The Eastside Eagles thrashed Walnut Grove 55-20 Friday night in front of the Homecoming crowd at Homer Sharp Stadium and assured themselves a berth in the state playoffs.
The Eagles can do no worse than second place if they win their remaining games but could finish as high as first or as low as fourth in the region.
"I'm happy for our seniors," Eastside coach Rick Hurst said. "This was a big win."
The proceedings got off to a rough start for Walnut Grove on the opening kickoff when the ball bounced off the Warrior return man's facemask and rolled toward the goal line. He fell on it at the 11, but the Eastside's Tre Cooper intercepted a pass on the second play of the game and scored. Colton Smith kicked the extra-point, and Eastside took a lead they would never relinquish.
The Eagles scored again on their next possession after a seven-play drive of 42 yards ended with a short touchdown pass from Demario Terrell to Napoleon Johnson.
The Warriors might have considered Napoleon's unfortunate experience at Waterloo on their next possession which began at the 25 and moved in reverse to the 10 due to a relentless push by Antonius Sims and his comrades on the defensive line.
Early in the second quarter Colton Smith added a 26-yard field goal that was set up by a 43-yard run by Alex Smith to put Eastside ahead 17-0.
Smith scored again on the next possession on a run of 12 yards.
The defensive pressure from the line continued and the result was another negative number. The Warriors started from their own 20, lost five on a delay of game penalty and then lost fifteen more when the defense chased down a ball carrier in the endzone for a safety..
Quite frankly, the Warriors had no answer for Sims and his teammates.
"We did what we were supposed to do," Coach Hurst said.
After Jamal Hardge returned the free kick (booted from the 10 after two penalties) to the Walnut Grove 22, it didn't take Terrell long to get them back in the endzone. This time Terrell found Sims, in at receiver spot, open for a 12-yard touchdown. The Eagles went for two and got it to make the score 34-0.
To their credit, the Warriors didn't throw in the towel. Early in the second half Walnut Grove's Ron Harris intercepted a pass and returned it to the Eastside 10. Three plays later Delean Rivers scored from two yards out. However, the extra point was no good.
The next Eastside possession started at their own two and included Walnut Grove sack, three penalties on a single play and finally a short touchdown run by sophomore Landon Moore.
Walnut Grove's Rivers broke loose for 55-yards the next time the Warriors got the ball, but the big play was squandered when Walnut Grove fumbled. The Eagles turned the miscue into six points and led 48-6 at the end of the third quarter.
Early in the fourth period, Walnut Grove's quarterback Dwe Arnold finally had time to show some ball skills and engineered a drive that culminated with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Demarghaly Conner.
Landon Moore got his second touchdown on the night during what was essentially a junior-varsity scrum during the waning moments of the game.
"We've been able to get some younger players into the game the last two weeks," Coach Hurst said. "And that's good. It will be good for next year."
The playoff clinching win came at a cost, though. Several Eastside players had to be helped off the field during the game.
"I've never seen anything like that," Coach Hurst said of the rash of injuries to mostly interior linemen. "I don't want to speculate, so we'll have to wait and see."