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Five and oh so close
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On Friday night, Salem managed something four other teams had previously failed to do against Eastside this season: win.

The Seminoles ruined homecoming by defeating the Eagles 24-17 in region action at Homer Sharp Stadium.

Although the Eagles (4-1 overall, 0-1 Region 8B-AAAA) had been perfect entering the game, the Seminoles (4-1, 1-0) used big plays to give them their first loss of the year. The fatal blow came during the fourth quarter, after a 74-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Terrance Davis to Kris Sykes, which broke a 17-17 tie.

"We just broke the assignment," said Eastside head coach Rick Hurst. "That's all that happened. We relaxed a little bit, and you can't do that against (Davis). He's just like ours (Justin Wray) - he's special and he makes plays. Unfortunately, tonight he just made more than we did."

Davis, who has verbally committed to play for Mississippi State University, eluded would-be tacklers all night long, slipping from their grasp as if they were trying to grab an eel. He finished 9-of-17 (53 percent) for 183 yards and one touchdown, including one interception.

Despite fumbling three times (all recovered), Davis led the 'Noles in rushing with 17 carries for 106 yards and one touchdown. He accounted for 70 percent (289 yards) of Salem's overall 413 yards of total offense.

After winning the coin toss and electing to receive, the Eagles went four and out, forced to punt. Salem responded with a six-play drive, ending with a 2-yard touchdown run by Deonte Fletcher. The extra point had the 'Noles leading 7-0 with six minutes and 58 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

The score would remain the same until 7:25 into the second, after Eastside scored on a 2-yard touchdown run by Johnny Norrington (6 carries for 31 yards). The point-after by Yanrick Tinker (5 points) made it 7-7.

However, Salem countered with an impressive nine-play drive of its own, ending with a 5-yard touchdown run by Davis. The highlight was a 30-yard pass by Davis to Blake White.

After the extra point, the 'Noles led 14-7 entering halftime.

"Offensively, we've got to do a better job of hitting the open receiver," said Hurst. "A couple of times we had some (open) guys running down the field and we didn't see them, but that's part of the game."

Salem would pad its lead, 17-7, after a 37-yard field goal by Koy Manget (6 points) on its opening drive to start the second half.

Again, the Salem defense held strong, forcing the Eagles to punt during their next possession. It was during this change of hands when Eastside would remind the 'Noles that it had a pretty good defensive unit, too.

With 4:35 left in the third quarter, Davis was intercepted by Eastside's Larenzo Echols (4 carries for 16 yards), resulting in a 56-yard return for a touchdown. Eastside's Jamario Parks played a huge factor in the turnover, as it was he who got a hand on the pass, tipping it into the arms of Echols.

After the extra point, the Eagles trailed 17-14.

During Salem's next possession, the Eastside defense again held its own, stopping the 'Noles from scoring despite an 11-play drive. A 38-yard missed field goal by Manget ended the third quarter, giving it back to the Eagles.

The change of possession would prove costly for the 'Noles. Eastside responded with a 10-play drive, ending with a 34-yard field goal by Tinker at the 8:45 mark, tying the game 17-17 much to the home crowd's delight.

Unfortunately, Davis didn't care how excited the Eastside-faithful was, and refused to let his team down. Two plays later his 'Noles led 24-17, after Davis found a wide open Sykes (2 catches for 77 yards) for the 74-yard touchdown.

The big play appeared to drain the life out of the crowd, adding more fuel to the already fired up 'Noles. And after exchanging possessions one more time, Salem had its first region win of the year.

Afterwards, Hurst reminded his players that they were far from out of it.

"I told them don't worry about it," said Hurst. "We've got to refocus and put it behind us. Be upset, be disappointed we all are, but we've got a lot more football left. We're not out of this thing by any stretch of the imagination."

Eastside junior quarterback Justin Wray was 12-of-21 (57 percent) for 80 yards. He also led the Eagles with 12 carries for 68 yards.

Overall, the Eagles had 235 total yards of offense and 14 first downs.

Salem's Sammy Ahonen had two receptions for 42 yards, while Dramel Oubre had two catches for 23 yards.

Eastside's Andrico Bailey had a game-high five receptions for 46 yards.

Defensively, Salem middle linebacker Bobby Martin led his team with five tackles. Zach Roddenberry had 3.5 tackles, including one sack.

Maurice Gaither led the Eagles with seven tackles, including one sack. Eastside's Hunter Parker followed with six tackles, while three players had four apiece (Quay Maddox, Kaleb Pass and Aaron Terrell).

"We're going to see a very similar football team in two weeks," said Hurst regarding his next opponent, Cedar Shoals. "So, we've got to correct some things on our defense. But (Salem) is a good football team and has some good players."

Due to a bye week, the Eagles will have an extra seven days to nurse their wounds before traveling to Cedar Shoals for their next region matchup.

"It's a good thing we're going into the break," said Hurst, "because we'll get a little rest. We've got a couple of nicks and bruises, so we need a couple of days off."