COVINGTON, Ga. — Rejoice, Eastside Eagles football fans. Your football team is 9-0, and are region champions for the first time in nine years.
Thanks to a 422-yard night on the ground, including 159 yards and three scores from senior tailback, Taylor Carter, the Eagles dominated the Warhawks from the start, winning 41-0 to secure the Region 4-AAAA title, not to mention the No. 1 seed and home field advantage in the Class AAAA state playoffs.
Coming into the game, the Eagles knew that they couldn’t overlook a Henry County Warhawks squad with multiple playmakers. And because of the stakes, Eastside coach Troy Hoff wanted to make sure there was little chance for a letdown.
“I feel like this has been a long time coming,” Hoff said. “We’ve got unfinished business, and we know that, but we’re going to celebrate this one. The guys have earned it.”
In typical fashion, the Eagles’ offense got off to a very hot start. They scored in just 33 seconds when Noah Cook scampered down the sideline for 76 yards on the game’s third play from scrimmage.
Following the trading of punts, Henry County began to move the ball fast, showing off an explosive passing game of its own, but on a 4th and 1 from the Eastside 11, defensive tackle, Tomarkus Woods stuffed the rushing attempt, allowing Eastside to take over.
The stuffed run turned momentum in Eastside’s favor that would never be relinquished.
A fierce rushing attack from the Eagles began to be put on full display. Their second score of the night came off a hard run by Terrence Reid.
They would do it again on the ground in their next possession. Operating mostly out of the wildcat, Eastside converted key third and fourth downs that allowed Taylor Carter to power his way in from eight yards out, giving the Eagles a three-score lead.
Although Henry County began threatening again with a few deep completions, a go-route touchdown pass attempt was thwarted by the ballhawk defensive back, Antavious Cobb, who found the ball right in his hands at their own 10.
It was a defensive effort that was keyed by adjustments early on, after which Eastside buckled down, forcing a turnover or a punt on every single Warhawk drive.
“We adjusted a few calls,” he said. “We played a little better assignment football too.”
Coming out of the half, Carter would snag his second and third touchdowns in the third quarter, both off wildcat runs from a yard out. Reid would finish the scoring for the night with his second touchdown from 19-yards out that saw him truck a defender on his way past the goal line.
All in all, the 422-yard performances likely goes down as one of the Eagles’ best all time, and Hoff couldn’t say enough about his offensive line leading the way.
“The O-line (worked),” he said. “We missed a few things early where we weren’t being real sharp, but they played physical. The guys played downhill, and we told the line that it was going to be on them tonight, and they responded.”
“We were just working together,” tackle Dustin Morgan said. “We didn’t even realize we were rushing that much and it was a surprise to us. It’s just a matter of getting that first down and keep going.”
His fellow offensive linemen Bryant Byrd and Pierce Downs agreed.
“It’s just communicating,” Downs said. “Everybody’s got to talk and know what they are doing.”
The night, the win, and the celebration that came after will be enjoyed for as long as it can be before the Eagles get back to work ahead of their final regular season game against Hampton. Hoff knows he has to keep his guys focused in order to have a chance at even more history if they can win Friday and go 10-0.
“I think it’s the same with any big win you have,” he said. “There is another opponent waiting for you in seven days. They know the significance of playing good football. 10-0 is a big deal, and that’s how they want to finish.”
As far as the linemen who paved the way for such a monumental night, Byrd kept it simple as to what they need to do in next week’s contest.
“Do the same thing we’ve been doing,” he said.