Well, not exactly. There’s something to be said when an undefeated team loses by 29 points to a region rival - we’ll get to that soon enough. But do you know why it’s so hard to go undefeated in the NFL or even college football? It’s because it’s hard to be perfect every game. This was just one of those games for the Eagles.
It’s not an excuse, it is what it is and that’s what this was. Eastside is a really good football team and Thursday night just wasn’t their night.
“We played hard it wasn’t lack of effort, but as you know, playing hard isn’t always good enough,” Troy Hoff, Eastside head coach, laughed. “Our kids competed hard and they didn’t quit, it’s just we didn’t execute very well and that extends to all phases of the game really. It seems like if it could go bad it was going to and that kind of happens. When you get down early or things don’t happen in your favor and the other team is playing well and they’re a good football team, it can snowball on you in a hurry and that’s kind of how it ended up.”
Down 23-0 in the second quarter, the Eagles picked up some momentum and managed to score a touchdown with just over two minutes to go in the half making it a 16-point game. Jonesboro quickly put an end to that momentum.
“We had a chance to cut it to a two-possession game at the end of the second quarter, which going in at the half I thought, ‘We go in down at the half 16 (points). That’s not as terrible for as bad as things went,’” Hoff said. “Then if we could have come out the second half and been down 16 in a pretty good spot, but we go down and score and then they returned the kick 90 yards to the three-yard line [Editor’s note: Jonesboro returned the ensuing kick to the nine-yard line]. It just seemed like anytime we built something whether it was up front or the kicking game, defensively...all three phases, we’d have some sort mistake or we wouldn’t execute a play.”
When I asked Hoff what he felt the team needed to work on, he said simply “execution.” From top to bottom, Hoff felt the Eagles didn’t execute their gameplan. He said it started when the team didn’t have a good Tuesday practice and noted that on a short week it’s critical when you don’t have a productive day.
That’s where the Eagles failed, in execution. Jonesboro is a really talented team and they might be better than Eastside, but not 29 points better. Maybe it just wasn’t their day. Invoke Murphy’s Law and call it a night.
Still, Hoff isn’t making excuses he knows his team didn’t play well and he hopes that they can use this game to make them the team they want to be. Hoff put the loss on him and his coaching staff and said they have to be better.
Two guys who were better in that game – and have had a really good season so far – were junior defensive end Brady Dial and sophomore defensive tackle Spurgeon Gaither, who returned a fumble for a touchdown. Hoff says Gaither and Dial are coming into their own and credits defensive line coach Jamal Bruce and the defensive staff for doing a great job with those guys.
Hoff added that both Dial and Gaither are two high-motor guys that play with a lot of energy. He’s happy they’re making plays and having success.
When the game ended Hoff didn’t throw a temper tantrum, but he told his team what they needed to hear.
“The message was we need to move forward. The one thing we’re still looking at is everything we want is still in front of us. It’s one of those things where we can look back at it and it be a moment where you look back at that game and you say, ‘Look, this got our attention,’” Hoff said. “You can use all the excuses of it’s a short week, coming off a quick turnaround of a big win...all those things. At the end of the day, you didn’t practice well during the week like you had leading up to it and we didn’t execute so hopefully we learned the lesson that to get to where we want to go we’ve gotta take care of our business during the week and be ready to play. So the message is positive and move forward. We’re gonna learn from it, we’re gonna get better and then make sure it doesn’t happen again.”