With the season half over, the Eagles are missing players all over the field as they still search for their first win.
Offensive linemen Josh Archer, Justin Akin and Jake Samples are out. Defensive back Zach Hembree did not play in Friday’s game against Elbert County. The Eagles then lost a two-way starter at receiver and defensive back, Deangelo Moore, during the game with a broken collar bone. The Eagles also lost quarterback Austin Beauchamp during the second half of the game with what was initially thought to be a broken hand. It turned out to be only a bad bruise and his outlook for playing this week is favorable.
Linebacker Andre Sangalang has been out since getting injured in pregame warm-ups before the Commerce game.
“In my years of coaching, I’ve never seen a team hit with this many injuries and this many injuries to starters,” Eagle coach Brian Smith said.
All that said, East Jackson (0-5, 0-2) must now prepare to host Hart County (1-3, 1-0) in another tough Region 8-AAA contest.
“It’s crazy but Hart is not going to care, Morgan is not going to care, and all those guys to come,” Smith said. “So we’ll go back to work and the good thing is that we do have the open week next week … Anybody right now that is saying two weeks (until they return), is back for Morgan County. Hopefully, we can heal some of those up.”
Hart County is off to a slow start but beat Franklin County 45-19 this past Friday for its first win of the season. The Bulldogs are again under the direction of William Devane, who coached Hart County from 1998-2000 to a 38-3 record. The Bulldogs have lost as many games this year as they did during Devane’s entire first term as Hart County coach. Smith points to Hart County’s schedule.
“They’ve played some good people,” he said.
Hart County features versatile quarterback Dakota Mitchell, who leads the Bulldogs’ spread offense both through the air and on the ground. Through four games, Mitchell has thrown for 755 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s also run for 374 yards and three scores.
“The quarterback is a great player,” Smith said. “He can run and throw.”
Defensively, Hart County runs a 4-3 scheme and is allowing 365 yards per game.
“The thing about Hart is that they have solid high school football players,” Smith said.
Smith said his team will take whatever able bodies it has and will do its best to get ready for another tough test.
“You take the guys that you have and you practice them where they can help you at,” Smith said.
Since Beauchamp hurt his non-throwing hand, he’ll probably play, according to Smith. The injured left hand could, however, affect his ability to take a snap.
East Jackson played all three of its quarterbacks Friday. Smith said if there’s any sort of silver lining to the situation, it’s given the Eagles’ other quarterbacks more reps.
“It provides Brodhi and Caleb a chance to get more snaps during the week and gives them a chance to kind of battle for that job,” Smith said.
Though East Jackson is 0-5 at the midpoint of the season, Smith said his team can’t afford to feel sorry for itself, bemoan the injury conundrum or worry about the teams left on the schedule.
“We’re more worried about us and we’re still that way,” Smith said. “We’re still trying to get better and we’re not going to stop. We look at it right now and we’re 0-5. We’ve got five weeks to get better.”
Hart County at East Jackson
•When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
•Where: Eagle Stadium, East Jackson
•Last year: Hart County 30, East Jackson 10
•Records: Hart County 1-3, 1-0; East Jackson 0-2, 0-5
•Hart County’s coach: William Devane (39-6 at Hart County, fourth season, non-consecutive; 65-31 overall, ninth season)
•East Jackson’s coach: Brian Smith (3-12 at East Jackson, second season; 99-84 overall, 18th season)
•Last week: Hart County 45, Franklin County 19; Elbert County 42, East Jackson 2
•Series: Hart County leads 2-0
•What else: Hart County coach William DeVane is in his second term as the Bulldogs’ head coach. DeVane was ultra successful in his first run with Hart County, going 39-3 from 1998-2000. DeVane led the Bulldogs to a state runner-up finish in 1999 ... Like East Jackson coach Brian Smith, DeVane is a former Clemson football player. DeVane played on the Tigers’ 1981 national championship team ... This is the third meeting between East Jackson and Hart County. The Eagles lost a close one to the Bulldogs in 2010, 21-14, but lost 30-10 last year ... East Jackson looks to break a 12-game losing streak that dates back to 2011 ... East Jackson coach Brian Smith seeks his 100th win.
•What the coach is saying: “They’re not as conservative as they may have been in the past,” East Jackson coach Brian Smith said of Hart County’s offensive scheme. “The quarterback is a great player. He can run and throw. Defensively, they’re still very solid.”