Eastside came into Friday night's game against Alcovy looking to pick up its first win against a county opponent while improving to 2-0 on the season. Mission accomplished.
The Eagles overcame several penalties and two interceptions inside the red zone to knock off Alcovy 20-6 at Sharp Stadium and improve to 2-0 overall.
The Tigers (1-1) stayed in the game and had several opportunities to take control. But Eastside's defense and ball control on offense proved to be the difference as Alcovy managed just a single touchdown.
Justin Wray rushed for 90 yards on 14 carries and threw for another 62 yards as the Eagles amassed 279 total yards on the ground for the game.
"Our defense played lights out," Eastside coach Rick Hurst said. "We have a lot of kids playing both ways and I'll take it. I don't care if we score three points a game. If we put our best players on defense, we'll win ball games."
The Eagles started the game much like they did last week against Harris County. Wray came out firing and completed two passes for 43 yards including, a 33-yard strike to Andrico Bailey on the first play as the Eagles marched down the field on their opening drive. Wray called his own number for a 15-yard touchdown over the left side and Eastside claimed an early 7-0 lead.
After a three-and-out on its first drive, Alcovy stormed right back on its second possession. Quarterback PJ Thompkins ripped off a 67-yard run up the gut to move the Tigers inside the 20-yard line. After an Eastside penalty on third-and-3 gave Alcovy a first down, Thompkins hit Malachi Outlaw on a beautifully designed middle screen pass for a touchdown. Alcovy missed the extra point and trailed 7-6 with 11:52 remaining until halftime.
Eastside responded quickly as it worked the ball into Alcovy territory on two plays and a 15-yard face mask call against the Tigers. After Broderick Alexander's 15-yard run put the ball inside the 30-yard line, Nick Wilson picked off Wray's pass over the middle and the Tigers took the ball back inside their own 20 yard-line.
Eastside's defense held, forcing Alcovy to punt. But like déjà-vu, the Eagles worked the ball inside Alcovy's 30-yard line before Bryan Daniel made a spectacular juggling interception to give the Tigers the ball back.
Again the Tigers' offense sputtered and this time Eastside made them pay. Greg Griffieth scampered 16 yards before Wray broke off a 26-yard gain to move the ball to the 10-yard line. Tony Atwater finished it off with a nifty cutback run for 8 yards and the Eagle led 14-6 going into halftime.
"We have to get better ever snap every down and we're getting to that point," Alcovy coach Kirk Hoffman said. "I thought we played a lot better today. If you keep progressing and keep progressing, you never know what's going to happen in the end."
Alcovy held its own defensively in the third quarter but the combination of Git Aikens' speed and Atwater's elusiveness took its toll on the Tigers' defense in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers kept it close throughout the second half until late in the game when Eastside used the two backs to march 74 yards down the field and score with 2:39 to play.
Eastside initially scored after Alexander took it in from 8 yards out. But another holding penalty wiped the touchdown off the baord. It didn't matter as the Eagles turned to Alexander once again and he responded with a 2-yard run up the middle for the touchdown.
"I wanted to establish the run when we come out and we did that," Hurst said. "I'm very proud of our offensive line and our running backs. We took the ball right down the field there and didn't throw but maybe one time, and drove about 70 yards and stuck it in.
"They've (Alcovy) done a good job at getting physical over there. They took it to us a few times and I think we just outlasted them."
Both teams had chances to control the game and even though Eastside emerged with the two-touchdown win, Hurst acknowledged his team faced a tough opponent.
"They did some things that messed up our blocking schemes and we have to go back and work on that," he said. "We knew they were going to do it. We probably should have run some screens and stuff to slow them down a little bit more but that's something that we as coaches have to work on and get better at."
Penalties hurt both teams throughout the night. The Eagles had 12 penalties for 110 yards for the game including two questionable illegal block in the back calls on kicks while Alcovy committed seven for 60 yards.
In the end, Eastside's balanced rushing attack wore down Alcovy's defense and while the offense sputtered, Hoffman knows his team gave everything they had.
"When you play good teams, something has to break," he said. "Defensively, I take my hat off to our kids. We played hard and when we missed tackles we were swarming to the football and that's what kept us in this thing.
"When we did things right, we looked okay. I thought Malachi ran hard for me and defensively, what can I say. If we didn't miss a few tackles, some of those big plays wouldn't have been there. You have to take your hat off to (Justin) Wray. He showed big time tonight."
The Eagles will look to complete the county sweep Friday at Sharp against Newton at 7:30 while Alcovy will open up region play against North Clayton at home Saturday.