Who: Eastside Eagles (7-3) at Sandy Creek Fighting Patriots (10-0)
When: 7:30 p.m., Friday
Where: Sandy Creek High School (The Battlefield), Tyrone
Last week: Eastside beat Monroe Area 35-0; Sandy Creek defeated Columbus 65-0
Series: Sandy Creek leads 2-0
Last meeting: Sandy Creek won 13-10 (Oct. 01, 2011)
COVINGTON -- The Class AAAA playoffs could not have given the Eagles a tougher opponent as they head to Tyrone to play No. 1 AP-ranked Sandy Creek on Friday.
The Fighting Patriots (10-0) started the preseason as the No. 1 ranked team and they never lost the spot, averaging 45 points a game while giving up nine points. The one thing that the Eagles (7-3) can depend on is that Sandy Creek will run its game and maybe even tell them what its going to run. But stopping it is the hard thing.
"They're not fancy, you know exactly what they're going to do and when they're going to do it a lot of times," Eastside head coach Rick Hurst said. "We have a monumental task in front of us this week."
Sandy Creek prefers to line up and hand the ball to its main running back sophomore Eric Swinney, who leads the team with 97 carries for 931 yards and scoring 14 touchdowns. When Swinney is not handling the ball, fellow sophomore Delvin Weens, who has 12 touchdowns on 66 touches for 516 yards, handles the duties. As a team, the Patriots have 40 rushing touchdowns while gaining 2,061 yards on 282 carries. Even though it doesn't happen a lot, they have put the ball on the ground with eight fumbles.
Though running the ball is their preference, they are very capable of throwing the ball as well. Junior quarterback Cole Garvin has completed 63 percent of his passes, going 98-for-154 -- including 15 touchdowns and three interceptions -- throwing for 1,765 yards. His main target is junior Demarre Kit, who gave Georgia a verbal commitment last year as a sophomore, and Kyle Wilson. Kit has 44 catches for 745 yards and six touchdowns while Wilson has 25 catches for 481 yards and three touchdowns.
"Last year we got to him and pressured him and that gave us a chance. That's something we have to do this week. He's not that big of a runner, he's more of a stay in the pocket and make things happen," Hurst said. "We have to try to collapse the pocket and keep him corralled and make him throw it before he wants to."
Eastside defensive end Antonius Sims is going to be key in putting that pressure on Garvin when they throw the ball. However, since Sandy Creek knows how good he is, it is going to make sure he is neutralized, forcing other players to step and hopefully take over stopping the passing play. Hurst is looking for the linebacker and defensive end Rondarius Jackson to step up and harass Garvin to hopefully make a mistake.
Alex Smith and the running game are going to have to establish themselves as a true threat, if Eastside hopes to pull off an upset two weeks in a row. But for the Eagles to have a true chance, Demario Terrell is going to have to do it with his arm with the receivers making sure they hold onto the ball.
"The people that have been successful against them have been able to throw the ball. I told our coaching staff that offensively, we're better than we were at this point last year," Hurst said. "We have to be able to keep it mixed up and keep them on their heels trying to figure out when we're going to run and when we're going to throw. If we can stay out of third and long and move the chains keeping their offense off the field will give us a chance to win.
"They (Eagles) know what's in front of them and they know what happens if they go out and we pull off an upset. I told them last Friday after the (Monroe Area) game that nobody in the state of Georgia or in the country is going to give us a chance except us. I feel like if we play with the kind of intensity and the passion we did Friday night then we'll have a chance. That's all you can ask for."