COVINGTON, Ga. - After three weeks of dominating performance, the Eastside Eagles (7-3, 6-1) were able to close out their season strong Thursday with a 36-6 victory over the Hampton Hornets (5-5, 4-3) in a game affected by the weather.
The Eagles were able to get on the board early, but it was not in a way that they expected. The defensive line of the Eagles got in and pressured Hampton quarterback Jaivion Dorris, who seemed to have trouble holding the ball all night long.
They pressured him into the end zone, where he lost a handle of the football but was able to fall on top of it. However, the play ended in the end zone, so the Eagles were able to secure 2 points on defense and give their team an early lead.
This ended up being a lead the Eagles would not give up, but build on over the course of the game. On the next Eagles possession, they could not find the end zone but relied on the strong leg of senior kicker Ezra King, who booted a 45-yard field goal to give his team a 5-0 lead.
The weather did not seem to affect King as he had a strong showing for the Eagles going perfect on his two field-goal attempts and with every extra point opportunity.
The Eagles finally found the end zone at the 5:28 mark in the first quarter as sophomore running back Dallas Johnson took the ball 29 yards for the first touchdown on his two-touchdown night. Johnson's touchdown came right after the Eagles successfully converted a fake punt to gain a first down on fourth-and-5.
The Hornets finally responded after this score with a score of their own, a 10-yard touchdown pass from Dorris to wide receiver Zachary Porter in the corner of the end zone. The Hornets kicker missed the extra point, and it would be downhill after that for the Hornets.
Both teams had trouble holding onto the football, and although they did not lose the ball every time they put it on the ground, the Eagles and Hornets combined to put it on the ground well over ten times. The Hornets held the majority of these fumbles and had at least eight on the night.
The Eagles forced multiple turnovers on these types of plays, and head coach Troy Hoff was pleased with his defense's ability to take advantage of the Hornets miscues.
"When you're playing an option team in these conditions, we told our guys put the ball on the ground. It takes more than one guy getting to the point of attack, with everyone on their assignments, if we forced them into some pitches, we were going to have some shots," said Hoff.
"We did a great job with the box and with the interior shutting down the run game."
One of those miscues happened to come on an option play by the Hornets with the rain coming down hard. On the Eagles 33-yard line, Dorris tried to pitch the ball to his running back on what seemed to be a slight forward pass. The ball bounced off the running back's hands, stayed in the air, and Eagles cornerback Jeff Haynes snatched it out of the air and took it 67 yards to the house.
Haynes said that was a play they had prepared for all week, and once he had the ball, everyone had to know that no one was catching the Eagles' speedster.
"We had practiced that all week, so they just put me in a position to get there, and once I got it, it was just, get to the end zone really," said Haynes.
The Eagles added on another field goal just before halftime and walked into the break with a 22-6 lead.
The second half seemed to be a repeat of the first as the Eagles forced miscues and took advantage of those mistakes.
They added on two more touchdowns in the second half of the game, and those scores would come on a 4-yard touchdown run by Sincere Johnson and a 32-yard touchdown run by Dallas Johnson.
Dallas had a breakout game for the Eagles finishing with 156 yards rushing and two touchdowns. This was an outstanding performance for the young running back, but he gave credit to his teammates for putting him in a good position.
"I felt great I was happy to get back out there and run the ball again," said Johnson. "The O-line and everybody were doing their job."
Although Eagles quarterback Noah Cook was not given a lot of opportunities to throw the ball because of the weather, he was happy with the team win and to see Johnson have a big day.
"I knew just from the way he practiced this week that is going to turn out the way it did. I mean, our offensive line worked hard all week," said Cook. "All of our backs, our offensive lineman opening up holes, they all did a really good job."
With this win, the Eagles secured home field advantage for the first round of the state playoffs. Hoff was happy to do this and can only wait and see who they will play in the opening round.
"Going on the road is tough in the playoffs," said Hoff. "Us being here next week is really, really big for us."