McDONOUGH, Ga. — The Eastside Eagles were looking to start the 2018 season in the win column when they battled the Ola Mustangs in non-region action.
And despite the weather interrupting the start time and halftime of the game, it wasn’t enough to keep the Eagles from dominating the Mustangs 42-17, thanks in part to a strong second half and stellar play by Eastside quarterback Noah Cook
The junior finished 22-of-28 passing with 255 yards and two touchdowns along with 12 carries for 93 yards on the ground and two more rushing touchdowns.
“I’m feeling good,” said Eastside head coach Troy Hoff. “The first half was kind of back and forth, and we felt like we left some things on the field.”
In the midst of a second weather delay that forced the stadium to be evacuated at halftime, Eastside was locked in a tight one, trailing 10-7 as the teams entered the locker room.
Cook flourished in the first half with 180 yards passing and a touchdown, along with an interception.
The game couldn’t have started any better for the Eagles.
In just four plays, Eastside marched the ball 80 yards down the field in a one-minute drive capped off by Florida A&M commit Jamari Brown’s 25-yard catch-and-run to the end zone.
It would, however, be Eastside’s only score of the half.
By contrast, Ola’s ensuing drive was a little more methodical. The Mustangs took 14 plays to go 75 yards, and the drive ended in a 10-yard touchdown reception by Joseph Miller from Quarterback Hunter Kautz, who rushed for 49 yards on five carries on the drive.
And as the Eagles looked like they were responding, Cook found Shivers on a pass that bounced off his fingers and into the hands of an Ola defender.
Later, Eastside’s Kade Mote would miss a 44-yard field goal attempt, his first of three misses in the half, and miscues and some unforced errors kept the Eagles’ offense from flowing.
“We felt like we there were things that we were doing that stopped ourselves,” Hoff said. “It’s frustrating when you execute at a high level for the first series, and we left the door open there and left some points on the field.”
Ola would capitalize and get a 41-yard field goal to give them the lead entering the half before the announcers urged the fans to evacuate the stadium once again as lightning was spotted within 10 miles of the stadium.
Once the delay was cancelled and fans began pouring back in to the stadium, it was apparent that the extra break between halves was exactly what the Eagles needed to get back in the game.
On their first drive of the half, they marched 52 yards down the field in four plays and scored after running back Taylor Carter outraced everyone to the end zone.
After a stop on defense, they would again march down the field in dominating fashion, leading to a Noah Cook one-yard touchdown sneak.
“I’m really happy at how we responded out of the half,” Hoff said. “I told them to calm down, settle down, and execute. We played with a lot of effort and energy, but we weren’t doing the little things to create big plays.”
When Brown snagged a interception to give the Eagles the ball back, things seemed to be unraveling for Ola. But after a three and out, a bad snap on the punt set the Mustangs up for a five-yard touchdown.
It would be their last score of the game, as the Eagles would tack on three more touchdowns, one of which came after Cook kept the ball on a run-pass option and scrambled down the field practically untouched for a 69-yard touchdown.
Cook’s passing numbers were different from the norm as well. Last season, Eastside was a dominant force on the ground. However, Friday night showed the Eagles can strike a balance offensively when they need to.
“When you have those options to make the defense cover the entire field, it opens those passing plays up,” Hoff said.
While winning the season opener feels good now, Hoff knows a daunting challenge awaits in their next game against Newton Friday at Sharp Stadium.
“Newton is a good football team,” Hoff said. “They’ve got dudes that can run and have athleticism. It’s a great game for us. We’re looking forward to a great match up.”