COVINGTON, Ga - With multiple key injuries, The Eastside Eagles could not overcome the missing talent and lost at home against the Woodward Academy War Eagles in a lopsided 49-7 game.
There was no Jeff Haynes, no Colby Shivers, no Terrence Reid, and even no Kenai Grier, who was a game-time scratch to help the Eagles get going on offense.
Grier has been the Eagles leading rusher in Reid's absence, but he was also dealing with some ailments that kept him out of the game.
With so many injuries plaguing the Eagles, head coach Troy Hoff knew this game would be an uphill battle for his squad, but he also knew this was not an excuse for his team.
"They're a good football team, and I tip my hat to them. They've got some studs, and they're rolling. It obviously hurts us, but I'm not going to make excuses and say that's why they beat us," said Hoff. "That's the nature of this game. It's a next-man-up game, and sometimes that happens, and that's the unfortunate part of it."
It was an auspicious start for Eastside, as Woodward Academy only took two plays in less than a minute to drive 80 yards down the field and score a touchdown.
The Eagles quickly responded with a 13-play drive that ended with a beautifully thrown pass by Noah Cook to Dallas Johnson for 33 yards and the score. Johnson caught the pass at about the 10-yard line and broke a couple of tackles before jogging into the end zone.
The Eagles did an excellent job of converting third downs on their initial drive as they converted four consecutive third-down opportunities on their opening possession.
However, the War Eagles would take the game over from that point on and ultimately command the flow of the game. After Eastside's first drive, which ended in a touchdown, Woodward Academy closed out the game with 42 unanswered points.
Lapses in coverage allowed the War Eagles to get huge chunks of yardage quickly on offense, and Hoff knows that consistency is an area that has defense will have to improve. This defensive group will have some growing pains, and Hoff knows they will have to get back to work to clean up those issues.
"We played sound defense, but it's a consistency issue," said Hoff. "We got to coach that better top to bottom, and it starts with me, and we got to go back to work this week."
These defensive mistakes led to a dominant performance from the War Eagles senior quarterback Mike Wright, who made plays with his legs and his feet all night long, finishing with 295 passing yards and four touchdown passes while also having 86 rushing yards and a single rushing touchdown.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Eagles struggles continued, and beyond their first drive, they had difficulty earning positive yards. For the rest of the game, even earning first down yardage was hard to come by for the Eagles. These issues ultimately led to the War Eagles having plenty of opportunities with the ball to close out the game.
It was an all-around tough night for the Eagles, but this is a game that they must quickly forget and get back on track with more region opponents ahead on the schedule.
In fact, this game was arguably the most stringent test on the Eagles remaining schedule, but they know they cannot let up with any of their remaining region opponents if they hope to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Hoff echoed the sentiment of moving on from this game and is eager to get his guys back to work after this game as they look to rebound.
"Go back to work Monday, and if we run the table, we host number 11 right here," said Hoff. "We've been in this boat before, and it doesn't end the season. We've got an opportunity still in front of us to accomplish things we want to accomplish."
This Eagles team has the talent to do just what Hoff is hoping to do and when some of their key players get healthy, they should be heavily involved in playoff contention.
Next week, the Eagles will look to get back in the win column as they go on the road for another region matchup and set their sights on the Salem Seminoles on Friday, Oct. 18.