On a cold and windy Saturday night at Homer Sharp stadium, there was an amazing high school football game played as Eastside took on Walnut Grove for a chance to play in the region final next week versus Griffin. It was a back and forth affair, and close at the end but Eastside pulled it out defeating Walnut Grove 25-22.
It wasn’t pretty for Eastside, but they made enough plays to win the game. Eastside’s offensive line had a solid game giving the Eagles’ running backs big holes to run through. Also, the Eagle’s secondary played well not giving up many big plays through the air.
“We did a great job of just staying positive,” Eastside coach Rick Hurst said. “We never lost focus, and we never stop.”
It wasn’t a great start for the Eagles as it seems they shot themselves in the foot early on in the game. They muffed the opening kickoff of the game, having to recover it deep in their own territory. After a quick three and out, Eastside punted the ball off giving Walnut Grove great starting field position. On the very next play, Jeremy Henry took it 39 yards on the ground for a touchdown. The following possession Eastside fumbled the ball at their own 12 yard line. Walnut Grove recovered it, and three plays later quarterback Tucker Laughlin took it four yards on a keeper for a touchdown.
Eastside finally fought back in the game on their third possession. Quarterback Austin Holloway went to his security blanket Josh Sims for a 30-yard gain. Holloway connected with Carlos Huggins on a screen pass that Huggins took deep into the redzone. Huggins finished off the drive with a 14-yard touchdown.
The second quarter may have been one to forget for Eastside, especially for quarterback Austin Holloway. Holloway threw three picks in the period, but only one of them hurt the team, as Dashun Smith picked off Holloway late in the first half and took it 40 yards for a touchdown giving Walnut Grove a 19-10 lead at halftime.
The second half, Eastside controlled the game in the trenches. On their first drive of the half, Holloway hit Carlos Huggins on a screen, and with beautiful blocking down field, he took it 38 yards for a touchdown. Eastside took over the momentum of the game, as Holloway connected with Cody Mash to get the two-point conversion.
Eastside’s defense played an outstanding second half, giving up only three points. Eastside was finally able to take their first lead of the game late in the fourth quarter as they drove down field methodically. The drive was highlighted by two passes caught by Quintrell Mathis for 25 yards, with each picking up two huge third downs. Eric Stokes finished the drive off with a one-yard touchdown and Eastside took a 25-22 lead late in the game.
But it was the defense once again, making the play to win the game. Walnut Grove drove the field late in the game to put themselves in positon to win. It started with a couple Tim Tebow-ish runs by their quarterback Tucker Laughlin. Laughlin got his team deep into Eagles’ territory. But, Eastside’s defense made the play of the game as Jeremy Henry ran the ball down the field for what it seemed to be a touchdown, but he fumbled the ball at the 2-yard line. Eastside laid a big hit on Henry that forced the ball out, and the Eagles hopped on it to win the game.
“Finally we get a break our way a little bit,” Hurst said. “Sometimes lucky is better than good.”