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Defense, Griggs powers Eastside to 20-7 win over Spalding
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Eastside limped into Spalding without three of its primary offensive weapons. Fortunately for the Eagles, Chavis Griggs was healthy and the defense was at its most dominant.

Griggs racked up 252 all-purpose yards including 181 on the ground and a pair of touchdowns, the defense registered six sacks and five tackles for a loss and the Eagles cruised to a 20-7 win.

"I Thought our kids did well considering the circumstances," Eastside coach Rick Hurst said. "With a lot of our kids banged up, Chavis carried the load tonight. And what can you say about the defense? They played really well."

The Eagles could have scored more had they not shot themselves in the foot several times in the first half. A penalty negated Sheldon Rankins' fumble return touchdown and the Eagles turned it over twice deep in Spalding territory — once on a fumble and once when Cameron Boyd had to fall on a fumbled snap on a fourth down play. The Eagles also appeared to notch a safety but the ball was spotted at the half-yard line.

"We should have put some more points on the board in the first half but a couple of turnovers and the return for a touchdown are things we can't afford to do," Hurst said.

After Spalding took the opening drive down the field and to the Eagles' 20 in eight plays, Eastside's defense picked up its first tackle for a loss and sack on consecutive plays and forced the Jaguars out of field goal range. That would be Spalding's lone productive drive.

The Jaguars scored their only touchdown on a 90-yard kickoff return after Griggs scored Eastside's first touchdown in the second quarter.

"We make you do things (on offense) you don't normally want to do," Hurst said. "That team isn't a throwing team. They prefer to run right at you. When they figured out they couldn't do that, they went to the air and our two guys off the edge are hard to block."

Kicker Colton Smith bounced back from a 1-for-5 game to hit both his field goal attempts. His first came on Eastside's opening drive from 20 yards out with 11:25 left in the second. He made his second from 35 yards out with 1.7 seconds to go in the half to give the Eagles a 13-7 lead. He's made three straight including the game-winner last week against Jackson.

Eastside took advantage of Spalding playing heavy pass coverage. Boyd completed his first five passes and six of eight on the opening drive. After the Jaguars made an adjustment, Eastside dialed up the running game and it paid dividends.

"They were giving us a five-man box and were dropping six in coverage so those numbers are definitely what we want to run the football," Hurst said. "Give credit to the offensive line. For instance, we started getting up to the linebacker on the final drive of the first half and Chavis made some big runs and set us up to get that field goal before the half."

Eastside had nine runs of more than 10 yards — six by Griggs and seldom-used backup Bryant Johnson saw plenty of action as he tacked on 42 yards including a 23-yard scamper in the fourth.

"It was good to get some other guys some experience," Hurst said. "I thought Bryant did a good job carrying the ball and Bryson Malcolm did well blocking. It was a good team effort."

Griggs scored Eastside's first touchdown on the Eagles' fourth drive. After the opening-drive field goal, Griggs coughed it up on Eastside's second possession. The Eagles also squandered a scoring opportunity on their third possession when on fourth-and-short, the snap flew over Boyd's head and they turned the ball over on downs. On the fourth drive, Griggs atoned for his mistake with a key clutch on third down. He scored from two yards out two plays later.

Spalding returned the ensuing kickoff for the touchdown before Eastside responded with a long drive inside of two minutes to go in the half to tack on a field goal. Smith hit from 35 yards out.

The Eagles punted on their first two possessions of the second half before Griggs scored his second touchdown from four yards out after Eastside's defense forced a short punt.

Rankins, Shaquille Huff and Antonius Sims created havoc in the Jaguars backfield all night. Jamal Hardge made a pair of sacks off a corner blitz and Rankins and company gave up only one first down after Spalding's opening drive. The Eagles held Spalding to minus 20 yards in the second half.

"We're controlling the line of scrimmage and forcing teams to do things they don't want to do," Hurst said.

Eastside welcomes two-time defending state champion Sandy Creek to Sharp Stadium Saturday in what likely will determine the region championship. Sandy Creek has won 34 straight dating back to 2009.