Photo by Derrick Mahone / “We’re going to go toe-to-toe with everyone we play against,” Eagle’s Landing football coach Joe Teknipp said. The Golden Eagles are 0-3 but averaging almost 30 points a game.
The record may look familiar, but this is different.
This is high school football that’s worth the price of admission.
This is high school football with a cliffhanger at the end of each game.
Eagle’s Landing is 0-3 to start the season for the 10th time in school history. It’s on pace for its third winless season since 2007. According to Golden Eagles high school football history, the status quo is safe.
But let’s pause to add some crucial footnotes.
No Eagle’s Landing team has ever scored 30 points in back to back games. This 0-3 team has.
No Eagle’s Landing team has ever scored at least 25 points in three straight games. This 0-3 team has.
No Eagle’s Landing team has lulled fans to sleep with slow starts only to rouse them with furious finishes that fall painstakingly fall short three straight times. But this 0-3 team has.
If there’s a way to be the most entertaining and dangerous 0-3 team in Georgia, the Golden Eagles have found it.
“We’re going to go toe-to-toe with everyone we play against,” Eagle’s Landing coach Joe Teknipp said.
And they have.
They were a last-minute interception away in a 38-30 season-opening loss to Ola.
They were a sloppy first half away in a 41-30 loss to Lamar County after being down 28-6 at halftime.
They were an on-side kick recovery away in a 31-29 loss to Upson-Lee last Friday.
For a high school football program so tortured by defeat, this season’s near-misses may seem cruel. But they’re actually a sign of progress.
Especially on offense. Much of that is the work of new offensive coordinator Rex Robertson, who joined Eagle’s Landing after eight seasons of offensive fireworks at Henry County. Robertson meant to follow former Henry County head coach Mike Rozier to Lakeside-DeKalb, but when he wasn’t offered a teaching contract he came back.
Eagle’s Landing was a natural fit. Robertson was one of the first people Teknipp met when he moved from Ohio. They coached Henry County ninth grade football together.
When Robertson took the offensive coordinator position at Eagle’s Landing, Teknipp gave him one goal — let’s score 21 points a game.
“He told me, ‘Heck with that, I’m scoring 30 a game.’” Teknipp said. “And he’s there.”
Just a few ticks off, actually, at 29.7 points a game. That’s well up from last season’s 10.8 a game.
Given just one offseason, Eagle’s Landing has transformed into a dangerous offensive team with a balanced attack.
What other team has a 6-foot-5 wide receiver (Warren Wright) and a 6-foot-5 tight end (Bill Teknipp) to stretch defenses?
Few teams are getting the production at running back that Eagle’s Landing is from Corey Holloway, who rushed for 171 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries in the Upson-Lee loss.
Even fewer teams would expect a first-year junior quarterback to play with the poise and precision that Bradley Dewberry has.
“We’ve been balanced and kids know that,” Teknipp said. “We’ve got a big-time running back, a big-time tight end, big time wide receivers and Dewberry’s doing a heck of a job. ... It’s what I expected.”
But it’s not what the rest of the Southern Crescent expected. Eagle’s Landing’s remaining opponents — a barrage of heavy-hitters that include Jonesboro (2-1) this Friday, followed by Riverdale (3-0), Stockbridge (2-1) and Dutchtown (2-1) — will find a Golden Eagles team armed and ready for four quarters because this season is long from over.
The record may say 0-3, but Eagle’s Landing hasn’t played a region game yet and won’t until October 5 at home against Stockbridge.
“If we’d have been 3-0 or got to 5-0, I’d be telling them it doesn’t mean anything,” Teknipp said. “We’re 0-0. We’ve got to win four games to get to No. 1 in our sub-region. What’s the difference?”
The difference is opponents now have to pay attention to Eagle’s Landing.
Brian Paglia covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter? Follow him at @BrianPaglia.