COVINGTON, Ga. -- The Eastside Eagles knocked off another bigger-classification foe Friday by defeating Class AAAAAAA Newton 27-20, one week after taking down Class AAAAA Ola 42-17 on the road.
It pushed the Eagles’ record to 2-0 and gave us a little more insight into both programs, even as the season is still young.
Here are five things we gleaned from this year’s installment of Eastside vs. Newton, The Rivalry.
1. Eastside is not scared of playing the big boys. Each year, coach Troy Hoff stacks his schedule with schools that are larger than the Eagles’ Class AAAA designation, and each year, even if Eastside doesn’t win each of those games, it certainly proves it belongs. Hoff has said before that playing these types of games gets his squad ready for the Region 4-AAAA grind, and the postseason. Next week it’ll be another bigger school task as Class AAAAAA Alcovy will tangle with Hoff’s bunch in the last of the in-county rivalry games.
2. At some point Newton will need to pick a QB. Rams coach Terrance Banks suggested that he’s still in evaluation mode with quarterbacks LT Stowers and Neal Howard. Both quarterbacks played extensively against Eastside Friday with both making a smattering of big plays mixed in with a few mistakes. But one thing that was obvious about Newton’s offense — and Banks admitted it himself — is that it lacked identity. Both Howard and Stowers bring different qualities to the game, and sometimes it felt like the alternating of the two quarterbacks for each new possession in the second half may have hindered Newton’s offense from finding rhythm. Here’s the thing, though: Whichever QB finally gets the job full time will have two of the best wideouts in the state to throw to in Mike Mathison and Robert Lewis.
3. It’s hard to downplay a rivalry game. Coach Hoff tried to do it before the game. Quarterback Noah Cook made his best attempt to do it after the game, but perhaps Eastside running back Taylor Carter had the realest statement regarding the importance of the game. “All those guys at Newton, Mike, DD, DJ, all of them. They knew this was coming before the game even started,” Carter said. “We let them know we were gonna give it to them just the same way they let us know before.” Even with the Hoff and his staff hugged and slapped high fives with each other, there was no hiding the fact that beating Newton was major, especially after the 40-0 beat down Eastside absorbed last year.
4.Eastside always finds a way. Each year when the Eagles lose some of their key players, particularly up front, the coaches say they’re trying to figure out how to fill in those voids. And each year it seems like Eastside makes it happen. You look at the Eagles’ trenchmen and they will never be mistaken for the state’s biggest. But, man are they aggressive. Eastside rushed for over 200 yards on a Class AAAAAAA defensive front seven, and at times made it look easy and seemed to even be wearing Newton’s defense down. And the crazy part is, to a man, when you ask them about it, they spoke like it was expected.
5. It’s still a long season. Although the bitter taste will linger for Newton for a while, and the euphoria for Eastside will be tough to shake off, but one thing is for sure: This game alone won’t make or break either squad. That may be a little harder for Newton fans to handle at this point. But if the Rams can get their quarterback situation settled and find a way to chop down the penalties — they committed over a dozen in the second half alone — Newton is still a formidable team. And Eastside, with its four-deep running back depth chart will be a load for any team to handle this year — including the much hyped Region 4-AAAA foe, Salem.