COVINGTON - The Eastside Eagles are guaranteed a top four finish in Region 8-AAAA South, but where they will end up will be determined after tonight's game against Rockdale.
Eastside (6-2 overall, 2-2 Region 8-AAAA South) can finish no worse than fourth place in the subregion, but if they win tonight, they'll secure the No. 3 seed going into the region playoffs next week.
If the Eagles finish as the No. 3 seed, they'll have to travel to Clarke Central; if they are in the fourth spot, they'll have to play at Habersham Central.
Last season, the Eagles finished as the No. 4 seed and had to travel to Habersham Central in the region playoffs.
"We improved our spot, but we still have to go on the road against a tough team," Eastside coach Rick Hurst said. "It's going to take a great effort to go on the road and beat a good team. Our goal is to make the field of 32 (in the state playoffs). In the field of 32, anything can happen, and that's what we're shooting for."
Rockdale has a chance to make the top four but will have to have some help getting in. First, the Bulldogs will have to beat Eastside and then can clinch a No. 3 seed if Heritage beats Alcovy.
"Both teams have everything on the line, Eastside in regards to playoff seeding, and Rockdale in regards to having any chance at playoff life," Rockdale coach William Johnson said.
Quarterback Justin Wray leads the Eastside offense with 1,004 passing yards and nine touchdowns. He also leads the team with 618 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
Andrico Bailey leads the team in receiving with 29 catches for 514 yards and four touchdowns.
Some other key offensive players include Larenzo Echols (280 rushing yards, five touchdowns), Broderick Alexander (266 rushing yards, 15 catches for 172 yards) and Johnny Norrington (12 catches for 162 yards, 215 rushing yards).
"Eastside is a very athletic, well-coached team," Johnson said. "Defensively, they are very fundamental and aggressive. Offensively, they have outstanding play from their QB."
Eastside started the season at 4-0 in nonregion play but lost to Salem and Cedar Shoals in the first two subregion games. The Eagles bounced back with wins over Heritage and Alcovy.
"We knew we were playing two very good football teams," Hurst said. "I think we may have put a little too much pressure on ourselves to get the No. 1 seed (in the subregion). We got beat by two very good teams, but we were right with them. I'm happy with the way they came back and played (against Heritage and Alcovy)."
Eastside, with six wins, is guaranteed its first winning season since 2001.
"We're happy," Hurst said. "I'm proud of the program and the direction we're going. It's been a rough road, and the kids have worked hard, and the coaching staff have worked hard. We're happy but not satisfied."
Rockdale (1-7, 1-3) started the season with five straight losses before beating Heritage 22-14 in overtime. The Bulldogs then lost to Salem and Cedar Shoals.
"They're athletic, and any time you play a team that's athletic, that scares you," Hurst said.
Anthony Rhoads can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: Rockdale at Eastside
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Homer Sharp Stadium
The series: Rockdale leads 5-0; Rockdale beat Eastside 24-12 last year.
Records: Eastside (6-2 overall, 2-2 in Region 8-AAAA South), Rockdale (1-7,1-3)