It took two full seasons to finally get rolling, but after a 10-2 finish in 2016, the Metro Eagles of Jonesboro, Ga., are currently ranked No. 17 in the country and are poised for success on the road ahead.
“Our first two years combined, we went 0-16,” Eagles head coach Eric Moore told Developmental Football USA. “We didn’t win a game, then I finally started to see what was really going on.
“I took notice of other organizations like the Georgia Canes and Metro Atlanta Horsemen. When 2016 rolled around, I had a very good squad. Once we got everything together, got the coaches, the offense and defense together. We started the season in 2016, 5-0.”
The Metro Eagles elite defense was a major part of their stout turnaround. The defense is led by captain, middle linebacker Deonte Samuel and fellow linebackers Courtney Wynn and Quenton Davenport as well as cornerback Damian Samuel.
“Our linebacking core is one of the best in the country,” Moore said. “We didn’t allow a single point until our third game and we beat a very good Columbus Truth team. Our only loss of the season came to the eventual champion, Georgia Wolves, then we lost to them again in the championship game.”
This same defense returns in 2017 and should help the Eagles contend in the United Independent Football League, which they have recently joined.
“We bring over the No. 1 defense from the whole east coast in semipro from last season,” Moore said. “We gave up 44 points all of last season. The offensive line has gotten bigger and better. We’re better on the outside, the running backs are better. We’ve gotten better and deeper at every position.
Defensively, the Eagles also welcome new defensive coordinator Coach Tony Gates.
“He’s bringing in a new philosophy, but bringing the same intensity,” Moore said.
The offense is led by quarterback Trae Moran and wide receiver Chaz Williams and is anchored by a strong offensive line.
“The line is dynamic,” Moore said. “I praise all of them for the work that they are doing, pushing themselves to get better every day. Those two players right there are just some pieces of the puzzle, but they start what they do offensively.”
Another key part of the Eagles’ offense may or may not be back next season.
“Last season our running back was a former UAB Blazer, Elliott McGaskin Jr.,” Moore said. “He ran for almost 1,800 yards last season. He’s doing a career change, going into the corporate world and hasn’t decided if he’s going to retire or come back and play.
“If he doesn’t come back then we’re only two players gone from last season. We’re a team ready to unload, not just a lucky team that went 10-2 last season.
With much more left to prove, the Eagles have already strapped back up to get ready for the pre-season, which kicks off next month.
“Our first pre-season game is Jan. 21 against the Upstate Gamecocks of South Carolina,” Moore said. “Then we play the Atlanta Tigers Jan. 28 then another one on Feb. 4 against the Georgia Titans.
The UIFL schedule will come out next week and the season will kick off Feb. 11, Moore said.
“We look fantastic,” Moore said. “We’re reloaded from last season and ready to make a move in this new league we’re in.”
The UIFL started in the north and recently expanded south by adding several of the region’s top teams.
“It has some great teams in it, some great competition,” Moore said. “The South Carolina Bulls, Georgia Cardinals, the West Georgia Falcons, just to name a few. The Carolina Cougars, Carolina Avengers, it’s a great league with some awesome competition.
“There are some stout teams that are more established than we are. We are like the baby of the bunch. After last season we know we can play with the big teams and play with anybody on the field as us. We look to carry over from last season.”
A big focus for Moore is to get his players exposure to help them get a chance at the next level and so far he’s had some success doing that, despite the team’s young history.
“We’ve had four players go to Trinity Community College in Kansas,” Moore said. “We did have a player that was supposed to play for the Albany Firebirds last season but decided against it for personal reasons.”
Last season the Eagles climbed as high as No. 7 in the nation before losing to the Georgia Wolves. With pretty much the whole roster returning, as well as some key new addition, they have their sights set higher for 2017.
“I think we have a good chance in getting into the Top 5 this season,” Moore said. “We’re just hungry and we’re still young, a very young team, and we know we have the potential to make a splash, not only in this league but at the national level. We want to continue to make Jonesboro and the state of Georgia proud.”