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PREP FOOTBALL: Cook and Haynes shine in Eastside homecoming win
Jeff Haynes
Eagles Jeff Haynes hauls in one of his five receptions on the night from Noah Cook. Photo by Tyler Williams.

COVINGTON, Ga - Big passes by Noah Cook combined with a big performance from the Eastside Eagles defense propelled them to their second win of the season in an outstanding performance against the North Clayton Eagles, with a final score of 39-2.

After picking up their first win against county rival Alcovy last week, Eastside was looking to continue to turn the season around against North Clayton, who were winless coming into the matchup Friday night 

Despite two drops by Eastside receivers early, they continued to march on their opening drive. Excellent passes from senior quarterback Noah Cook led to a two-yard touchdown rush by freshman Kenai Grier to give Eastside the early 7-0 lead.

“We came out and started off hot early,” Cook said. “We definitely executed things a lot better, [we saw early] that we could run the ball well.”

The Eastside defense did not waver after a big run to open the North Clayton drive, holding them to a fourth down after a sack by junior Trace Nicholson to force the punt.

Starting the drive on their own 25, a big third down rush by Grier combined with perfect drive through the air by Cook put the Eagles into the red-zone.

They capped that drive off with a 13-yard touchdown run by junior Sincere Johnson to increase the Eastside lead 14-0 with three minutes left in the opening quarter.

Early on the next drive, senior running back Martino Benjamin got deep into the secondary on a big run, but he was stripped of the ball on the one-yard line by the Jeff Haynes. This gave Eastside a huge turnover to reverse what would have been a 64-yard touchdown rush.

After the turnover, they started their drive from their own one-yard line but could not get any plays to get the first down and were forced to punt deep in their territory. A mishandled snap on the Eastside punt sent the ball rolling out the back of the end-zone for a North Clayton safety and shortening their lead to 14-2.

A poor punt from North Clayton on the next drive put the Eagles in good field position, which Cook took advantage of almost immediately to open the drive.

After a crucial third down conversion of 20-yards from Cook to Jeff Hynes, Cook went to Haynes again on the next play, this time finding the senior wide-out in the back of the end-zone for the 34-yard touchdown pass to give the Eagles the 21-2 lead.

“Noah [did well] taking care of the football and being solid in his reads, the receiving corps did better, they knew they had to step up and make those plays,” head coach Troy Hoff said.

North Clayton continued to struggle on the offensive side of the ball throughout the second quarter. Eastside junior Sambo Button forced quarterback Demetrius Stillwell out of bounds to set up another fourth down for North Clayton.

Three big penalties by the Eastside offense kept them out of the red-zone, but senior Ezra King still knocked down a 41-yard field goal as time expired to give Eastside a 24-2 lead going into halftime.

Through two quarters, the Cook to Haynes connection proved to be the story, completing five passes for 76 yards, including one score.

“[Cook and I] ran a lot of [plays] during practice and during the summer,” Haynes said. “We talk one on one about where he wants to throw it and the best spot for me to catch it, it is just us getting that connection.”

After two quick drives that ended quickly for both teams, an Eastside punt by King put North Clayton on their own one-yard line to begin their next drive. The Eagles’ front seven found their way into the backfield and stopped the ball carrier for a safety, increasing their lead to 26-2 halfway through the third quarter 

The North Clayton defense was able to hold Eastside to a crucial fourth down in their own territory, but an offsides call on their defensive line gave Eastside the ball in better field position.

The Eastside offense did not waste any time after getting the new set of downs, with Grier finding the end-zone for his second time on the night, extending the Eagle lead to 32-2 after the missed extra point attempt by King.

Following another three-and-out by the North Clayton offense, two big rushes by Eastside sophomore Dallas Johnson set up a nine-yard touchdown run by fellow sophomore Ramon Hernandez to give them a 39-2 lead with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter.

The Eastside defense continued to hold North Clayton to close out the game on what was a dominant performance from the Eagle front seven.

Even after the big win, Hoff knows there is still a lot of games to be played throughout the rest of the season, and there is still room for improvement moving forward for the Eagles.

“We played with a lot energy [tonight],” Hoff said. “We still have a lot to clean up, and a lot of areas where we have to be better.”

Cook shined in the big win, completing 20 of 26 passes for 225 yards and one touchdown, with Haynes finishing off with five receptions for 76 yards. Grier carried the Eastside running game, gaining 40 yards on seven rushes, with two touchdowns.

“It felt really good [getting the win tonight], we started out slow, but we are good with keeping things in the past and moving things on to the next game and playing into the next week,” Cook said.

Eastside looks to continue the momentum into next week as they travel to Luella High School to take on the Luella Lions next Friday.