COVINGTON — Turnovers and penalties ended up being the difference in Eastside’s 34-28 win over county-rival Newton at Homer Sharp Stadium to start the high school football season on Friday.
The Eagles (1-0) were able to capitalize on both Newton (0-1) turnovers while several of the Rams’ 15 penalties that either gave Eastside enough for a first down or put the Rams in long-conversion situations.
After a punt pinned the Eagles inside the 10-yard line, Newton gave them some room with a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties in the drive.
The Rams also hurt themselves on several occasions with offensive penalties. Newton had a 20-yard play called back on a holding call and they started the second half with a first and 20 as a result of back-to-back false start penalties.
“That’s the thing I was nervous about not playing a scrimmage game. Those are the kinks you don’t get worked out when you don’t play a scrimmage game,” Newton head coach Terrance Banks said. “I said that penalties and turnovers were the only thing that could beat us.”
Eastside scored on their second possession with an 80-yard drive which ended with a 19-yard run by Anthony Henderson with 4:40 left in the first quarter to go up 6-0. They went up 13-0 after recovering a Newton fumble on the ensuing kickoff with a 2-yard run by Carlos Huggins to close out a seven-play, 27-yard drive.
Late in the fourth quarter trailing 21-19, the Eagles were able to regain the lead after freshman Austin Holloway scored on a 21-yard pass from Damario Terrell with 2:41 left in the game following a fumble recovery by Huggins to make it 27-21.
“That got their momentum going and we responded with a touchdown by Holloway,” Eastside head coach Rick Hurst said.
However, the Rams were not ready to give up as Toyus Avery returned the kickoff 89 yards to give Newton the lead with less than 2:30 left in the game.
“We had so many guys out of position,” Hurst said. “That wasn’t even our kickoff team. We had about four freshmen out there. But no excuses, they have to make plays. I looked at the clock with 2:26 and we have timeout left. I knew we had a good chance and we were moving the football throwing.”
On the first play, Terrell, who was 14-for-27 for 224 yards, found Evan House for an 18-yard reception. Following a three-yard gain and an incomplete pass, Terrell connected with Henderson for a 45-yard touchdown pass to give the Eagles the lead.
“I’m just proud of the effort. You can’t say enough about these guys. They have a heart of a champion. That’s all that matters to me,” Hurst said. “We made some mistakes. But we kept battling and that’s the thing. Damario had some time but he was hurrying the ball in the first half. In the second half he settled down and made some great throws. Our offensive line did a great job protecting him.”
Eastside jumped out to a 19-0 lead before Newton sophomore quarterback Romario Johnson found Taylor Hawkins in the endzone for a touchdown with 1:03 left in the half.
The Rams scored three times in the third quarter, two touchdowns and a safety to take the lead making it 21-19.
Johnson threw for 222 yards on 16 completions on 31 attempts while running for another 79 yards on 20 carries.
“We have a sophomore quarterback that had never played under the lights,” Banks said. “Once he got hit and settled down I knew everything was going to be OK.”