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Eagles look to defense for victory

COVINGTON - It all starts with a game plan for the Eagles defense to prepare for their next opponent.

Averaging less than 13 points a game and two shutouts, Eastside defensive coordinator Jason Tester has his bunch ready to take on Oconee County.

"Everything starts with our base defense and personnel groupings that we use," Tester said. "We break down the films that we have and see what are their strengths and what do we need to do to stop them and how are we going to do that. It's a matter of the four defensive coaches putting our minds together and coming up with that."

Although Oconee County (1-6 overall, 1-3 Region 8-AAA) won its first game by beating Stephens County 27-21 two weeks ago, Tester feels that the team is good enough to sneak up and surprise someone if they're not careful. He is doing all he can to make sure his defense does not leave the field stunned.

"Their record is deceiving," Tester said. "They've won one game but every team they've lost to is a playoff team. They're healthy and they're a dangerous team. They cause us and other teams a problem."

Unlike last year when Oconee County quarterback Zach Mattenberger would sit in the pocket and throw, Warriors quarterback Hutch Roper likes to run, but at the same time they have to keep an eye on his arm.

"Their quarterback is their best runner. He's a big kid and has good feet and every time he's getting tackled he's not going backward, he seems to be falling forward," Tester said.

"He's got a good arm. That's the thing that's deceiving, they're showing pass and he's more than capable of making a good throw. He's definitely a dual threat and we've got our work cut out."

Making it harder for Tester's defense is the fact that the Warriors like to spread the field using single-back sets and either four or five wideouts. However, even out of this formation the Warriors still prefer to run the ball, making assignment football even more critical.

"I've broken the film down and 65 percent of the time they're running the ball. They have different goals this year, but it's from the same packages (as last year)," Tester added.

One thing Tester has learned is that no matter how perfect he and the rest of the defensive coaches have worked things out on paper, it's up to the players to make it happen.

"If everything was run the way it was supposed to, teams wouldn't score against us and we'd be undefeated. But we're young," he said. "We're starting four sophomores on defense and we're playing up to six sophomores at a time. The biggest thing is to get them to understand the process that takes place. During the week, its with our routine and scouting report. My goal is to try to eliminate putting kids in bad spots."

Beating Oconee County and remaining unbeaten in the region is easy. All the Eagles have to do is their job and make sure they're where they need to be, while at the same time making sure the other teammates do not get burned by the offense.

"We preach be one of 11," Tester said. "The defensive line needs to have a good game. Our (line)backers, two sophomores and one junior, need to communicate and our secondary have to be in the right spots reading their keys and being aggressive."

SideBar: Eastside at Oconee

· Who: Eastside Eagles (5-2, 4-0) at Oconee County Warriors (1-6, 1-3)

· Where: Oconee County High School, 2721 Hog Mountain Road, Watkinsville

· When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

· Last week: Eastside beat Jackson County 48-0; Oconee County lost to Hart County 21-14

· Series: Eastside leads 2-1

· Last season: Eastside won 49-7