COVINGTON -- After struggling in one or two aspects of its game for two weeks where Eastside's football team went 0-2, including a 57-56 double overtime Region 8-AAAA loss to Chestatee, it turned it around, beating Madison County 42-14. Now it finds itself unable to continue to build on that momentum, having a bye this week.
"Last year, we needed it early and it was late. This year we're having it in the middle of the season," Eastside head coach Rick Hurst said. "I think that's a good week to take off, the rest is much needed."
Even though Hurst can't do anything about when their bye week came, he plans on using it to improve his team as it prepares to close out the final five region games of the season. The Eagles reached the middle point of their season with an overall record of 3-2 and 1-1 in region play. Rather than looking toward the future and possibly being a region champion with a No. 1 seed for the playoffs, he is taking it one game at a time after their loss.
"I told the kids after the Chestatee game that I don't want to talk playoffs. I just want to focus on one week at a time. We'll do it game by game, week by week and see where we end up," Hurst said. "That's really our focus. We have to make sure we take care of business and take it one week at a time."
During the bye week, Hurst wants to spend some time helping improve individual-player skills rather than doing it as a team the way they normally do while preparing for a Friday night game. The other thing Hurst is doing is making sure everyone is healthy. While getting offensive lineman Jared Floyd back last week against Madison County, Hurst hopes that the time off will allow defensive linemen Antonious Sims and Anthony Henderson back in time for Lanier along with running back Jomandi Smith, who has rushed for 250 yards on 40 carries including four touchdowns.
"Having those two guys out there defensively definitely changes our mindset. It also changes the (opponent) offense as to where they're going to run the ball," Hurst said.
While Eastside's offense has improved each week, throwing for 163 yards and two touchdowns with another 209 yards coming on the ground against Madison County, it still has some work to do. Its best passing game so far came against Madison County and it had its highest ground game against Chestatee rushing for 300 yards. As a team, the Eagles have thrown for 617 yards to complete 49 of 106 attempts with five touchdowns and two interceptions. They've also rushed for 671 yards on 129 carries and racking 10 touchdowns.
"We committed too many penalties. That has to stop; we can't beat good teams doing that. It's mostly procedure penalties, so its not like they're holding or anything like that. But it's those little things that can change your offensive philosophy," Hurst said. "There are things we definitely need to work on fundamentally."