New-look Eastside looks to improve on .500

COVINGTON -- The Eastside football program will have a new helmet and offensive look, but if everything goes well it should keep the same winning tradition which sent it to the playoffs three of the past four years.

While it had a good team and game plan to start the season last year, injuries beginning on its first offensive play quickly sent expectations downward to end its season at 5-5.

However, that was last year. This year is all about what Eastside can do as it heads into a new Region 8-AAAA, where it will face former Region 4-AAA adversary Stephens County.

"We're looking forward to (Stephens County) but there's a lot of football between now and then so we're just going to have to take it one game at a time," Eagles head coach Rick Hurst said. "We have three tough non-region opponents coming that we want to win."Eastside's first three non-region games against Newton, Jackson and Alcovy could have a big impact on the team; maybe not for a region championship, but something just as important down the road -- experience and creating depth. After losing six players to injuries, the Eagles hope to remain healthier but still have to prepare for the worst-case scenarios."In high school football, obviously, your No. 1s are your best kids," Hurst said. "When we drop down to No. 2, in some spots we're OK; in some spots we're not. Hopefully, in the next three weeks, we'll continue to develop them and use a lot of kids."

Over the past few years, Hurst and the Eagles coaching staff relied heavily on the defense to keep them in the game and on top of the region standings while the offense got up to speed. But this year it looks like it may be a little different as it's the offense which will have to carry the team through the growing pains.

"A lot of it has to do with the number of kids we have on that defensive side," Hurst said. "We really only have four kids out there starting that had any real significant playing time last year. When you have seven kids that played some but didn't start, it's going to take a little bit of time to get those guys right."

Having to prop the defense until everybody can get settled are the Johnsons (Bryant and Napoleon) and Marcus Griffith at linebacker and Antonius Sims at defensive end.

Coming off a 2011 season-ending injury for his senior year is running back Alex Smith who, as a sophomore, averaged 5.3 yards per carry with a total of 971 all-purpose yards. Joining Smith in the backfield carrying the ball will be Jamondi Smith, with Bryant Johnson also getting some touches.

Taking the snaps will be junior Damario Terrell who was forced last year to learn the position on the fly as a backup quarterback. However, it seem as if that experience is going to pay off in the long run.

"We're really looking for big things out of him," Hurst said.

The coaching staff is also hoping that all the running and drills will pay dividends as the Eagles will play a two-minute style offense.

"It's been an easy transition for us. I thought it would be a lot tougher," Hurst said. "It's easier on the (offensive) line since we don't have to do that 10- to 12-yard run every time. We just have to find the ball and we're ready to go. Our conditioning has to be key."

Even with the new silver helmets with green face masks replacing the old green helmets with white face masks, the Eagles still have the same attitude of being able to win every time they step onto the field. If they can keep their focus and execute the plays, especially with their no-huddle offense, the Eagles have a good chance to make it back to the playoffs, possibly as region champions.

Even though there are eight other schools which may have other opinions.