COVINGTON - Thirty-one, that's how many points Eastside put on the board in the first quarter as the Eagles routed Jackson County 50-0 for their homecoming game Friday at Homer Sharp Stadium.
"I told them I wanted to see them play with purpose and play with emotion. It was a different atmosphere, a different feel," Eastside coach Rick Hurst said. "I felt like our kids were ready to play, and they were, and the week of practice it showed."
Also motivating the players was senior Jarod White.
"One of our kids hadn't had a chance to play since he was a freshman. He finally got to dress tonight, and I think the kids dedicated the whole homecoming game to him," Hurst said.
However, once the game started it quickly became the Git Aiken Show.
In their opening drive, Aiken carried the ball four of their seven plays before finishing it with a 10-yard run.
Aiken led the Eagles on the ground with 83 yards on five carries, all in the first quarter.
"He's a gamer. If he could ever learn to practice the way he should, not to say he doesn't practice hard, but if he could learn to practice every day with a mission, there's no telling how good he could be," Hurst said. "He's shown it all year, he's been a big playmaker for us. But once he learns how to practice with a purpose, he'll be a real threat."
After the Eagles made it 9-0 on a safety when the ball went out of the back of the end zone on a punt attempt, Aiken extended their lead to 16-0 on a 34-yard dash.
After pounding the Panthers running the ball, the Eagles decided to change things up and put the ball in the air.
On their first play after Karl Williams recovered a Jackson County fumble, Justin Wray hit Antarius Terrell for a 54-yard touchdown pass with 4:44 left in the opening period.
Wray finished the night going 2-for-3 for 61 yards and had five yards rushing.
The Eagles added another touchdown in the first period with a 25-yard by Broderick Alexander, who had 70 yards on the night on three touches, with 40 ticks left on the clock.
Aiken started the second quarter scoring another touchdown after picking up a blocked punt and walking it in the final two yards.
Rashad Hill and Tony Atwater added to two more touchdowns to Eastside's total with runs of 16 and 10 yards.
The Eagles finished the first half with 214 yards on the ground on 15 carries, plus an additional 61 in the air on two catches.
They scored seven touchdowns in the first to take a 50-0 halftime lead.
Even though the Eagles did not score any points in the second half, they gained a lot of valuable experience playing non-starter varsity as well as JV and freshman players.
One of the up and coming players that made his mark on the field was Victor Smith.
Although he only had 22 yards rushing on four carries, he could have doubled his output were it not for a couple of holding penalties by the young Eagles against the more experienced Jackson County group.
"We had some freshmen playing tonight, we dressed about nine or 10 of them. We were real fortunate to get them in the game because those kids are going to be playing a lot next year," Hurst said. "(This) lets them see the speed of the game, how different it is on Friday night compared to Thursday. It also gives them the experience so when they line up in that first (varsity) game they'll be more relaxed."
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.