With 2011 team MVP Zack Pirtle and two-time all area player Trent Taylor returning for their senior seasons, the Eastside boys' soccer team looked poised to reach its fourth straight state playoffs.
However, things didn't start out as smoothly as first-year coach Champ Young would have liked with several players suffering major injuries and others leaving the team.
After beginning the 2012 season with two losses and a tie in their first three games, the Eagles' season looked like it would be a tumultuous one.
From that point, Young earned his way to The Covington News' All-County team Coach of the Year status, first by helping Eastside reel off four straight wins, and seven out of its next eight following a 7-2 loss at Archer High.
The streak started with a 7-1 win over Salem, followed by a 4-1 victory over Charles Drew.
The win at Charles Drew was a big one, but a costly one as Pirtle, a Georgia Southwestern signee, suffered an injury that would keep him out for most of the season, tearing his ACL.
"The games that we had him for I can tell you we had him," Young said. "Not only that we scored seven goals against Salem (a 7-1 win), but we didn't have him for the Newton game (a 4-2 loss) and at the beginning of the Charles Drew game."
The Eagles were also without starting midfielder Matt Edmiston, and senior Wesley Chambers due to injuries. However, throughout all of that, Young managed to keep the Eagles together with lineup changes and physical training to finish third in Region 4-AAA.
"When we did go down with injuries like we did, we were still able to right the ship and get through and pull out a good record against some teams, we probably shouldn't have been able to beat," Young said.
Despite pushing the right buttons and setting the right lineups throughout the injury changes, Young attributed his Coach of the Year nod to the players who put together Eastside's 11-7-2 record.
"I attribute most everything to those kids," Young said. "I showed up in my first year teaching with them as well, and we were in the weight room September doing stuff and getting them ready for the year."
A big help in Young's first season was Eastside's senior captain Taylor.
Taylor not only provided much of the Eagles' offensive firepower scoring a school record 35 goals in a season, but was also able to provide leadership.
"The best part about him was that even on a day where he didn't have his best game he was still dangerous to the other team," Young said. "He still could get one or two goals. Sometimes he wasn't fully in tune but he could still help us out."
When Taylor was on, he made things very difficult for an opponent trying to pull out a victory. Against Region 8-AAAA champion Heritage, the Eagles trailed 1-0 but couldn't extend a six game winning streak as Taylor put away the tying goal as the game wound down.
"Trent is pretty dadgum good," Newton coach Tim Hardison said. "He's just a great player. He plays the game hard and he's tough to defend. Heck, I wish he played for me.
"He's one of those guys who you have to make sure you know where he is, you have to account for him, if you don't, he'll beat you badly."
Taylor tallied six goals in two games this season, helping Eastside beat Salem and Locust Grove 11-1. He also had five goals during a game and scored four in a 4-1 playoff win over Richmond Academy.
"He's just a great player and was a great player for our team this year," Young said. "He really helped me out in my first year this year and set the gold standard for the future."
Taylor is one of three forwards on The Covington News' All-County team, joining Alcovy's Ryan Richardson and Newton's Kari Mullings. Richardson scored 15 goals and four assists for the Tigers, including a hat trick against Newton. Mullings scored 12 of Newton's 31 goals this season.
Mullings is joined on the All-County team by Newton teammate Justin Ferguson, who was the Rams leading scorer and assist maker in the midfield.
Also in the All-County midfield are Alcovy's Uriel D'Andrade and Eastside's Jake Shelton and Jacob Alwes. D'Andre had five goals and seven assists, and was the Tigers main offensive catalyst.
Alwes was second on the Eagles with 10 goals and 16 assists as a sophomore, and earned second team All-Region honors. Shelton, just a freshman, was the Eagles' third leading scorer with five, and started every game but one.
Eastside makes up most of the All-County defensive unit as Aubrey Jones and Calvin Miller, both center backs with the Eagles, are two of the three defenders. Jerry Anderson, Alcovy's most dominant defender, who had two header goals off corner kicks, is the third All-County defender.
Eastside's sophomore goaltender Andres Sarmiento is the All-County selection at goalkeeper.
Sarmiento had over 100 saves and was second team All-Region after starting the season in competition with freshman Daniel Powers for the starting role.
"Andres works hard, really hard," Young said. "He was a little nervous to start the year but once he got his shot he was really solid."