COVINGTON, Ga. — Eastside’s run game has played a pivotal role in the Eagles’ success over the years, but this season, its youthful offensive line has given the Eagles mixed feelings of hope and concern early on.
Coming into the new year, head coach Jay Cawthon spoke about the adjustmentsthat needed to be made to his team’s offense, and it all started up front.
“Going into the summer there was no doubt that [the offensive line] was the one position that had the least experience,” Cawthon said. “We knew we had to bring them along quickly.”
The Eagles’ coaching staff was tasked with having to replace four of their starters up front from last year’s group.
Through four games of the 2022 season, Cawthon sees the improvements but still wants to see more as they look ahead to their region schedule.
The one player who returned from last year’s line is senior Marcus Metcalf.
Many people, including Cawthon, have praised Metcalf for his leadership and ability to work with the young players going through their first season starting in the trenches.
“[Metcalf] has been in the fire for three straight years. He knows what it is like on Friday night,” Cawthon said. “That confidence that he has is spreading out to the other guys, and he is definitely the leader back there.”
Metcalf, himself, emphasized the importance for the young guys to step up and be vocal in order to stay consistent in protection.
One of the main players impacted by the protection of the offensive line is senior running back Kenai Grier, who has been the feature ball-carrier for the Eagles’ offense in 2022.
Grier has had the unenviable task of replacing Dallas Johnsonwho rushed for 1,809 yards and 22 touchdowns last year as a senior. And Grier has filled in admirably with his 428 rushing yards and seven touchdowns through four games, while averaging 7.8 yards per carry.
He’ll be the first to tell you, though, that his production rests largely on the shoulders of the five teammates who line up in front of him on each play.
“[They are] really getting stronger, and they are getting tired of being yelled at [during] practice. They have been coming out and doing what they have been needing to do,” Grier said. “[Metcalf] has been a dog since freshman year. You can put him anywhere on the offensive line and he will work.”
As the Eagles (3-1) start their Region 8-AAAAA slate against Flowery Branch this week, Cawthon still emphasizes improvement on the line in order for them to finish the season atop the standings.
“They’re getting better day by day. They are getting more confident,” Cawthon said. “If you are not playing on Friday night, the more reps you get, the better you will get. Hopefully we will get one percent better this upcoming week.”