COVINGTON - Overcoming adversity will be the key to either Eastside or Newton taking the edge in the seven-year rivalry as the two clash at 7:30 p.m. today in Homer Sharp Stadium.
The Eagles won the first meeting before Newton took the next three. However, Eastside tied the series by winning the last two encounters.
"Any time you play a rival game both teams are going to be jacked up. They're going to come out and play extremely hard and I know that. I've been here for four years and I know what it means to the community," Eastside coach Rick Hurst said. "A lot of kids that are in college plan to come home around this game."
If the Eagles can win, they will have claimed county bragging rights for the last three years after beating Alcovy last week.
If Newton can come off the field with a win not only will they take a lead in the series, they also will play the role of spoiler by keeping Eastside from becoming the county champs again.
"I haven't looked at it that way, but we could definitely play that role," Rams head coach Nick Collins said.
In order for the Rams to win, they will have to control the tempo of the game, a feat which starts with their offensive front line - Justice Ejike, Derrick Clark, Brandon Boyd, Timarcus Aiken, Michael Banks and Michael Johnson.
"Those six are going to dictate what happens to us. We're only going as far as those six will allow us to go," Collins said. "We have to execute. We have to know who to block and we have to get to that block. It's a matter of controlling the tempo. We can't let them dictate to us."
Offensively the Rams have to keep the ball moving consistently. They cannot count on big plays as they did against Alcovy and McIntosh.
"The thing is that we don't have a lot of depth at linebacker so (Quinton) Pooler and (DJ) Hill can't go every play both ways of offense and defense. We have to rest them on offense, they're too valuable on defense," Collins said. "We've got to be able to control the tempo a little bit offensively. I think defensively we can hold our own."
When the Newton defense is on the field they are going to count heavily on their defensive ends, Stewart and Jamal Hunte. One of its jobs is to keep Eastside quarterback Justin Wray from creating plays out of nothing.
"Our defensive ends have to do two things. They have to make sure they protect the ends," Collins said. "Second, when they get ready to throw the football our ends have got to force him (Wray) to throw it and not allow him to run it."
Eastside heads into the game with its limited number of running backs depleted by injury.
"I hate it but we're going in about half loaded this week. We're banged up. We're going in with very few running backs. It may come down to a situation where we have to throw," Hurst said. "But I really like to go in and set the tone running the football. We're down to two or three backs and two players on defense, so it's going to be a challenge."
But that doesn't mean Hurst is going to change what has made the Eagles successful the past few seasons.
Hurst has confidence that the running backs he has can still make things happen. But just like with any running game, it's going to depend on the front line.
"If our offensive line can make those creases, they're good enough to make those cuts," Hurst said. "We just have to get in their secondary and see where it goes from there."
Eastside's defensive line, Karl Williams, Jacorey Maddox and nose guards Jarrett Hubbard and James Johnson, will have to find a way to keep Newton's quick running backs at bay.
"We have to make sure we play assignment football. Every time you play against the Wing-T, you have to make sure that everybody's covered every play," Hurst said. "If we can get our D-line to penetrate, it really mess up their blocking scheme. Our D-line is really going to be a big factor."
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: Newton at Eastside
· When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
· Where: Homer Sharp Stadium
· Series: Tied at 3-3
· Last meeting: Eastside won 31-0 last year