Goal-line stand kills Eastside's shot at upset

CAIRO - Down 13-6 in the third quarter, Eastside let a golden opportunity slip through its fingers.

The lost chance killed the Eagles' chances of upsetting No. 1-ranked Cairo.

After a poor snap, Cairo punter Garret Godwin downed the ball on his 7-yard line.

In fact, things got even better for Eastside when Cairo jumped offsides, giving the Eagles first-and-goal at the 4.

On the first down, Eastside's Broderick Alexander picked up 2 yards off the left tackle, the same play he scored a 1-yard touchdown run on in the first quarter.

Next, on second down, Alexander was stuffed for a 2-yard loss after good penetration by the middle of the Cairo defensive line.

Then, Alexander picked up three yards behind the right guard to set up fourth-and-goal at the 1.

Eastside quarterback Justin Wray, who normally operates the spread out of the shotgun, lined up behind the center. After the snap, he leaned to his left, trying to get across the goal line, but he was stopped for no gain.

The missed opportunity haunted the Eagles for the rest of the game, as the heavy rains hurt their ability to move the football in the spread.

Even without the score, Eastside had Cairo pinned in the shadow of its own goal post.

But Cairo made three big plays to escape on a key drive that helped salt away the victory.

"They made some plays. Like I said, on fourth-and-10, their kid makes a great catch and their kid makes a great throw," Eastside coach Rick Hurt said. "Again, it comes down to who makes the plays."

Atmosphere no problem

Before the game, a lot of the talk centered on whether Eastside, making its first quarterfinal playoff appearance in school history, had the ability to handle the intimidating atmosphere at West Thomas Stadium.

The hostile crowd and even the rainy conditions didn't stop the Eagles on Friday night.

Eastside had a crisp 13-play, 76-yard drive to score its only touchdown of the game. In fact, the Eagles overcame three 5-yard penalties on the drive, including one on their first play of the game.

"These kids aren't scared of anybody and they're not intimidated by anybody; that's the way we coach and that's the way we play," Hurst said. "I'm just happy with the way they handled themselves (tonight). They're not going to let that stuff get to them. We talked about it all week. All that talk pumped us up."

No turnovers

For all the rain and sloppy conditions, there were no turnovers in the game.

Cairo fumbled the ball three times and recovered all three. Eastside had only a bad snap that quarterback Justin Wray was able to recover.

Wray's night

Eastside's Justin Wray had an impressive performance in his final game with the Eagles.

Unofficially, Wray recorded 10 tackles from his spot at free safety.

Offensively, he rushed for 40 yards and passed for 50. He was 6 of 10 passing with all but one of his incompletions coming in the second half after heavy rain.

Andrico Bailey had two catches for 29 yards to lead the Eagles, while Zach Johnston added two catches for 16 yards.

Cairo wins battle on the ground

The Syrupmakers outgained the Eagles 198-103 on the ground.

Ronnie Wooten had nine carries for 107 yards to pace Cairo, while Reginald Bryant chipped in 87 yards on 19 attempts.

Jeff Gillespie can be reached at jeff.gillespie@rockdalecitizen.com.