The Eastside Eagles capped off a perfect regular season with a 42-28 win over Hampton Friday night. Sportswriter, Tyler Williams breaks down the five things he learned from watching Eastside make history.
1. A win is a win. When it comes to finishing a season with an unblemished record, especially with hardly any time to rest before the playoffs, Eastside was surely relieved to take a win, regardless of how they got it. This game was not as close as the 42-28 final score indicated. The Eagles quickly jumped out to a 35-0 lead with practically the whole second quarter to play. However, not wanting to risk any unnecessary injuries, Hoff began pulling his starters, while Hampton kept their first team on the field. That was when things became interesting. Hampton started playing with more confidence and were able to move the ball better. Once the coaches felt that the 35-14 lead was not comforting enough, the starters came back in to fight off a Hampton comeback attempt, forcing a turnover inside the 5-yard line that led to an insurance score late in the game.
2. Cook’s confidence is soaring. Here is a scary thought: quarterback Noah Cook is only a junior. He still has one more season to play. We’ve witnessed incredible growth from the signal caller from his first start last season against Luella in the opening game, to helping lead his team to a perfect 10-0 regular season record. Everything from his arm strength and accuracy as well as pocket awareness, to his leadership and tenacity gets better with every week he walks onto the gridiron. His moxie is starting to show as well. In post-game interviews, although he remains the humble athlete we’ve known him to be, he now speaks with more fire and more passion. Look for Cook to be one of the best quarterbacks in Class AAAA next year.
3. Unstoppable offense, what’s new? I’ve probably touched on this offense in just about every game story or five things I have written for this team, but the overwhelming amount of words I’ve given to this offensive group is warranted. We know that history was made in an obvious way tonight with the team finishing 10-0, but there is more to it. This offense can control a game by pounding the rock over 40 times like they did in their win over Henry County, or they can create big, explosive passing plays for scores like we’ve seen in several of their games like this win over Hampton. In fact, this offense made history in its own right by shattering the school record for most points in a single season, including regular season and playoffs. I know that there have been some defensive scores this season, but when you take those away, Eastside’s offense is still on a record-breaking pace.
4. The History Continues. First, it was becoming region champions for the first time since 2009. Then, with their win over the Hornets, they finish the regular season 10-0, something that has never been done in the 70 seasons of high school football that have taken place in Newton County. This milestone will definitely be a memorable one for this Eagles team and their supporters. Although it wasn’t the prettiest of wins, seeing the players and coaches embrace for the accomplishment may be something we could see next season, or in another 70 seasons. Regardless, this team has everything to be proud of for the moment, and there isn’t a better way to enter the playoffs than with the momentum of having a zero in the loss column.
5. A “new season” begins now. Coaches, including head coach Troy Hoff, say it all the time; The playoffs mark the beginning of a new season in high school football. Once its playoff time, all of the regular season accomplishments go out the window, and its simply about beating your opponents and moving on or going home. Eastside’s opponent has yet to be determined, but they will host the No. 4 seed from Region 1-AAAA. Playing at Sharp will be a big advantage for the Eagles, but they will have to remain focused if they don’t want their magical season to end in one week’s time. I fully expect Hoff and his staff to have his guys ready regardless of who they play.