First-year Eastside head coach Troy Hoff earned his first career victory with a 41-0 thrashing of Alcovy to open the season. Hoff has been with the team for a decade and finally got his chance to be a head coach after Rick Hurst left to coach Pepperell. The coaching staff awarded Hoff the game ball.
“Coach [Offensive Coordinator Jay] Cawthon got that for me,” Hoff said smiling. “We've been together for 10 years. Him coach [Frankey] Iverson, and myself, coach [Nathan] Ogle came a year later. It's more than just we worked together. It is family and friends, it's deeper than that. That's what makes this so much fun.”
Eastside came out swinging and never stopped as they ran off to a quick 28-0 lead by halftime over Alcovy, as the Tigers struggled to keep from giving the ball back to Eastside whether it was via penalties or turnovers.
On their first drive, Eastside drove 76 yards in a matter of minutes and junior Eric Stokes punched it in with a 19-yard touchdown run after junior quarterback Austin Holloway got them into Alcovy territory with a 32 yard run just a few plays earlier.
The weather was dry in the mid 70s, but Alcovy handled the ball like it was raining, bobbling snaps and fumbling the ball. That's what the Tigers did after securing a first down, courtesy of a scramble by sophomore starting QB Quindrelin Hammonds, on their opening drive. Two plays after the seven-yard run to secure a first down, Alcovy running back Chris Stewart coughed up the ball and the Eagles recovered.
Eastside was back in business until Alcovy's defense put the team in a third and long, but Holloway rolled out to his right, pump faked, side-stepped a defender and took off for an eight yard run that left the team just short of a first. The Eagles gave the ball to their bruising back, Andrew Henderson, and he picked up the first down.
The Eagles would get two more first downs on the drive to get in the red zone, but an illegal blocking penalty set them back. However, it wasn't enough, as Holloway threw a 13-yard dart to Brayden Harper as he tip-toed in catching the ball just before stepping out and getting a first down. Stokes weaved his way in to the endzone on the subsequent play and the Eagles were up 14-0 with just over four minutes to play in the first quarter.
Alcovy's offense struggled to pick up any momentum and Eastside forced a three-and-out with excellent defensive line play. Eastside sophomore receiver Josh Sims fair caught the ball near midfield and Holloway connected with Sims on the first play from scrimmage for a 17-yard gain to get into Tiger territory.
The Tigers' defense likely would have forced a stop after batting down a Holloway pass on third down, but a late-hit penalty pushed the Eagles closed to the end-zone. Eagle running back Anthony Brown scampered for 13 yards and Holloway found Sims near the back of the end-zone wide open on the five-yard touchdown pass. It was Eastside's third drive of the game and their third touchdown.
Alcovy had a little momentum going on its third drive of the game when running back James Bell picked up nine yards on his first two carries. There was a fumble on the handoff on the following play, but Alcovy fell on the ball, still one yard short of a first. The Tigers decided to go for it on fourth and one, but quickly picked up a penalty for a false start and head coach Kirk Hoffman elected to punt.
The Eagles' offense stalled on its next two drives, thanks in large part to the play of Alcovy's defensive line. On their fourth drive of the game the Eagles had only one play that gained positive yardage as junior Chris Ligon picked up a sack and the Tigers sniffed out a screen play on to Sims on third down.
Eastside sent a punt back into Alcovy territory, but the Tigers fumbled it immediately and Eastside recovered it yet again. The Eagles were flagged for holding on a play that saw Bryant Montgomery pick up a sack and the Tigers backed the Eagles into a second and 37. Eastside wouldn't get more than 17 yards and they punted again.
A holding penalty helped give Alcovy its second first down of the night, despite two fumbles on the same drive, Alcovy managed to recover both. The Tigers couldn't work anymore magic and were forced to punt again.
Holloway shined on Eastside's final scoring drive before halftime. He accounted for all 85 yards with a screen pass to Anthony Brown that went for 29 yards, a run that went for 21 and a beautiful 35-yard touchdown bomb to Sims. The Eagles led 28-0 at halftime.
Sims would score one more touchdown and that was pretty much it for the Eastside starters although they added a final touchdown to make it 41-0 with just over two minutes left in the game.
Eastside ran the ball for over 200 yards and used their effective rushing attack to set up successful screen passes and play-action. Three of the Eagles' touchdowns were runs.
“We always want to run the football. We go into every game looking at how we can run the football and pretty much everything’s gonna come from that whether it be playaction pass or our screen game, but it all starts with the run. So our guys take a lot of pride in that,” Hoff said. “When we go to game-plan that’s what we look at first. What can you run? What fronts do you like? The o-line and those guys seem to find a way. I always tell our o-line, ‘They don’t need huge holes they need seams and gaps.’ We just create it for ‘em because they’re gonna find ‘em.”
“We got out the gate really well and were able to push the tempo and do some things. Still got some things to clean up, they gave us a few looks we didn't handle real well, but overall I'm pleased with how we've made some adjustments and fixed some things,” Hoff added. “Kids responded well, they were ready to play.They had a good week of practice and felt confident going into the game and we prepared that way.”
Hoff added that he was proud of his guys and that the win was a team effort.
Alcovy on the other hand, has some work to do. They’re inexperienced so the game action they get before region play should help the team when the games count toward the postseason.
Hammonds is still a sophomore along with a number of other players for Alcovy, so they’ll grow together.
“You gotta battle,” Kirk Hoffman, Alcovy head coach said. “He's a young kid. Never played quarterback and he made some mistakes, but he did some good things. I think we had 15 kids, that was the first time they've ever had a varsity snap. The times we looked good then we gave up big plays, that's what killed us on defense.”
On defense Alcovy had its moments, they forced a few three-and-outs and got pressure on the QB. Their line play was especially consistent.
“The defensive line should be our strong suit, we've got a couple older kids there and I think you saw that tonight. I thought defensively what hurt us was the big play. For the most part I thought we shot down what he had to, but then we just missed some tackles. You've gotta make big plays and get off the field,” Hoffman said.
The Tigers finished the game with over 10 penalties which Hoffman accepted full responsibility for.
“My fault and I'm gonna correct that. First game and you're gonna have those penalties. Some of them were just in the moment penalties, and that's not Alcovy football and I'm gonna fix that,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman added that they're young and they'll bounce back.
“If we keep getting better and better. We can be pretty good in the end,” Hoffman said.