards for Cullins to find the endzone, and ensure the second half would be one with a running clock.
The defense, despite having most of the starters getting rest in the second half, played just as dominant as they blew up more than a few of Druid Hills’ plays for negative yards.
“The defense just settled in,” Hoff said. “They didn’t get rattled despite the start of the game, and they just settled down and played football.”
The Red Devils were finally able to respond to Eastside’s 49 unanswered points, scoring a touchdown with eight minutes to go in the game, but the Eagles would respond with their final touchdown of the game with a 15-yard run by Cullins for his second touchdown of the night to seal the 52-14 victory.
While running the ball 27 times for 324 yards with an average of 12 yards per rush was more than enough to get past their first of a string of region games to cap off the regular season, Hoff always knows there is room to grow and improve, despite meeting an 0-5 Henry County Warhawks at Sharp Stadium next Friday.
“We busted some things,” he said. “You can’t get away with those things all the time. We were able to overcome them, but we want to start faster. I wasn’t happy with the way we started the game, and we have some things to clean up, but from there we just need to keep going.”
The Eagles (5-1, 2-0) will host the Henry County (0-5) Friday October 6 at Sharp Stadium with a 7:30 kickoff time.