Eastside gained its fourth victory of the season against Lovejoy Wildcats on Friday evening, but the game did not come as easy as the first three.
The Eagles (4-0) won by a score of 23-16 over the Wildcats (0-4), in what was easily Eastside's closest game of the early season.
Eastside jumped out to an early lead, scoring on each of its opening drives. The first score came on an 8-yard run by Broderick Alexander, and the second came when Justin Wray found Rashad Hill in the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown pass. Both of the point-afters were made by Yanrick Tinker.
Lovejoy's offense had trouble moving the ball in the first quarter, and the Eagles led 14-0 heading into the second.
But the Wildcats would then get their first points of the game after Joshua Dubious connected for a 30-yard field goal. The rest of the first half would remain scoreless as Tinker had his first missed field goal of the season in the last two minutes of the half.
However, the Eagles would finally get their offensive spark back with seven minutes and 36 seconds left in the third quarter thanks to Wray, who scrambled up the middle - eluding several Wildcat defenders - for a 48-yard touchdown run.
Again, Tinker failed to connect on the ensuing point-after, leaving the Eagles with a 20-3 advantage.
The Wildcats would then sustain a long drive down the field into Eagle territory. Quarterback Kyle Lacy would find Quincy Suggs towering above Jamario Parks for a 3-yard touchdown pass. Dubious would make his first point-after attempt of the night.
Eastside moved quickly back down the field on its following possession, setting up a 20-yard field goal. Tinker nailed this one, making it 23-10 with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter.
Lovejoy would make it close with a late drive for 59-yards, which was capped off by a 1-yard run by Lacy with 2:58 remaining. The drive was then aided by a personal foul call on Eastside's Cale Davis. Lovejoy would not complete the point-after attempt due to a poor snap, and the score would remain 23-16.
The Wildcats than attempted an onside kick, but Eastside recovered. The Eagles soon found themselves at fourth and one on their own 49-yard line. Eastside head coach Rick Hurst elected to go for it, and the Eagles converted with 1:51 remaining, sealing the deal.
"(I'm) just glad to get the win behind us," said an exhausted Wray after the game. "I'm a little banged up, but I feel like we're all ready to enter sub-region play."
The victory ties Eastside's longest winning streak in school history and also keeps the Eagles perfect versus Lovejoy after last year's 33-23 win.
But Hurst was not completely satisfied with the game saying, "We must keep our composure out there. Salem is a good football team and if we make the same mistakes we made today, we aren't going to win. I'll take the win though. It feels good to be 4-0 going into the sub-region."
The Eagles defense allowed the most points it has all season, though it was clear that the Wildcats had some offensive playmakers.
"They were the best athletes we've ever played," praised Eastside linebacker William White. "We made some plays when it mattered but (we) really need to work on keeping our composure."
Eastside hosts Salem (3-1) on Friday at Homer Sharp Stadium in its first region matchup of the year. The Seminoles have won three straight games and appear to be the greatest challenge yet for the Eagles.