ATHENS, Ga. — The Eastside Eagles fell 28-27 in heartbreaking fashion to the Clarke Central Gladiators Friday night in a defensive slug fest that needed overtime to decide a winner.
Coming into the Region 8-AAAAA matchup with a 5-2 record and a 2-1 mark in region play, the Eagles saw this as a must-win game to keep sole possession of third place in the region.
And for the first two quarters, both teams’ defenses played like the stakes were high, stagnating both offenses as a pair of Clarke Central field goals were the only points surrendered for most of the first half.
But with just under a minute left in the second quarter, Eastside quarterback E’sean Arnold dialed up the deep ball for the first time in the game.
On the receiving end of the pass was senior Saabir Berrian, who hauled in the 37-yard touchdown pass.
Despite the score, the Eagles failed to take the lead as their point-after attempt was blocked.
Before the Eagles’ offense could get another score, Eastside’s special teams beat them to it by blocking the Clarke Central punt.
Senior D’von Duplessis picked up the ball and took it the rest of the way for an Eagles touchdown, but the celebration was short-lived.
The Gladiators answered immediately with a quick 31-yard touchdown pass to tie the game.
With only eight minutes left, Arnold made the play of the game as he eluded pressure before finding Kenai Grier down the sideline for the 66-yard touchdown pass to give the Eagles the lead.
Clarke Central made one final push to tie the game, and it ended with a fourth and goal from the Eagles’ four-yard line.
Gladiators quarterback Lucian Anderson, III took the keeper in for the touchdown to tie the game at 20-20 with under a minute left in regulation.
Going into overtime, the Eagles got the ball first and it only took three plays to score as Grier took the goal line carry in to make it a 27-20 lead. But a Clarke Central’s touchdown and two-point conversion to answer gave the Gladiators (4-5, 3-2) the win.
The Eagles (5-3, 2-2) will try to bounce back next Friday when they host Winder-Barrow in region play at 7:30 p.m. at Sharp Stadium.