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Trailing 14-3 to the Jackson Red Devils after three quarters, the Eastside Eagles came off the deck to score 20 unanswered points and remain undefeated in the young 2012 season.
"Overall, a great effort," Eastside coach Rick Hurst said. "The kids never gave up and never gave in."
Both teams sputtered on offense early in the game, but Jackson finally mounted a drive late in the first quarter. Jackson quarterback Will Lane threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Michael Finocchiaro who had an incredible catch made more amazing by the fact he was playing in his first ever high school game. Joe Brown kicked the extra point and Jackson led 7-0 with a handful of seconds left in the quarter.
The Eagles answered with a drive of their own highlighted by a 20-yard run by Alex Smith, but Colton Smith's field goal attempt was blocked. He got another shot moments later when Tre Cooper intercepted a pass. Smith's kick sailed over the crossbar with just inches to spare, making the score 7-3 in favor of Jackson.
The Eastside passing attack faltered for most of the game; the Eagles failed to connect on nine consecutive pass plays at one point. Penalties also slowed Eastside drives and kept them alive for Jackson.
"That's something we have to fix," coach Hurst said. "But the penalties seemed to even out as the game went on."
Jackson finally scored again with 43 seconds left in the third quarter after recovering an Eastside fumble at the Eagle 26-yard line.
Jackson stymied the next Eastside possession, but a roughing the punter penalty gave the Eagles new life near midfield. Two plays later Demario Terrell connected with Cameron Boyd for a 45-yard touchdown. Colton Smith's kick pulled Eastside to within four of the lead.
With the penalty bug now biting the Red Devils, Eastside took advantage of a pass interference call - which gave them a first down in Jackson territory - and Terrell connected with Chase Chancey for a 36-yard touchdown pass. The Red Devils blocked the extra-point, but Eastside now led 16-14.
An odd sequence of events unfolded next as Jackson fumbled the ball away at their own 26 and head coach Mike Parris made matters worse by incurring an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The Eagles had the ball with a first and goal at the seven, but after a sack and three penalties faced a fourth and what seemed like a furlong at midfield.
Jackson got the ball back, but Boyd picked off a pass and took it back for a touchdown to give Eastside a comfortable nine point lead.
"It's a huge lift for us," Hurst said. "We'll be in this position again later in the season, and we'll know we can come back.