Ground control
Eastside's backfield guiding the Eagles through playoffs

COVINGTON - A trio of running backs are putting the mean in green when it comes to Eastside football.

Led by Broderick Alexander, Git Aiken and Rashad Hill, Eastside has created the ultimate running back by committee, much to the delight of fourth-year head coach Rick Hurst and his staff.

"The thing I like about all of them is that they pull for each other," Hurst said. "They have a good relationship. All three of those guys have been extremely unselfish - they block for each other and compliment each other all the time. All of them are different, and they've had a great year.

"And it's not just (them)," he added. "Throw in Greg (Griffieth) and Tony (Atwater) and you've got five backs with at least one touchdown, so it's pretty impressive."

All five also have been just as efficient on the other side of the ball, serving as defensive backs.

"I don't know if anybody could have forecast we'd be here right now, sitting where we're at," Eastside running backs coach Troy Hoff said. "But we believed in what we were doing. Again, really that offseason is where it started. We knew we had that strong freshman class who are seniors now, but I'd be lying if I told you we'd be standing here right now talking about (this)."

Alexander, who is averaging 77.4 yards per game, is closing in on 1,000 yards rushing for the season. In 12 games, he has rushed for an astounding 929 yards.

"It feels good to be in the situation that we're in," he said. "It's a great feeling, and we're having fun together. We all have things we can do better than each other, but as a unit we can do everything."

Meanwhile, Aiken, a junior, is nearing the 800-yard mark. According to Hurst, his change in attitude from one year ago has been a welcome surprise, which has brought dividends for the Eagles.

"We've worked hard, and our offensive linemen have stepped up big time," Aiken said. "Our backs didn't quit, and this year we have more confidence. We have it in our minds that if we play hard and we do what we have to do in practice, Friday night we're going to win the ball game."

Despite battling a hamstring injury earlier in the year, Hill has played lights out as of late. In fact, he scored a key touchdown in the fourth quarter of the opening round playoffs Nov. 14 during a 20-6 win over Creekview.

"Truly, if it weren't for the offensive line, we wouldn't be in the position we're in now," Hill said. "So I'd like to congratulate them first."

Using the spread offense, Eastside has utilized its running backs to capitalize on the field, leading to the finest season in school history.

"They have a very good work ethic," Hoff said. "We talked about it from the beginning that we wanted to be the best unit on the field at any time, and they take pride in that. What they're putting up Friday night is because of what they've done on the practice field and during the offseason."

Hoff, who moved from South Dakota in 2005 to join Hurst, has been a major influence on his speedsters.

"Their technique and their fundamentals have gotten so much better since he's been here," Hurst said. "He inherited a pretty good group, but obviously he's honed their skills."

One such example is an easier-said-than-done task of taking care of the football. Hoff has the Eagles securing the ball high, making it more difficult for defenders to knock it out.

As a result, they have rarely coughed it up this season.

"Number one, they're very unselfish," Hoff said. "They've bought in to what we've been doing. They're not afraid, and I couldn't ask for a better group. They've all got their individual skills and things they do well, but as a group they're very strong.

"I'm blessed to have these quality players," he continued, "and when you have good players with good athletic ability and a good work ethic it makes coaching pretty easy."

Ironically enough, these running backs have remained grounded, even with the success Eastside football has earned.

"We just don't let it get to our heads," Aiken said. "We don't want to think of ourselves as good; we're not good yet until we get to the Georgia Dome and win it. That's what's in our minds right now. We're not good until we win the state championship."

Jason Murdock can be reached at jason.murdock@rockdalecitizen.com.