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PREP FOOTBALL: Eagles need quick turnaround for Thursday night
Eastside FB
Junior Nicholas Benton and Eastside will hit the field early this week for a Thursday night showdown against Apalachee. - File | The Covington News

COVINGTON, Ga. — Who’s ready for Thursday night lights?

Eastside (3-1, 1-0) will have to be this week when it welcomes Apalachee (0-4, 0-1) to Homer Sharp Stadium for a Region 8-AAAAA tilt on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

This isn’t a foreign concept for the Eagles. With all three Newton County schools sharing a stadium, each program is usually relegated to Thursday night at least once during any given season. Adjustments must be made, of course, but Eastside head coach Troy Hoff insists they’ve become easier to make over time.

“Our teams have seemed to respond to the Thursday night games well,” Hoff said. “You kind of eliminate the walk-through day, and then just make sure that we’ve got our legs underneath us Wednesday because it is a quicker turnaround. That changes things a little bit, but like I said, we’ve been doing this for a number of years so it’s not unusual for our guys.”

Hoff’s team is rolling into the short week riding the high of a blowout victory on the road against Johnson in the region opener last Friday. After jumping out to a 27-0 lead in the opening quarter, the Eagles set the offense to cruise control and glided their way to a 47-7 victory.

Eastside took advantage of a depleted Johnson team that had been outscored 135-3 through its first three games of the season. Even still, it was encouraging to see the Eagles not come out flat following a dramatic win over county rival Alcovy the week prior.

“We went out and did what we were supposed to do,” Hoff said. “Johnson’s in a tough situation. They’re trying to rebuild their program and they’re struggling. We just challenged our guys to play to our standard, take care of business and make it about us. They did a good job with that.”

Eastside now shifts its focus to yet another team coming in with a goose egg in the win column.

The Apalachee Wildcats enter Week 6 at 0-4 on the year.  They were shutout by Clarke Central, 28-0, in their region opener last week, but put up a valiant fight in each of their first three contests against Winder-Barrow (34-27), Habersham Central (56-35) and Madison County (21-10).

Despite ending up on the wrong side of the scoreboard in all four games, the Wildcats have shown that they’re not willing to simply roll over for opponents and accept defeat.

“Apalachee is a good football team. I know their record right now doesn’t indicate that, but they’ve been in every game. That’s the thing you notice about them,” Hoff said.

The Wildcats operate a Wing-T offense, which means Eastside’s defense must remained disciplined and play assignment football in order to sustain success.

As for the Eagles’ offensive attack, they’re expected to once again be led at quarterback by senior Dayton Green while Jaylen Woods remains week-to-week with a leg injury. 

Green, one of Eastside’s top wideouts, was asked to step in under center when Woods went down just days before the team’s first game of the season. There was a learning curve, but Green has taken the transition in stride and is growing into his new role in the offense.

“I think Dayton’s done a great job,” Hoff said. “Maybe to an outsider it looks like you just go in and play quarterback. Whatever. But there’s a whole lot that goes into it. He’s done a really good job off the field and throughout the week in practice to get ready for that. I think he’s getting more comfortable every day.”

For live updates from Thursday night’s game, please follow @CovNewsSports and @mason_wittner on Twitter.