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Posted: October 20, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Eastside shocks Stephens County, moves to 5-0

Anthony Banks/

Hammer down: Karl Williams (76) forces a fumble while Justin Wray (10) prepares to go 80 yards for the descisive score.

Eastside football coach Rick Hurst said on Thursday he wanted to make a statement Saturday night against Stephens County. Mission accomplished.

The Eagles (5-0, 2-0 Region 8-AAA) scored 21 unanswered points in the second half and forced five turnovers en route to a 38-14 thrashing of the Indians at Sharp Stadium.

The Eagles defeated an Indian (3-2, 1-1) team that hadn’t lost in Region 8-AAA play since dropping a 10-7 decision to Oconee County in 2004.

"When you beat someone that hasn’t been beaten, that hasn’t lost a region game since ’04, it’s just a tremendous effort," Hurst said. "I am so proud of where this program is going. We’ve got a good football team and I am tired of just everybody around here knowing it. Now everybody’s going to know it."

Eastside’s Justin Wray threw for 107 yards while accounting for three touchdowns, including two on offense and one defensive score.

"J Wray threw the ball exceptionally well." Hurst said. "He came out here tonight and when you saw him warm up, you could tell he was in the zone. Big players make big plays in big games."

Stephens County took command from the outset and running back Ren Teasley looked unstoppable.

Teasley chewed up 172 yards on the ground in the first half and scored two touchdowns, the first coming on Stephens County’s opening drive.

Down 7-0, running back Git Aiken broke free for 51yards to set up Yarnick Tinker for a 24-yard field goal and Eastside trailed 7-3 heading into the second quarter.

Teasley kept Eastside on its heals on the Indians ensuing drive as he burst for a 52-yard gain up the middle and Stephens County looked poised to break the game open. Eastside’s bend, don’t break defense, led by Zac Johnston, forced a Teasley fumble to stop the drive and the Eagles responded with an 11-play, 80-yard drive to take a 10-7 lead.

Wray scored on a 24-yard run over the left side and the Eagles led with 5:57 remaining in the half.

The Indians stormed right back as Teasley again exploited the Eagle’s defense for a 19-yard touchdown run on Stephens County’s second play of its ensuing drive.

After Eastside fumbled the ball, the Indians moved inside the red zone and threatened to take a two-score lead. Moments later, Wray came up with the game-changing play as he recovered Teasley’s second fumble and took it 80 yards to give Eastside a 17-14 lead.

"That was a big momentum shift for us," Hurst said. "That was big. That put us up 17-14 and got our crowd back into the game and got our kids believing again."

The Eagles’ defense shut down the Indians' running game in the second half, limiting Teasley to 35 yards. Meanwhile, Eastside’s offense took advantage of three turnovers to score 21 unanswered points.

"I just challenged our defense," Hurst said. "I challenged our defensive line and told them we were getting our butts kicked, and we were. We were in position to make plays and we were penetrating like we wanted to do but they weren’t squeezing and that kid was just running in gaps. They came back with a little bit of frustration and took it out on them [Stephens County]."

In all, the Indians had four fumbles and a late interception after the game was decided. Teasley had three fumbles and the Eagles were plus four overall in turnovers.

"The head coach from Hart [County} told me, if you keep hitting him, No. 28, he’ll put the ball on the ground," Hurst said. "Half the time we weren’t hitting him until he got to the secondary. But when we put a hat on him, he [Teasley] put the ball on the ground."

The Eagles offense came alive in the second half and Stephens County had no answer for Wray and company. Wray threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Andrico Bailey and running back Broderick Alexander scored two rushing touchdowns including an 18-yarder to seal the win.

"Our kids stayed focused," Hurst said. "That is the one thing we’ve talked about and are trying to do a better job of. When something happens, it’s just like prize fighting. You come right back and hit them right square in the mouth."

Aiken led the way for Eastside on the ground with 108 yards on 10 carries while Wray picked up 68. Wray also contributed on defense with two tackles and one pass deflection to go along with his fumble recovery. Teasley ended the night with 208 yards on 23 carries including the Indians two touchdowns. Johnston had a big game on defense as he recorded nine tackles, forced two fumbles and had one fumble recovery.

The win has brought on whispers of an undefeated season. Eastside faces a tough opponent Friday at Hart County. But should the Eagles get past that game unscathed, they finish with three of their final four games at home.

Hurst has been down that road before. In 1996, he was the offensive coordinator for an Americus team that lost only its state championship game.

"It means a lot to me because I wanted to take this program and let these guys feel what I’ve felt before in the past at other places," Hurst said. "These guys now understand, not just Covington, not just Rockdale, but the whole state will know what we are out to do."

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