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Eagles square off with Stephens County in key 8-AAA clash

COVINGTON - Eastside is trying to do something tonight that hasn't been done by a football team since 2004 - beat Stephens County in a Region 8-AAA game.

The last time the Indians lost a region game was a 10-7 setback to Oconee County on Sept. 24, 2004.

Eastside coach Rick Hurst knows that it won't be easy to dethrone the defending Region 8-AAA champions. The Indians won the region four of the past five years, including their current three-year streak.

Even though this is only the second region game for both teams, there's no doubt tonight's winner will have the inside track toward a possible region championship.

"I think that anybody on any given night can beat anybody. It would be nice to be 2-0, it would be a great start," Hurst said. "But it's not the end of the world if we slip up and not win. Of course, the winner definitely puts themselves in the driver's seat. There's a lot to be said to being 2-0."

If Eastside is to remain unbeaten, it will need to find a way to stop Indians running back Ren Teasley. Teasley rushed for 122 yards against Hart County last week and has 234 yards rushing on 58 attempts in three games.

In Stephens County's only loss this season, LaGrange held Teasley to 57 yards on 22 carries.

"If we could make him stutter step in the backfield and let our speed get to him and corral him, we'll be OK," Hurst said. "But if we let him get to the (secondary), we're in for a long night. He's hard to bring down, he runs straight and hard."

A key to slowing down Teasley will be Eastside's Karl Williams, who leads the defensive line with 32 tackles and two sacks.

It's not a secret that Stephens County likes to run the ball, but that doesn't mean the Indians won't put the ball in the air.

Quarterback Dacen Cash has completed 50 percent of his passes - 30 of 60 - and has thrown for more than 600 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions. He also has rushed for two scores.

"(Cash) has got a good arm, he's accurate," Hurst said. "The receivers, they have to do a good job at catching the ball and finding the open areas. They worry me. We can't get lulled to sleep watching for the run."

The one thing Eastside's offense cannot afford to do, especially against a defense like Stephens County, is become predictable.

The Eagles already mix up their ball carriers as Broderick Alexander, Justin Wray, Git Aiken and Tony Atwater have shared the load on the ground. Alexander leads the group with 37 carries for 276 yards, followed by Wray (36-236), Aiken (29-205) and Atwater (25-213).

"We have to do a better job in the passing game," Hurst said. "We haven't had to (pass), but, eventually, somebody will take that running game away. We've got good receivers and a good quarterback. They're relentless, they keep coming and hopefully we'll be able to stand up to it."

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: If You Go

Who: Stephens County at Eastside

When: Today, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Homer Sharp Stadium

Series: Stephens County leads 4-0

Last meeting: Stephens County won 44-28 in 2001