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PREP ATHLETICS: Eastside has up and down year amid coming change
Eastside’s softball team advanced to the Sweet 16 in the Class 5A state playoffs in 2021. - photo by Covington News/File Photo

COVINGTON, Ga. — The 2021-22 year featured a little bit of everything for Eastside athletics. From playoff appearances and records being broken, to rare down seasons in basketball and soccer, the Eagles had an up and down year. 

It all began with fall sports. 

For football, the Eagles qualified for the state playoffs, marking six straight appearances. They also advanced to the second round before being eliminated. Softball made a deep push into the playoffs, going all the way to the Sweet 16. 

Both teams saw program records broken, too. 

Natalie Ray reset the softball team’s record for most stolen bases in a Lady Eagle career, and in football, Dallas Johnson broke the program’s singleseason rushing record. 

Later in the fall semester, the Eagles’ wrestling team swept county rivals Alcovy and Newton to claim the Newton Cup. 

During the winter seasons, the boys and girls basketball teams took a step backward. The girls team endured a rebuilding season with a young, inexperienced squad while the boys were one win away from returning to the postseason for the second year in a row. 

Eastside’s swimming team, though, made headlines in 2021-22 by sending multiple swimmers who qualified for the state swim meet in February. 

The spring season teams also featured a few setbacks. 

In baseball, the Eagles finished sixth in region standings and missed the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons. For the two soccer programs, the Lady Eagles were first round exits and the boys soccer team missed the playoffs, too. 

The track team, though, had an impressive showing. Michael Simmons for the Eagles placed first at the state meet in the 200-meter dash as well as earned a second place finish in the 400-meter. 

Eastside’s golf team had Sam Harper qualify for the state match, too. 

Retiring athletic director Phil Davidson spoke highly of the quality programs he’s leaving behind at Eastside. 

“I thought we were competitive [this past year] across the board,” Davidson said. “We were in a tough region, which played a part. Then, coming out of COVID was a challenge again this year. But I feel like there is a great future with coaches and players coming up. I think it’s going to be a good thing for the future.” 

In addition to a new athletic director next year, the 2022-23 school year will feature some new faces for Eastside athletics. 

Champ Young will serve as the department’s athletic director, Cody Walker will be the Eagles’ new baseball coach and, with Young’s promotion from boys soccer coach, a new person will be at the helm of that program. 

On top of that, the Eagles will be in a brand new school building beginning next year, too. 

All in all, Young said he’s excited to see what the future holds for each Eagles’ athletic program. 

“We don’t want individual teams,” Young said. “We want programs that kids can see five to six years ahead of time when they get here. They can come to those camps, get here as freshmen and it’s a commitment across the board that they understand what it means to be an Eastside Eagle.”