COVINGTON - Even with the loss of most of their skill players that won Eastside's first region football championship and made it to the Elite Eight, the young Eagles were very focused during their spring practice.
"I thought we'd have a few out there wandering around like lost puppies because their idols weren't out there. But they understand how it works," Eagles coach Rick Hurst said. "The good thing was that all those guys came out here and worked out a little bit with them and the kids got to see them. I feel like they were instrumental to get us where we are, but I think our kids understand now that they were just one class and they're going to continue what started with that class."
Hurst was impressed by what he saw on the field as spring practice focused on three things: fundamentals, putting proper personnel in open positions and getting physical on the field.
While the team made strides, some surpassing the coaches' expectations, they also know there are things they still need to work on.
"When I look at the scrimmages there are still things we have to improve. But we have the whole summer and that's what summer is for. I was really surprised about some of those kids. I was kind of fearing because some of the younger guys I didn't know. But with another year in the weight room I could tell that they believe in their bodies and they don't mind flying around. That's what we want. I think we had a good 10 days," Hurst said.
With the loss of leaders like Justin Wray, who had been the quarterback for three years and the definite leader for two of those, Hurst was looking for someone to step up and take over as the new leader.
He did not have to wait long for Git Aiken to show he was the new player-head of the Eagles football team.
"I think Git Aiken is an obvious leader, there's no doubt about it. The kids look up to him," Hurst said. "Last year at this time I never would've thought that he was ready to do that. But he's come a long way. I'm really proud of the way he's matured. He's going to work hard, he's going to play hard but he's starting to be a vocal leader now that the other guys aren't here around.
While Wray's departure left the quarterback position open, spring practice knocked out a contender, leaving the job open for rising junior Califf Carnes and rising freshman Cameron Boyd.
Carnes took a few snaps last season when Wray was off the field while Boyd was Indian Creek Middle School's quarterback.
While Carnes brings important varsity experience to the table and is the current front runner, Boyd brings higher athletic ability even though he still needs to get stronger.
What Hurst likes about the upcoming freshman is his even keel.
"(Boyd) ran for a 35-yard touchdown in the spring game. He made a great move, out ran some of the varsity kids. I was expecting him to celebrate. But he just tossed the ball back and was like 'All right, let's do it again,'" Hurst said. "That's the type of kid we like because he doesn't get flustered. If you're going to be in that position, you've got to be even keeled. If you throw an interception you have to have a short memory and come back out and get ready to do it again."
Another option that Hurst is considering until they are both battle tested is to split the playing time between them until one proves he's the best choice.
"Obviously neither one of them are the athlete that Justin was, but I think together we might see a little bit of a rotation between them early. Cameron is a little bit better of a runner, but Califf has a little bit better arm just because he's been throwing it longer," Hurst said. "We're still going to use Git back there in times under certain situations. We'll get the job done. We just have to figure which situation to put them in."