Last season, Eastside finished the regular season in a three-way tie for first place in Region 8-AAA and won the league crown through the tiebreaker.
This season, it looks like the Eagles want to avoid any final day decisions. Off to a 3-0 start in region play after wins over Stephens County and Hart County - the teams Eastside was tied with - and Elbert County, the Eagles will look to remain in the driver's seat when they travel to Jackson County. Talk of undefeated title runs hasn't escaped the Eastside practice field.
"We talked about that (Monday), we were region champs last year," Eastside coach Rick Hurst said. "But this team has a chance to do something that even last year's team didn't, and that's go through undefeated and to win it outright. It'd be nice to do it outright, and I think that's what these kids are looking forward to."
Hurst attributes the Eagles' three-game winning streak to a strong rushing attack, which includes scat backs Git Aiken (705 yards in six games) and Greg Griffith. Aiken had a big night in last week's blowout win over Hart County, and despite the diminutive size of both backs, Hurst is more than confident in letting them set the tone.
"They're both scatbacks - not very big kids, but they run very hard (and are) explosive in getting to the open field," Hurst said. "We're going to go and try to establish that running game, let those two guys get into the secondary. We've run the football in our first six games, right now we're probably better than 60/40 run (and) normally I'm a guy that likes to be balanced. But if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Honestly, I think it's just a matter of our offensive line and our running backs having a better understanding of our blocking schemes."
While the Eagles are rolling, Jackson County has gone in the opposite direction. The Panthers, under third-year coach Billy Kirk, started 3-0 against three teams in lower classifications.
It's been a different story since region play began. Jackson, which averaged 33 points per game in its first three games, has scored just seven points in each of its league losses to Morgan County, Hart County and Franklin County.
"They're about 50/50 run-pass. They like to spread you out and run and throw," Hurst said. "We're just going to do what we do - we're an attack aggressive defense, we're looking to get pressure on the quarterback and hopefully force some mistakes and that way we can kind of dictate what we want to do."
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: If you go
· Who: Eastside Eagles (4-2, 3-0 Region 8-AAA) at Jackson County Panthers (3-3, 0-3)
· Where: Panther Stadium, Jefferson
· When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
· Last week: Eastside defeated Hart County, 48-20; Jackson County lost to Franklin County, 42-7
· Series: Eastside leads 5-2
· Last year: Eastside won 50-0