Class AAAA blog: Eagles prepare to build off quarterfinal run

Eastside High School finished the 2018 regular season undefeated and went on to produce a school-record 12 wins before falling to eventual state champion Blessed Trinity in the quarterfinals last season. There will be plenty of talent returning to lead the Eagles in 2019, but building off the areas where last year’s team excelled, in particular the turnover margin, will be a theme to the offseason. 

“We had a great group of kids who really played excellent team football,” explained Hoff. “You need to stay healthy and you need a little luck to win 10 games in a row and we actually won 12. But to do that you have to have the ball bounce your way along the path. They prepared every week and they practiced at a high level and they played hard for each other. That was the key part to that team. …Some of that is being in the right place in the right time. A lot of hustle plays cause turnovers. You look at defensively, some years go by where there were a lot of balls on the ground and you didn’t get them all because you were almost there, but not quite. So we show our guys big picture. We had two more guys sign yesterday. We were talking about Jalen Atlow a defensive end of ours who had two interceptions in a game, which doesn’t happen very often. But just that fact that one was off of a tipped ball 10 yards down from the line of scrimmage, the only way you get to that spot to make that play is if you are hustling and tracking the football. So I think that is probably the number one key.”

Eastside will also have Noah Cook returning at quarterback for his senior season. 

“Yes, he did start as a sophomore. We’ve always have known that he has the talent. Noah is a talented kid and a talented baseball player as well. He is a very talented athlete. He showed us that he was able to take that step mentally and prepared for games and being that leader as a quarterback. Knowing what everyone is doing. There isn’t a situation that we put him in where we felt like he couldn’t handle it. He’s kind of become that guy where the full package is at his disposal. We don’t feel like there are situations that he hasn’t seen. I think as a senior, we just look for that to continue. Getting better at anticipating throws, he’s going to have some new receivers to work with in some instances. But when you are a senior, a quarterback with his experience is a luxury.”

Defensively, Eastside produced 103 tackles for loss last season. Coach Hoff talked about how his team was able to be so collectively effective up front. 

“On the defensive line, you like to play a lot of guys to keep them fresh and I want to go back to the d-line group being a senior group and extremely unselfish where they knew that they weren’t always set up to make the play. And they worked out with the linebackers behind them and I give our defensive coaching staff a lot of credit there. Because of schematically putting those guys in position to make plays and obviously the player executing and doing it. But those guys really embraced doing their jobs and trusting their teammates and it created openings for a lot of guys. It wasn’t just one person or one position group. It goes back to the d-line working with the linebackers in the box, your front seven and also the perimeter guys. So that’s also a collective group effort. I think it does reflect back to what we preach and what we believe in in being a team game. When you got all 11 on the field on the same page and you believe in each other and that is a part of your culture that’s tough to beat.”

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