COVINGTON, Ga. - The Eastside Eagles lost a lot of seniors last year but still managed to finish the regular season a stellar 7-3 with help from many players stepping up and earning all-region honors.
There were 18 members of the Eastside Eagles that earned all-region honors with a couple of players earning superlative honors for their respective positions. The first name that appeared on the all-region list was the Eagles outstanding "do-it-all" athlete Jeff Haynes.
Haynes earned Iron Man two-way player of the year award with an offensive emphasis. Despite missing a few games, Haynes still managed to lead the team in every major receiving category with 26 receptions, 530 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns.
He also led the team in interceptions with three and returned one of those for a touchdown. Adding in his kickoff return for a touchdown in the Eagles opening game of the season, Haynes was an obvious choice for this honor. Eagles' head coach Troy Hoff knew he was deserving due to his immense impact and dynamic playmaking ability.
"He's a guy that does it in all three areas of the game. This goes to guys that play the game at really high-levels on both sides," Hoff said. "He's a difference-maker and coming from the opposing coaches, and they knew that."
The other Eagle earning a superlative honor was their outstanding kicker and punter, Ezra King. He was described as another "difference-maker" by Hoff, and King got it done in all facets of the kicking game.
He finished with an incredible 47 touchbacks on his 62 kickoffs for the season, while also going 44 for 45 on extra points and 6 for 10 on field goals with a long of 45 yards. King also averaged 43.3 yards per punt, which means he flipped the field for his team at crucial times. Hoff expressed how important King's play was to the team's overall success.
"A kid that works tremendously hard at his craft in not only punting but also kicking and doing it at a high level in both areas," Hoff said. "He truly was able to change the way we play at times, and I think that's the only compliment to him how a guy with the kicking game can change the outcome every Friday night."
Beyond the superlatives, the Eagles had five guys earn first-team honors, and they were junior defensive back Devin Brown, junior all-purpose back Sincere Johnson, junior inside linebacker Trace Nicholson, senior offensive lineman Bryant Byrd and senior quarterback Noah Cook.
Hoff noted how all five of these athletes had a tremendous impact on the team's season. With these two seniors departing from this team, Hoff expressed what made both Byrd and Cook so very special.
"Both have leadership with the way they carry themselves and the way they handle their business off the field. They're guys that really played at a high level for us for a long time," Hoff said. "Very proud of both of them for the huge contributions that they have made for our program."
Hoff continued on to the second team, and when asked about the impact that the two seniors in this group brought, he had nothing but praise for offensive lineman Pierce Downs and defensive lineman Marc Jackson.
"Pierce has played a lot of snaps for us at center. He's another team captain and in charge of a lot of communication from him, and he like the quarterback touches the ball every play, so there's a lot of accountability with that position," said Hoff. "Marc has shown tremendous growth over the last two years, and it really started last season for him. Worked hard in the weight room, that's really where it started for him. He's really put it all together."
Joining Jackson and Downs on the second team were junior wide receiver Dayton Green and freshman cornerback Saabir Berrian. Landing honorable mention honors for the Eagles was sophomore linebacker Kyle Shivers, sophomore defensive lineman Christian Benson, junior defensive lineman Seth Martin, junior defensive lineman Kevin Napier, sophomore offensive lineman James Amos, sophomore offensive lineman Jaylen Farmer and sophomore running back Dallas Johnson.
With 13 players on this all-region list returning next year for the Eagles, Hoff will miss the five seniors that are graduating but is excited for the future and the talent he is bringing back next year.
"We look at what those guys have accomplished and meant to our program but also that we have a lot of guys that have stepped up and played really good football," Hoff said. "Just having them on the list and being recognized and show them that what they have been doing this season and the entire offseason has had an impact."