Noah Cook Interview
It’s been one amazing ride.
The Eastside Eagles continued their unbeaten tour through Class AAAA, and it wasn’t even close. Troy Hoff’s squad came into Hampton, already brandishing its Region 4-AAAA championship merchandise. Already sporting a top seed and home field advantage in the state playoffs.
What more did they have to play for? Surely, this was a recipe for a mental letdown, right?
Wrong. Completely wrong. Incredibly wrong.
The Eagles zipped out to a 35-0 halftime lead. Hoff called off the dogs right at the beginning of the second quarter, or else the Eagles could’ve easily hung 100 on Hampton the way they played.
Keep in mind, this is a Hampton squad that’s won four games. It’s a Hampton team that hadn’t been blown out against the likes of Salem and Woodward Academy. But it ran into an Eastside buzzsaw that’s starting to look less like a local media darling and more like a legit Class AAAA state championship contender.
The first time we talked about Eastside guarding against mental let downs after big games was after the 38-31 win over Woodward Academy. But here’s what Hoff’s bunch has done since then:
A 26-14 win over Region No. 2 seed Salem.
A 56-0 shutout of Druid Hills.
A 41-0 pasting of Henry County.
A 42-28 domination of Hampton (trust me, the score was not indicative of the gap between these two teams).
They’ve broken the school record for points scored in a season and set the all-time low mark for points allowed. And when you look at this team and you look at the way its run roughshod through its 2018 schedule, the natural reflex would be to go to the recruiting websites and try to figure out how many of these players are headed to college.
That’s the question that was asked of me by the radio commentators who shared the press box with me Friday night. When they found out that Jamari Brown (Florida A&M) is the only Division I committed athlete on Eastside’s roster, their mouths dropped.
It’s actually probably the best complement Eastside could receive.
That’s because it’s shown itself to be the consummate definition of a true team. Hoff himself will tell you that most of the teams he’ll face have bigger athletes that garner far more recruiting potential than his guys.
But his guys are showing the Georgia High School football world that when you have an abundance of team chemistry, discipline and guys who don’t care about getting the credit or accolades — and that attitude is prevalent from the coaching staff, down to the quarterback.
Ah, yes. The quarterback. The leaps-and-bounds improvement junior Noah Cook has made from last year to now can’t be overstated. Hoff says so.
“He’s put the work in,” Hoff said of his signal caller. “The kid has a high standard for himself. He wants to be perfect, and the things you don’t see about his reads, when he’s handing off, when he’s supposed to go with his read. He’s a playmaker in this offense, with his arm and his leg.”
Add also his chip. As in that big old chip on his shoulder Cook now talks with as he conveys his thoughts on who Eastside is and what it can become.
“I guess we’re referred to as Little Ol’ Eastside in the past,” Cook said. “But now we know we can do big things when we execute, and we’re not just something to be pushed around . We work hard, and fight hard. There’s a lot of heart on this team.”
Next week we’ll begin to see just how far that heart, grit and determination can take the Eagles on the road to a state championship.
And while that remains to be seen, one thing has already been made abundantly clear.
There is nothing little about Eastside football.
Gabriel Stovall is the sports editor for The Covington News. He can be reached for tips and story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GabrielStovall1.