COVINGTON - "Do your job" will be the motto for the Eastside defense as the Eagles head to Elberton to play the Elbert County Blue Devils in the Granite Bowl on Friday.
"There's a lot of tradition. The town is behind them, it's a one-school town," Eastside head coach Rick Hurst said. "Every team that we face that's a one-school town, the town shuts down and it's going to be a big turnout. They think they can win this game. You're not going to find a bigger crowd than we faced two weeks ago. It doesn't matter what side you're on, home or visitor. I think it does a lot to build the adrenaline."
In the last three games the Eagles (3-0) have played, their defense found itself out of position from time to time. Instead of the outside people staying there, they came inside to help stop the run. While stopping the run is a good thing, it can also hurt if the ball carrier gets outside the containment.
Elbert County (2-1) proved they can break for big gains when junior running back Austin Jones rambled 57 yards for a touchdown against Social Circle.
The Blue Devils like to run the football and don't try to hide it.
"They come right at you. There's no bones about what he (Elbert County coach Brent Miller) wants to do," Hurst said. "He wants to come out and establish the run. They had a pass against Social Circle, and I think the quarterback was sacked. Against Butler two weeks ago, I don't think they threw the ball at all.
"They have two good running backs. We're just going to have to come out and stop the run."
One twist that the Eastside defense will have to watch out for is the option. Although Elbert County is not an option team - the Blue Devils prefer to pound the ball up the middle - they have an athletic quarterback who can possibly make things happen.
The Blue Devils have two quarterbacks they tend to use equally - juniors Tyheem Newman and Robert Huff.
"They play hard, and they have some speed at the skill positions," Hurst said. "(Newman) looks like he's the better athlete, so I look for them to come out and give him the ball, maybe run some type of option. The other one I think just hands the ball off to the back. They're not an option team, but we figure they'll either give it to the fullback or give it to the quarterback. We just have to stay home."
Offensively, the Eagles are going to have to find a way to hold on to the football. Eastside turned the ball over 13 times last season. This season, the Eagles have given the ball away seven times in three games.
If the Eagles can get the job done on the ground, look for Justin Wray to sit in the pocket a little more and throw the ball downfield to wide receivers Anderico Bailey and Antarrius Terrell.
"We haven't had to throw the football in the first three games. But eventually, somebody will take the run away from us and we've got to be a team that can throw the football and loosen them up so we can run the football," Hurst said. "It'd like to open it up a bit to give the people down the road something else to worry about."
Manny Fils can be reached at email@example.com.
SideBar: If you go
Who: Eastside Eagles at Elbert County Blue Devils
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: The Granite Bowl
Last meeting: Elbert County won 39-19 on Sept. 28, 2001
Series: tied 2-2