COVINGTON - For the first time in school history, Eastside football is 5-0.
Thanks to a 38-14 win over Stephens County on Saturday night at Homer Sharp Stadium, the Eagles (5-0 overall, 2-0 Region 8-AAA) handed the Indians their first region loss in four years.
"It's just a tremendous effort and I'm so proud of where this program is going," Eastside coach Rick Hurst said. "By golly, we got a good football team, and I'm tired of just everybody around here knowing it - now everybody's going to know it."
On its opening possession, Stephens (3-2 overall, 1-1 Region 8-AAA) capitalized after nine plays when Ren Teasley scored on a 4-yard touchdown run. After the point-after by Josh Galler, the Indians led 7-0 with four minutes and 56 seconds left in the first quarter.
But four minutes later, Eastside had its first points of the night after a 23-yard field goal by Yanrick Tinker.
The score remained 7-3 entering the second frame until Teasley fumbled to Eastside's Zack Johnston, giving the Eagles the ball at their own 20-yard line.
Ten plays later, Eastside quarterback Justin Wray scampered down the left sideline for a 24-yard touchdown. After the PAT, the Eagles led 10-7 with 5:57 remaining until halftime.
But Teasley quickly atoned for the turnover with a 19-yard touchdown that took just 28 seconds, breaking tackles along the way before diving into the end zone. The play was set up by a 46-yard pass from quarterback Dacen Cash to Jaquan Trammell.
After the PAT, Stephens had regained the lead - and momentum - at 14-10 with 5:29 left.
On Eastside's next possession, running back Git Aiken coughed it up to Cody Martin after a gain of 10 yards. Soon after a 20-yard pass from Cash to a wide-open Martin, Eastside was pinned at its own 21-yard line.
"Our kids stayed focused, and that is the one thing we're trying to keep them doing a better job of," Hurst said. "Staying focused and making sure that when something happens, it's just like a prize fight - you come right back and you hit 'em right square in the mouth. And I think we did."
It was at this point when the Eastside defense delivered the knockout punch, causing another Teasley fumble, which Wray scooped up and then raced 82 yards for the touchdown to give the Eagles a 17-14 lead with 3:16 left until halftime.
"It was just an all-around team effort," Hurst said, "but big players make big plays in big games, and that's exactly what (Wray) did."
Still, despite the three-point lead entering halftime, the Eagles had plenty of work to do - mainly containing Teasley, who rushed for 167 yards on 15 carries in the first half.
At halftime, Hurst challenged his defense, particularly the defensive line, which had allowed 245 yards of total offense. In addition, it surrendered six big plays resulting in 20 yards or more.
"I told them we were getting our butts kicked, and we were," Hurst said. "We were in position to make plays. We were penetrating like we wanted to do, but it wasn't squeezing and (Teasley) was just running gaps. So they came back out with a little bit of frustration and let it out a little."
As a result, Eastside held Stephens to just 40 yards of offense and two first downs in the second half.
In fact, regarding the halves, it was like night and day. In the second half, Eastside forced three turnovers while holding Stephens scoreless. And Teasley was limited to just 34 yards on eight carries.
Two plays into the third quarter, Cash fumbled, which eventually led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Eastside fullback Broderick Alexander. With the PAT, the Eagles had built a 10-point lead three minutes into the second half.
And after holding Stephens to three-and-out, the Eastside defense came calling once more, this time a blocked punt resulting in just a 7-yard kick.
After setting up shop on Stephens' 33-yard line, three plays later, Wray connected with Andrico Bailey for a beautiful 28-yard touchdown pass in the right corner of the end zone for a 31-14 edge with 5:51 left in the third.
Then, the Eagles compiled a 10-play drive that started in the third quarter and ended in the fourth with a 15-yard touchdown dash by Alexander After the PAT, Eastside led 38-14 with 7:42
Jason Murdock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.