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PREP FOOTBALL: Eagles amped for Jackson County
Eastside FB
Eastside will be playing its second Thursday night game of the season this week. In their last Thursday game, the Eagles rolled over Apalachee with ease. - Mason Wittner | The Covington News

COVINGTON, Ga. — For the second time this season, the Eastside football team will be taking the field at Sharp Stadium on a Thursday night.

This time around, the Eagles (5-2, 3-1) were afforded more time to prepare. They were idle last week for a scheduled bye. Now, they’ll return home for the first time since Oct. 8 to host Jackson County (3-4, 2-2) in a Region 8-AAAAA meeting.

“Coming out of a bye week to play on a Thursday night is a good deal. We were able to get some work in this week,” Eastside head coach Troy Hoff said. “At the same time, we’ve gotten healthier over this past week. That’s been an issue for us. It was a much-needed bye week.”

Eastside’s last contest was a road trip to Walton County to renew a rivalry with Loganville.

On a night in which neither team could seem to buy a touchdown after the opening quarter, the Eagles found themselves clinging with all their might to a 7-3 lead in the game’s final moments. The Red Devils pushed the ball deep into enemy territory and slipped into the red zone, but Eastside held its ground to force a victory-clinching turnover on downs with less than a minute remaining in regulation.

Despite tipping his cap to Loganville and being grateful for the win, Hoff appeared uneasy about his team’s performance in the initial moments after the game. But, after taking time to digest and analyze film, he now reflects on it in a more positive light.

“When you look at the big picture, our defense played a really good football game and our special teams played really solid football. Anytime your defense is able to stand up that way and finish the game the way they did — where the other team’s got a shot to win it in the red zone — it’s a huge deal,” Hoff said. “They had to execute. They had to finish.”

That being said, Eastside’s woes on the other side of the ball didn’t go completely unnoticed.

“There are some things we definitely could’ve done better,” Hoff added, “and we’re looking at that as we move forward.”

Eastside is aiming to keep space between itself and a quartet of teams that are currently sitting at 2-2 in the region. Among those one win away from pulling even with the Eagles in the league win column is Jackson County.

The Panthers defeated a pair of hapless region opponents in Walnut Grove (20-0) and Johnson (43-0) but were routed comfortably by Clarke Central (38-10) and Loganville (47-7).

Led by a destructive defensive line, one of Jackson County’s strengths this season has been its run defense. That unit will be put to the test this week when it’s tasked with containing junior running back Dallas Johnson, who leads Class AAAAA in rushing with 941 yards on 119 carries through seven games.

“They’ve made it hard on everybody they’ve played to run the football,” Hoff said. “They’re a team that definitely is going to bring a challenge to us, for sure.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Follow @CovNewsSports and @mason_wittner on Twitter for live updates.