COVINGTON — Basically, the winner of tonight’s 7:30 game between Eastside and Stephens County at Homer Sharp Stadium will be in the Class AAAA playoffs as the No. 4 seed.
“This one, if you win it you’re in,” Eastside head coach Rick Hurst said. “It’s like a play-in game and that’s how we have to approach it.”
If Eastside (5-3 overall, 3-2 Region 8-AAAA) were to lose, they would still have a chance to make it the playoffs the the odds are stacked against them and two things would have to happen. The first thing is that the Eagles would have to pull off an upset over the Class AAAA AP No. 4 ranked Monroe Area on the road next week.The Hurricane’s are already looking for redemption after Eastside blanked them 35-0 last year.
The other part of the equation is that the Indians (4-4, 2-3) would have to lose to Lumpkin County, who only has one win this season, next week. A loss that Hurst does not think will happen.
Even though Stephens County is not playing at the level they have been over the past few seasons, Hurst knows that they are still a very good and physical team.
Giving Eastside a slight edge in tonight’s battle is that the game is being played on their home field.
“Those kids are going to play hard and they want to get in (playoffs) just like we do. I don’t doubt that it’ll be physical football at all. It’s going to be a dogfight. I told our kids whoever wants it more will come out on top,” Hurst said.
“It’s a long ride and it takes a lot out of you. I think that definitely helps us but I don’t think at this point of the season you’re too worried about that. Your kids go in and know that it’s the prize after the game you’re trying to get and not so much as where it’s being played.”
If the Eagles defense can find a way to take Stephens County out of their comfort zone, running the ball, that would help them tremendously as they are not comfortable throwing the ball. The way to do that would be to put pressure at the point of exchange between the quarterback and the running back. While Eastside’s defense has made vast improvements since the beginning of the season, they would have to improve a little bit more to get past Stephens County’s 6-foot-7 inch, 320 pound left tackle Ben Cleveland.
As a sophomore, Cleveland has had interest from major programs such as Florida State and Alabama as well as Georgia.
“We have to be consistent and we have to play well up front. They’ve improved throughout the year and we have to continue that,” Hurst said. “We have to continue to do that and hopefully get them in some yardage situations where they have to throw the football. We’ve been pretty good at pass rushing that’s a plus for us.
“Offensively, we have the ability to run the football. We have to stay in second and four and five situations and not be in the second and nine and 10. That’s the one thing we have to do a better job of.”