COVINGTON - Eastside was no nonsense before the game and it showed on the field with a 48-20 win over Hart County at Homer Sharp Stadium on Friday.
"We grew up a lot (Friday)," Eastside coach Rick Hurst said. "When I put my headsets on, I said (to coaches), 'Guys, I don't know if we're ready to play'. There wasn't a whole lot of talking or goofing off like we've had in the past. Sometimes you think goofing off is how they prepare, but they came out here and absolutely hammered them. I'm so proud of my staff and the job they do on a daily basis. These guys don't get enough credit."
The Eagles started the first half scoring five touchdowns in their first six possessions to take a 34-12 halftime lead. Only the halftime horn kept Eastside from scoring on the sixth possesion.
The Eagles took a 7-0 lead with a Cody Sandler extra-point kick following an 18-yard run by Git Aiken with 5:14 left in the first period after Eastside got help from a pass interference call on a third-and-8 on its 44-yard line.
Aiken scored from 19 yards out a minute later after Zac Johnston snagged his first of two interceptions from Hart County quarterback Landon Beck giving the offense the ball on the Bulldogs' 24.
Aiken finished the game with 153 yards on the ground on 14 carries.
Greg Griffieth padded Eastside's lead with a 32-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter.
Poor tackling by Eastside's defense allowed Hart County to get back into the game when Johnny Christopher got a first down early in the drive and Quinn Sturghill gained 40 yards on a reception.
Sturghill made it 21-6 with a touchdown catch from the 8-yard line, capping a 12-play, 80-yard drive with 7:21 left in the opening half.
Aiken put the Eagles in scoring position on the Hart County 17-yard line following a 73-yard kickoff return. Griffieth made it 28-6 with seven minutes to go in the half with a 17-yard jaunt.
Griffieth scored again three minutes later to put Eastside up 34-6.
The Bulldogs closed the gap to 34-12, with the help of a 62-yard catch by Sturghill, on a 14-yard TD reception by Josh Nelson with 2:25 left in the half.
"I told them at halftime this is probably one of the best halves I've seen since we've been here. Except for a couple of plays, we took everything away from them," Hurst said. "What we did was play physical with them and took it to them. That's what we have to do from here on out to be successful."
However, Eastside was not able to start the second half as quickly. After Hart County stopped Eastside's offense on its first possession, Hart County's Kelsey Rucker returned the Eagles' punt 72 yards to make it 34-18 two minutes into the second half.
After stopping the Eagles offense for the second straight time, the Bulldogs inched their way back into the game with a safety to make it 34-20.
"I was a little nervous. They have such big play potential. Their quarterback is such a great thrower and a tough kid, but our defense came out and responded," Hurst said.
Eastside got back on track on the second play of the fourth quarter with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Califf Carnes to Aiken on a screen play to put the Eagles up by 21.
"We've been working on it all week. We knew we could probably do it because of the way they flowed and the way their linebackers got out of there," Hurst said. "He (Aiken) made a great cut and we had a good block downfield. What a playmaker, he's a tremendous playmaker."
Beck was moving the team in the air before Griffieth intercepted the ball on the goal line and returned it to the 30. Carnes did the rest with a 71-yard run to make it 48-20 with 7:17 left in the game.
The Eagles finished with 326 yards of total offense, 264 coming on the ground.
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.