COVINGTON - Eastside's defense overpowered a strong Carrollton team to give the Eagles their first-ever trip to the quarterfinals with a 21-9 win over the Trojans on Friday at Homer Sharp Stadium.
The Eagles showed their defensive dominance in the first half, holding the Trojans to two first downs while giving up 38 total yards.
Carrollton finished the game with 168 yards of total offense - 67 of those yards coming on their scoring drive to start the third quarter.
"I can't say enough about how our defense is playing," Eastside coach Rick Hurst said. "If you play defense like this in the playoffs you give yourself a chance to win it. The kids are playing so confident they feel like they could play with anybody and I really believe we can,"
"All week long I worried about them, but I had a great feeling this morning that we were going to come out and play hard. Our kids play hard no matter what."
Against a Carrollton defense that was giving up 11 points per game, the Eagles put up 14 in the first half. They scored on a 70-yard pass Antarius Terrell and a 24-yard Justin Wray run.
Offensively, Eastside gained 84 yards rushing and another 141 passing.
By the end of the game, the Eagles had 177 yards on the ground and 177 in the air for 354 yards of total offense.
Eastside running back Broderick Alexander paced the team, rushing for 122 yards on 10 carriers. Quarterback Justin Wray was 10-for-13 passing for 177 yards.
On a receiver screen, Terrell weaved and bobbed his way until he had an opening, where he ran the ball 70 yards for an Eastside touchdown with 4:59 left in the first quarter.
After connecting with Andrico Bailey on a 24-yard pass, Wray ran the ball on the next play and broke several tackles along the way, running 24 yards - tightroping the final 11 - for another Eastside TD.
The Trojans made some necessary adjustments in the second half. After being stopped on almost every drive in the first half, Carrollton took the ball 67 yards on six plays for the TD.
Trojan quarterback Dallas Dickey scored on a dive three minutes into the second half.
"They came out and did something we haven't seen," Hurst said. "We'd seen it, but its been a while. They made adjustments like good football teams do. They went down the field on us, then we adjusted. We can adjust, too. We've got good coaches and good players."
Eastside responded on their second possession, moving the ball 80 yards in three plays. Alexander had a big 73-yard run in the drive, taking the ball to the Trojan 1-yard line.
"I just followed my offensive linemen," Alexander said. "We worked hard all through the week. Me and my offensive line worked on blocking. I was confident in them, and they were confident in me."
Aiken finished off the drive with a TD run to the outside to give the Eagles a 21-7 lead with 2:03 remaining in the third quarter.
"I wanted to stay up two (touchdowns) on them because if we stayed up two, I knew they'd have to come out of their running game and start throwing, and that's not what they're used to doing," Hurst said.
The Trojans threw the ball in the fourth quarter and were moving the ball well until Jerome Ivey stopped the drive with an interception with less then two minutes remaining in the game.
With 11 seconds left and the ball on the 17-yard line on fourth down, Wray scrambled in the backfield before stepping out of the back of the end zone with three ticks left.
"I wish it hadn't of been nine (points)," Hurst said, "but I wasn't going to take the chance of our punt getting blocked and giving them something."
In the quarterfinals, the Eagles will take on Class AAA No. 1 Cario, who beat Burke County 41-28 on Friday. A coin flip will be held today to determine which team will host the game.
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.