COVINGTON, Ga. — Eastside took care of business Thursday night.
Hosting Apalachee at Sharp Stadium for its homecoming game, the Eagles asserted their dominance on both sides of the ball for four quarters en route to a 35-7 victory. They improved to 4-1 on the year and 2-0 in Region 8-AAAAA.
Adversity struck early on, but Eastside answered by reeling off 35 unanswered points.
“Our defense pitched a shutout [Thursday,] and the offense took care of the ball from there,” Eastside head coach Troy Hoff said. “It was definitely a good response.”
It took less than a minute for the Eagles to get punched in the mouth.
Positioned on their own 40-yard line on the first drive of the night, Eastside threw a sideways pass that wound up on the pitch. Apalachee quickly scooped up the ball and took it the distance for a score to stun Eastside and take a 7-0 lead at the 11:22 mark.
“It was a good learning play for us,” Hoff said. “First off, bad things happened with the pass and we didn’t block it the way we were supposed to. And we stopped playing and left the ball on the ground. We talked to our guys and said, ‘Listen, that’s how we teach it in practice. Go! There was no whistle.’”
Midway through the opening quarter, Eastside settled in and found its groove. Senior quarterback Dayton Green completed a 39-yard pass to sophomore Saabir Berrian, setting senior Sincere Johnson up to convert it into points with a 1-yard rushing touchdown.
Johnson found the end zone again early in the second quarter, this time on the receiving end of a 23-yard touchdown pass from Green. The go-ahead score gave the Eagles a 14-7 advantage with 8:16 left in the quarter.
Green aired it out again minutes later, finding junior Montarious Reed along the right sideline for an 11-yard touchdown with 4:40 remaining in the first half.
Despite the blunder in the first minute of regulation, Eastside trotted into the locker room sitting on a 21-7 lead.
Everything continued to go the Eagles’ way in the second half. Johnson powered his way into the end zone twice more — rushing scores from three yards and one yard out, respectively — to give his team ample cushion to work with.
The offense was rolling on the ground and through the air, but Eastside’s defense set the tone. They kept Apalachee’s offense quiet all night by flying around and smothering Wildcats in open space, as well as in the backfield.
“[Our defense] has been playing really well all year, and they’re continuing to get better,” Hoff said. “We’ve got some guys that had limited experience to start the year. Now that they’ve got a few games underneath them, they’re playing good football.”
Eastside will be back on the road for the second time in three weeks next Friday, Oct. 16, when it travels to Athens to face Clarke Central. The Gladiators are the defending Region 8 champions and off to a 2-2 start in 2020. They’re scheduled to host Jackson County on Friday, Oct. 9, at 7:30 p.m.