Rais­ing the bar

Hurst has 2007 Ea­gles fly­ing in right di­rec­tion

The Covington News - - SPORTS - By Ja­son Mur­dock

Last year, the slo­gan for the East­side Ea­gles foot­ball pro­gram was short and to the point: “Com­pete.” They did. In fact, the Ea­gles won five games last sea­son — five more than they had won dur­ing the pre­vi­ous two years, a stretch in which they had lost 20 con­sec­u­tive games.

But this sea­son is an en­tirely dif­fer­ent story, and the se­cret is out: East­side is good — real good.

So, it’s fit­ting that East­side head coach Rick Hurst cre­ated a new catch­phrase for the

“W e have (to) un­der­stand that when you win, peo­ple ex­pect things out of you. There’s no more over­look­ing East­side — we’ve got a big ‘X’ on our chest, and we know that. But if we play the way we’re sup­posed to then good things will hap­pen for us.”

— Rick Hurst Foot­ball head coach, East­side High School

2007 Ea­gles: “Raise the bar.”

Hurst took a time­out Fri­day af­ter­noon dur­ing prac­tice to dis­cuss his thoughts on the ‘07 Ea­gles:

Ques­tion: Al­though it’s still too early, how does the team look so far?

An­swer: We had a good sum­mer. I told them the other day that I (didn’t) think it was a great sum­mer — it wasn’t as good as I had wanted. But we’re hop­ing (tonight) will be lively.

Legally, the state of Ge­or­gia al­lows high school foot­ball teams to prac­tice in full pads be­gin­ning Mon­day.

The Ea­gles will host “Mid­night Mad­ness” at 12:01 a.m. tonight at the East­side High School prac­tice field.

Well, we just get a 12-hour start on ev­ery­body else, so we go at 12:01 a.m. We know we’ll have a pretty good crowd on hand, and our team is ready to take some­body to the ground and get af­ter it. So, I think (tonight) we’ll see a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent at­ti­tude.

With the sea­son less than four weeks away, how ex­cited are you right now?

I’ve thought about this year since Novem­ber 10, 2006.

The date marked the end of the reg­u­lar sea­son for the Ea­gles, as they lost to Haber­sham Cen­tral, 31-14.

Trust me, when I say we didn’t have the good sum­mer, it (wasn’t) that. It was just I felt like at times we had a lit­tle bit of cock­i­ness about us ear­lier this sum­mer. We went over to Ge­or­gia and we got our butts handed to us, and it was the best thing for us be­cause af­ter that we played lights out. If we do that — if we just keep our mind fo­cused on what we (have) to do and play within our game and not kill our­selves with turnovers and penal­ties — then we’ve got a re­ally good chance.

Have you set any team goals yet, and if so what do they in­clude?

We’ve set those — our lead­er­ship coun­cil has set (them). I told them that by Mon­day they had to come up with five at­tain­able goals that we felt like we could do.

The Ea­gles have a 15player lead­er­ship coun­cil con­sist­ing of six se­niors, four ju­niors, three sopho­mores and two fresh­men.

What do you think will be the big­gest adjustment for this par­tic­u­lar team?

Well, I think the big­gest adjustment for th­ese kids is (that) they now have ex­pec­ta­tions — peo­ple in our com­mu­nity ex­pect them to do well be­cause we had a good year. We’ve got most of our play­ers back, so we’re ex­pected to do some­thing, which (we) haven’t had here in a while.

But that’s good be­cause that was a goal I had when I came here — to make this place re­spectable and to bring re­spect

to this foot­ball pro­gram. I think we’ve done that, but we’re still not where we want to be.

Last year, you beat crosstown ri­val New­ton, 21-20, which set the tone for your Ea­gles. How im­por­tant will the first game of the sea­son be against the Rams?

(Pauses) You know, last year was mag­i­cal be­cause it was my first win, and th­ese guys did ev­ery­thing. I felt like they played their butts off, not just for (them­selves) but they played for this coach­ing staff, and that meant a lot to me.

But this year I think our kids un­der­stand fi­nally that this (game) is not the world. It means a lot be­cause it’s our first game, and that’s go­ing to be our goal — to win each game ev­ery week, but not to look past that.

We want to make sure we’re ready for New­ton, but we don’t want to get over­whelmed by it. We need to know that we have nine games left and we’ve got to win those be­cause those are the ones that re­ally, re­ally count. We don’t want our kids to throw ev­ery­thing out the win­dow if some­thing hap­pens; it’s not in our fa­vor.

East­side lost to New­ton in the ‘05 sea­son-opener, 27-20.

Last year, we won and I felt like it boosted us into a good year. Hope­fully, we’ll be able to come out on top again this year, but it’s go­ing to be a bat­tle against New­ton.

What are your big­gest con­cerns, if any, en­ter­ing this sea­son?

It’s how we han­dle ex­pec­ta­tion; I re­ally be­lieve that. How we han­dle be­ing in the spot­light…be­ing that we (have) the ac­co­lades, that we have the re­gion play­ers, and that we did this and we did that. But we have to put that aside, know that it was last year (and) that it’s time to move on and see what we can do this year.

Did you lose many play­ers, and if so how con­fi­dent are you re­gard­ing this spe­cific group of ath­letes?

You know, we did lose some key play­ers. But last year we were able to get some young kids in the game and play them early, and that’s helped us.

The East­side se­nior class has played to­gether since they were sopho­mores.

That’s a huge deal; I think over­all our team is bet­ter from a phys­i­cal stand­point — it’s the men­tal as­pect that I’m con­cerned about right now.

De­spite the pri­mary fo­cus on the team, how im­por­tant are the other pro­grams that help raise en­thu­si­asm re­gard­ing East­side foot­ball?

Well, Alan Fowler (band di­rec­tor) does a tremen­dous job with our band. He lets us use his prac­tice field a cou­ple days a week. Our cheer­lead­ing spon­sor, Lyn Lind­sey (cheer­lead­ing head coach), does an ex­cel­lent job as far as get­ting the kids’ spirit go­ing dur­ing the week of the game.

It’s a whole unit, like a foot­ball team, and I can’t do it alone. It takes the as­sis­tant coaches, play­ers, man­agers and ev­ery­body, and the same thing with our school and the spirit. Ev­ery­body is in­volved, and I think our prin­ci­pal (Dr. Robert Daria) has brought it back to East­side, as far as the spirit of the school and tak­ing pride in it. It’s just a col­lec­tive ef­fort to make it work.

Look for more on Hurst and the Ea­gles in The Cov­ing­ton News 2007 Foot­ball Preview due out Au­gust 29 on news­stands, which show­cases Al­covy, East­side and New­ton.

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Cor­rect for­ma­tion: East­side head coach Rick Hurst in­structs ju­nior quar­ter­back Justin Wray dur­ing foot­ball prac­tice Fri­day af­ter­noon at East­side High School. Hurst and his Ea­gles are look­ing to im­prove on their over­all 5- 5 record from last year.

HURST

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Win­ning grin: East­side head coach Rick Hurst shows his en­thu­si­asm dur­ing foot­ball prac­tice Fri­day af­ter­noon at the East­side High School prac­tice field. Last year, the Ea­gles were 5-5 over­all.

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