TOCCOA - Eastside's defense rose to the challenge early in the ball game and turned things around as the Eagles snapped Stephens County's six-year region home winning streak with a 30-27 win Friday at The Reservation.
The Indians (1-4, 0-2 in 8-AAA) had a 14-7 lead on Eastside (3-2, 2-0 in 8-AAA) in the first quarter when they went for it on fourth and inches on their 29-yard line.
On the first play of the second period, Eastside's defense stopped Stephens County quarterback Dacen Cash, giving the Eagles the ball.
"That was a great job by our defense stopping them right there. We didn't do a very good job the rest of the night, but that play we did a good job of getting penetration and getting in the back field to tackle him before he got to the line of scrimmage," Eastside coach Rick Hurst said.
It took the Eagles five plays before Git Aiken tied the game from 18 yards out on a run. Aiken scored twice and finished the game with 167 yards on 19 carries.
"They (offensive line) did a great job," Hurst said. "We set the tone running the ball then hit them with play-action. I thought Jerome Ivey player real well; I thought Califf (Carnes) played real well. No turnovers; no interceptions; no fumbles he made good decisions out there. It's easier when they don't put that kind of pressure on themselves."
The Indians set the tone early scoring in their first two possessions. Cash found Kadaryl Burtch for a 53-yard strike with 9:19 left in the first quarter.
Five minutes later, freshman Chaz Thornton, who had 20 carries for 192 yards on the night, ran it in from 3 yards out after a 42-yard run to give Stephens County a 14-0 lead.
However, the Eagles came back when Califf Carnes (6-for-7, 118 yards) found Jerome Ivey for a 40-yard touchdown pass to cut the Indians' lead in half.
"I think we felt good about ourselves when we scored the first touchdown to make it 14-7. One thing I heard on the sideline when we were down 14-0 was, 'Don't get down'. That was positive; that was the first time we've done that this year. That was good to see," Hurst said.
Aiken, with extra-point conversions by Cody Sandler, tied the game on an 18-yard run with 9:06 left in the opening half.
Eastside took the lead after moving the ball 74 yards on nine plays, capped by a Carnes-Ivey combination for 23 yards, in five minutes, scoring with 1:23 left in the half.
Frustration started setting into Stephens County as they committed four penalties in Eastside's opening drive of the second half, which ended with a 1-yard run by Aiken.
Eastside scored its 30th unanswered point on a 31-yard Sandler field with 11:51 left in the game.
But the Indians were not about to let their win streak end without a fight. Cash scored from one yard out before Thornton made it 30-27 following an 80-yard jaunt.
"They came right at us. They had a good game plan and (Thornton) did a good job being a freshman. He runs the ball very hard," Hurst said.
The one part of the game that could have cost them a win was penalties. The Eagles were penalized 12 times, including one which negated a touchdown, for 123 yards.
"Some of them were hustle penalties on defense that we'll accept," Hurst said. "We have to fix some things in that area before (Hart County) next week."
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.