COVINGTON — The Eagles cannot afford to make the same mistakes they did against Lumpkin County if they hope to keep Walnut Grove from being winless in Region 8-AAAA play on Friday.
In the 28-12 Eastside (4-3, 2-2) win over Lumpkin County on Friday, Eastside had two turnovers while being penalized eight times. A couple penalties helped the Indians while a few stopped drives forcing the Eagles to settle for field goal attempts instead of continuing for touchdowns.
“We have to be able to put four quarters together and that’s just something we haven’t been able to do. A lot of it was the penalties. After looking at film, most of them were deserved. That’s something we’ve got to stop,” Eastside head coach Rick Hurst said. “It’s not like the kids are going out there to commit the penalties, it’s just that a lot of them are aggressive penalties. That’s the way we want to play but we have to play with controlled aggression. That’s something we have to get rid of.”
Even though Eastside beat Walnut Grove (1-6, 0-4) 55-20 last year and got shutout 75-0 to Monroe Area last week, Hurst knows that they are not a team to be taken lightly as they are under the direction of first-year head coach Ben Reaves. Before coming to Walnut Grove, Reaves was at Newton before going to Putnum County.
“Walnut Grove is in a tough spot. Coach Reaves has them playing well,” Hurst said. “They’re playing better then they were at this time last year. They have some athletes that can make plays and that’s scary. We’re going to have to play well on both sides of the football.”
Reaves liked to run the ball first throwing the ball to keep the defense honest. But since arriving at Walnut Grove, the coach seems to have changed his ways.
“But he’s spread it out more. He’s running a more of a spread-type deal. They’ll do both,” Hurst said. “He’s changed in terms of philosophy. He has a couple of quarterbacks that he likes to have throw the football a little bit. We have to do a good job of knowing who’s in there because both of them do some good things. We have to be ready for both of those guys when they come to attack us.”
The Warriors two quarterbacks are senior Tucker Laughlin and freshman Isaiah Clark. The two have thrown for 791 yards completing 49 of their 112 attempts. However, they’ve only thrown for six touchdowns while getting intercepted seven times.
While the Eastside running game is solid having rushed for more than 1,200 yards with Jomandi Smith getting 530 of them, their passing game is another story. If the Eagles are to be successful they must make opposing defenses respect the passing game as well.
“It’s coming. I’ve seen a huge difference from where we started this summer to now. Austin (Holloway) is going to be fine,” Hurst said of his freshman quarterback. “He’s very intelligent, he knows the offense and he knows what we’re trying to do.”