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Birds of Redemption
Smith's field goal with 2.3 seconds left lifts Eagles to 10-7 win
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In sports, redemption is often more elusive than greatness. Eastside's Chavis Griggs and Colton Smith almost learned that the hard way Friday.

Griggs made up for a costly fumble as he carried the ball seven times for 68 yards including a 14-yard dash on fourth-and-1 on Eastside's final drive and Smith atoned for four misses with a 20-yard field goal with 2.3 seconds remaining and the Eagles escaped with a 10-7 win over Jackson.

"What can you say about these kids? They faced a lot of adversity," Eastside coach Rick Hurst said. "A lot of things went against us in the first half and in the second, it seemed like we couldn't get anything going. But the defense kept us in it and when the offense had to make a drive, they did it."

The Eagles (3-1, 2-0 Region 4-AAA) drove 80 yards in 10 plays on the winning drive after struggling to cap drives all night. Cameron Boyd also rebounded from and up-and-down night with a key 12-yard pass to Nick Broadwater to get the drive started. Boyd completed 13 of 23 passes for 102 yards but was intercepted twice.

Facing the prospect of overtime if they couldn't pick up the first down, the Eagles turned to Griggs on fourth down and he responded. He followed

"I told them before the game, I wanted to know who was going to say, 'coach, give me the ball' and that right there proved that he (Griggs) wants it," Hurst said.

Eastside moved the ball inside the five then Hurst elected to play for the field goal instead of trying to punch it in. Despite going 0-for-4 on the night, Smith banged it home with plenty to spare.

"He had hit two good ones and kind of shanked the third one but I knew he had it in him if we could get him in the middle and line it up," Hurst said.

Eastside turned the ball over four times, twice on interceptions in the end zone but the defense bailed the Eagles out all but once.

"We hadn't put the ball on the ground all year," Hurst said. "We put ourselves in some bad situations. We got the ball away from our body and they (Jackson) made a couple of good plays on the interceptions. We'll correct that."

Sheldon Rankins and Shaquille Huff each came up with key plays to force Jackson to attempt field goals and both times the Red Devils came up empty. Even on Jackson's lone touchdown, Blake Rouse came through with a big play when he shot up the middle for a sack.

The Eagles held Jackson to 44 yards of total offense — 72 in the air and negative 28 on the ground. In fact the Red Devils didn't pick up a first down without the aid of a penalty until the third quarter.

"Sheldon Rankins played like Sheldon Rankins tonight. He and Shaq just dominated," Hurst said. "I told them it was great to see him (Rankins) having fun. It was the first time it looked like he was having fun out there this year and that's what we need. He's the emotional leader of this defense. When the team sees him making plays, everybody else just rallies around him."

Eastside controlled the game from the start but was unable to finish off drives. Boyd got off to a hot start, completing his first six passes as the Eagles marched down the field on their opening drive. Jamondi Smith got things going with a 22-yard run on Eastside's first play and the Eagles were off and running. The drive stalled when Boyd threw his first pick.

Eastside had plenty of opportunities to score in the first half. The defense held the Red Devils to a three-and-out on each of their first five possessions and the Eagles started drives on the Jackson 30, 32 and 14-yard line only to come away empty. Boyd threw his second interception on Eastside's third drive but he wasn't the only Eagle to struggle. Colton Smith missed field goals of 47, 46 and 27 yards in the first half.

"I wanted to give Colton a chance to win the ball game," Hurst said. "That could come back later on for us. He had had a bad night and then he just lines it up and kicks it through. That's a huge boost for his confidence."

Eastside finally found paydirt in the third quarter and again it was the defense that set it up. Lance Davis blocked a punt to give the Eagles the ball at the Jackson 24 and the running game did the rest.

Jamondi Smith broke off a 22-yard run on the first play to move the ball to the two before Griggs took it in two plays later to put the Eagles up 7-0 with 10:02 left in the quarter.

Eastside looked poised to deliver the knockout punch less than a minute later when Dante Blackmon picked off a Ben Cawthon pass to give the Eagles the ball on the Red Devils' 42-yard line. Again the Eagles came away empty after Colton Smith missed his fourth field goal of the night.

Eastside's defense didn't let up though. Jamal Hardge picked off Cawthon's pass at the 38-yard line on Jackson's next drive but the Eagles returned the favor when Griggs coughed up the ball on the first play and Kaleb Sims returned it to the six.

Jackson finally capitalized. Cawthon connected with Dorian Davis on a fourth-and-8 play with 2:38 to go in the third to tie the score. Rouse sacked Cawthon for an 8-yard loss on third down to force the Red Devils hand on fourth down. Cawthon threw a strike over the middle to Davis who just broke the plane of the goal line before being tackled.

Both teams had touchdown passes negated by penalties. Boyd threw one that was wiped away after an offensive pass interference call and Cawthon threw one for the Red Devils that was called back due to holding.

Eastside's defense held Jackson twice to field goal attempts in the fourth quarter with the second one coming on the heels of Matt Hitchcock's fumble.

After taking over at the Eagles' 38, Cawthon threw a 17-yard pass to move the Red Devils to the 21. The holding penalty erased the touchdown and backed Jackson up 10 yards before Huff broke through the middle for an 8-yard sack. Hannah Kline missed the field goal attempt from 42 yards out.

"We are vulnerable. We can't put the ball on the ground and expect to win, but we are coming along," Hurst said. "I see good things on the offensive line. We're fighting up there and that's the first time this season I've seen that consistently for four quarters.

"These games — you have to have them. They mean a lot at the end of the season. Now we have the confidence that we can go down the field in the final two minutes and kick a field goal and win a ball game."

the 14-yard gain with a 10-yard run as he netted all but 34 of his 102 yards on the drive.