COVINGTON — All eyes are going to be on freshman quarterback Austin Holloway as he gets his first start for the Eagles against a tough Lanier team at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
Holloway was thrown into the hot seat when Demario Terrell went down before halftime of the Madison County game. Holloway led the Eagles (3-2 overall, 1-1 Region 8-AAAA) their first region win beating Madison County 31-14. After fumbling on his first play, Holloway settled down going 5-for-9 including a touchdown. Following two weeks of practice including a bye week, his confidence is building but more importantly, his teammates believe in him as well.
“He’s been doing well, or as well as could be expected being a freshman. But he doesn’t act like a freshman. It’s good to see that type of leadership from someone who stepped into one of the toughest roles on the field in that situation. I’m thoroughly pleased with him,” Eastside head coach Rick Hurst said. “The kids believe in him in terms of what they saw this spring. As long as they believe in him I’m sure we’ll be ok. When Demario went down they patted him on the back telling him they got him”
Also stepping up giving Holloway support on and off the field are Jomandi Smith and Jamal Hardge. Smith had two touchdowns and rushed for 117 yards against Madison County with Hardge getting a receiving touchdown. Hardge also made his presence felt on defense being where ever the ball was with 13 solo tackles while deflecting a pass.
The Eagles are going to have to be just as diligent when they travel to Lanier (4-1, 1-1) as the Longhorns are able to run the ball just as well as they pass and they have an extremely difficult defense to score against.
In five games, the Longhorns have allowed 85 points with 56 of them coming in their loss to Monroe Area. The ground game is generally won or loss on the line of scrimmage. This game is going to be a true test for Eastside’s offensive line as Lanier has 13 sacks and have pressured the quarterback into throwing under pressure 36 times resulting in seven interceptions.
“They’re stout upfront with a couple of big defensive tackles that clog up the holes and take up blocks. Their linebackers make a lot of tackles. We’ve got to play well upfront,” Hurst said. “I told my guys that it’s going to come down to the nine guys on that front - five on the offensive line, four on the defensive line.”
Lanier is averaging 374 yards of offense with 225 coming on the ground and 149 in the air. Longhorns quarterback Canyon Cook has an accurate arm completing 62 percent of his passes having thrown nine touchdowns and two interceptions. He also has the ability to tuck the ball and run having gained 215 yards on 30 carries. But their main running weapon is Tario Fuller who has 638 yards rushing on 117 carries with nine touchdowns.
When Cook is in the pocket, he has a large amount of targets throwing the ball around. His three main targets are Devin Valentine, Ashton Barnes and Tim Leazer. Valentine and Barnes each have 11 catches with Valentine having 317 receiving yards with five touchdowns.
“They’re very balanced and that makes it tough when you play a team like that because you can’t take away one aspect,” Hurst said. “We’re going to have to read our keys and be at the right spot at the right time. Hopefully, they’ll make a mistake and we can capitalize on that.”