COVINGTON, Ga. — Two things were made certain following the Eastside’s Eagles’ 30-14 victory over the Winder-Barrow Bulldoggs Friday night: The Eagles will be heading to their seventh consecutive postseason, and they have kicker Thomas Hill, mainly, to thank for it.
Head coach Jay Cawthon trotted Hill out three times to put points on the board, and Hill delivered every time.
The most pivotal field goal came with seven minutes remaining in the game. The sophomore kicker split the uprights from approximately 37 yards out.
Hill’s third kick was set up by a strong defensive play and the legs of two Eagle running backs.
With 10:26 remaining in the fourth, Winder-Barrow’s Conyer Smith dropped back to pass, facing a third and long. D’Von Duplessis, Bailey Benson and Xavier Joseph greeted Smith in the backfield for a huge loss on the play.
The energy that penetrated Sharp Stadium carried over to the Eagles’ offense.
Kenai Grier and DJ Henderson found some success running toward the left side of the field — albeit the short side of the field at the time — and got the ball down to around the 20-yard line. They couldn’t convert the third down, but that didn’t faze Hill at all.
His 37-yard field goal gave Eastside a 23-14 advantage.
Friday's performance was a confidence boost for Hill.
"After last week's game I felt like I lost a lot of my confidence," Hill said. "Going into Friday night I had positive mindset and a really good feeling about the game. I feel like I definitely gained my confidence back."
The first-year varsity football kicker connected on two additional attempts, too.
Getting Eastside on the board first, Hill was true from 19 yards out with 3:47 left in the opening quarter.
The first touchdown for Eastside came when Grier found paydirt from one yard out to put the Eagles ahead 10-0 in the closing seconds of the first quarter.
Another 37-yard field goal by Hill, preceded by two, six-yard scores by Winder-Barrow’s Tyreeck Hill, left Eastside trailing 14-13 heading into halftime.
Hill credited many people to help prepare him for his outing.
"I think the biggest contributor to my growth this season has been my family, teammates and my coaches," Hill said. "The support shown to me from my teammates is unmatched. Along with the coaches teaching me to face adversity."
E’Sean Arnold regained the lead for the Eagles in the final minute of the third quarter making it a 20-14 advantage.
Once Hill’s third field goal of the night was successful, it seemed like Eastside had the game in hand. But, just to ensure an Eagles’ victory, Grier found the end zone once more to provide the final margin.
With the win, Eastside (6-3, 3-2) qualified for the state playoffs as the No. 4 seed out of Region 8-AAAAA. Before the regular season wraps up, the Eagles will hit the road to Jefferson (6-2, 4-0) next Friday.