After losing two non-region games to start the season, McEachern has rolled off five wins in a row, including Friday’s 42-28 victory over South Cobb. The Indians have overcome the early trouble of youth at many of their skill positions and have grown up quickly.
McEachern stands alone atop the standings as the lone unbeaten in region play. While that will be tested next week against North Cobb, the Indians have already put themselves in good position to reach the state playoffs, having begun to separate themselves from the bottom half of the region.
“Obviously, with the meat of the schedule coming up, North Cobb and Harrison only have one loss. They still think they can win region,” McEachern coach Kyle Hockman said. “I think we’re wanting to do those kinds of things. We feel like we are making progress toward that, but it’s a work in progress. We are working hard to be balanced, have depth and not just rely heavily on one guy.”
After having to get the team back to being motivated following its 0-2 start, Hockman now has to find a way to keep McEachern even-keeled after winning five in a row. But he says the challenges ahead have kept the Indians from getting too high or celebrating their victories too much.
“It’s been easy because of playing 5-0 teams (like South Cobb),” Hockman said. “I don’t care what their name is or their history is. (The team) sees that and knows they are winning, and they have to be focused. North Cobb, physically, is probably about as gifted as any team we play. We’d better be ready.”
North Cobb bounced back from a loss to South Cobb with a 41-14 rout over Hillgrove. With the victory, the Warriors moved into a four-way tie for second in the region at 3-1.
“Obviously, losing in overtime the week before put us behind the 8-ball a little bit,” North Cobb coach Shane Queen said. “It was obvious for us to bounce back and have a great week of practice. We were resilient and came out and played well this Friday night.
“You always worry about a team beating you twice — losing a game where you felt like you had a chance to win. But we came out and played well (against Hillgrove). Our kids and our coaches came out and practiced hard this week.”
McEachern and North Cobb have had success in the past, and the teams have some idea of how to plan and prepare mentally for a late-season run toward the playoffs.
For Walker, that’s not the case.
The Wolverines routed Fellowship Christian 54-7 on Friday, on the way to winning their sixth straight game to open the season. Having matched a team record for wins in a season, Walker will go for the record-breaker — and continue striving for just the second state playoff berth in team history — when it travels to King’s Ridge Christian next Friday.
“Walker hasn’t had seven wins before, so we keep trying to add to it,” first-year coach John East said. “Moreso, we’re trying to compete for a region title now that we have some region games under our belt. Our motto is to win the next game, but winning the next game keeps up in position to play for a region title.”
East, a 38-year coaching veteran in a variety of sports, said his coaching philosophy, which has adapted over time, will help the Wolverines stay loose in the midst of the program’s newfound success.
“The emotions are in check and in the right place,” he said. “I do know, from talking to our players, that they are feeling a different emotion at practice in that we loosen up a little bit and we have fun. You hear some good chatter going on, and it’s the kind of chatter you want.
“The other day, when I was at practice, I had my back turned at practice and you could tell we were having fun because I could hear it. I want to hear what’s going on. That’s when I thought, ‘All right, that’s when they are truly understanding what I am talking about.’ The kids have expressed that.”