COVINGTON — The Eagles are not taking Lanier’s youthfulness as a weakness as they prepare for an important Region 8-AAAA game at 7:30 tonight at Homer Sharp Stadium.
The Longhorns (3-2, 1-1) are a three-year program with a lot of good players and a coach who is experienced enough to make the players believe in themselves.
“They’re young and make some mistakes, but they’re well-coached,” Eastside head coach Rick Hurst said. “They have some big athletes; they’re going to be a big test for us. Hopefully, we’re up to the challenge. The head coach (Billy Wells) and I coached against each other for three years when I was at Central (Gwinnett) and he was at Collins Hill. He was an assistant there, then took over as head coach before taking the Lanier job.”
Offensively, the Longhorns are primarily a running team. While running the ball 70 percent of the time, Lanier quarterback Taylor Grant has the ability to set up in the shotgun and throw the ball. Grant completed 54 of his 102 passes, throwing for six touchdowns and five interceptions. When Grant throws the ball, his main targets are Marty Sanders (19 receptions for 389 yards and three touchdowns), Jahbril Jones (15-202) and Onyx Berrios (11-196).
When they run out of the I-formation, Tario Fuller takes most of the handoffs, running for 412 yards on 74 carries.
“They’re not real fancy. They’re based out of the I and like to run the ball. But they can get in the shotgun and they do a real good job in play-action,” Hurst said. “That’s where we’re going to have to read keys and stay and do a real good job of doing what we’re supposed to do.”
Giving the Eagles (3-2, 1-1) defense a boost is the return of Antonius Sims, who was out four gameswith a hamstring injury. Also needing to do a good job in stopping the run are Napoleon Johnson (57 tackles), Jamal Hardge (37 tackles and two forced fumbles) and Carlos Higgins (35 tackles).
“He’s obviously a force up front,” Hust said of Sims. “If (Sims) doesn’t want to be blocked he’s not going to be. I really believe that. He’s so quick and agile that he makes blockers miss. Where he’s so valuable is his ability to run down plays from the backside because of his speed.”
Even though both teams have five region games left, going to 1-2 in the region could put the losing team in must-win situation if they hope to make the playoffs. But that’s not something Hurst is going to concern himself with at this point in the season.
“Any time you play a region game, you always think that if we win we have the tiebreaker against them. We haven’t talked about anything past this week,” Hurst said. “Everything else we’ll just let it take care of itself.”