[By Stephen Amason, Special to ETSN.fm]

The Rusk Eagles have been hanging tough all year. Their start did not go according to plan, but they’ve rallied back into the playoff picture and could end the regular season with a district title.

Rusk currently sits in the top of spot of the District 7-4A Division II standings. Going 0-6 to start the season was hard but, the Eagles are hitting their stride, putting together three-straight district victories.

“We knew we were getting better facing some tougher opponents and getting some people some experience at the varsity level,” Rusk head coach Jowell Hancock said. “It takes time to grow and get better, it took some time to get to that place. Our kids know what we are about, they know what our expectations are, and what our goals are, they can recite it. We just move on each week and focus on getting one percent better each day.”

The Eagles offense is led by junior quarterback Jaylon Hall, who has 659 passing yards and five touchdowns. Hall also has 512 yards rushing, 11 touchdowns, and is the Eagles’ leading rusher.

“He’s worked his way into the starting role, he’s gotten better and put the time in, the video study,” Hancock said. “Each week his confidence has grown, when you feel good about yourself you’re gonna do much better.

“We’ve worked out on being a balanced attack. The kids are doing real well and they’re growing each week and that's the big key.”

The Eagles had to replace some positions going into this season.

“Anytime you have to replace your quarterback you’re gonna have some growing to do,” Hancock said. “Jaylon Hall is coming into his own at quarterback, and we got a two-way starter in BJ Johnson at linebacker and running back who just had a real good game. It’s nice when you have a one-play drive when he breaks and scores off a counter.

“They all are just continuing to get more confident and that’s what we’re doing going into this last week of district.”

The Eagles would love to cap the regular season off with a district championship, but they have to get by Wills Point (5-3, 2-1) on the road to do it. Both teams are playing for the district title, and the Eagles know what they’re going up against and are aware that the stakes are high with this game.

“They got a talented quarterback and an offensive line that knows how to get behind their pads,” Hancock said. “They got a talented receiver out there that you’re going to pay attention to and not just their quarterback, and they’re fighting for the district title too, they’re at home and it’s their senior night so they’ll be fired up.”