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OUTMATCHED: Eastside levels Johnson-Gainesville in Region 8-AAAAA opener
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Eastside running back Kenai Grier (10) stiff arms a Johnson-Gainesville defender on his way to the end zone Friday night. Grier accounted for a total of four touchdowns during the Eagles 65-0 win over the Knights to start 1-0 in Region 8-AAAAA play. - photo by Taylor Beck

COVINGTON, Ga. — Eastside opened region play against Johnson-Gainesville on Friday night by picking up right where they left off one year ago and thrashing the Knights 65-0.

In the 2020 Region 8-AAAAA contest, the Eagles whipped Johnson 47-7. During this year’s meeting, the Eagles jumped out to a 51-0 halftime lead and didn’t look back.

Head coach Jay Cawthon’s offense was first to take the field, and it only took the unit three plays to reach the end zone. Junior running back Kenai Grier cut through the Johnson defense for a 31-yard touchdown run to give the Eagles an early 6-0 lead. The PAT attempt was no good.

After the Eagles defense forced the Knights offense to go three-and-out, Eastside took over on downs at the 50 yard line. After a holding penalty was called early in the five-play drive, the offense stalled and had to settle for a 38-yard field goal converted by Rodney Williams to increase their lead to 9-0 with 6:09 remaining in the first quarter.

On the ensuing drive, Johnson’s offense was forced to go three-and-out again, which became a theme for the entire game. The Knights offense struggled to move the chains all night long — the team didn’t cross the 50 and into Eagles territory for the first time until under five minutes left in the second quarter, and even still, their trip didn’t last long. Johnson turned the ball over on downs after giving up a sack. 

Later in the first quarter, the Eagles widened their lead to 16-0 after junior quarterback E’Sean Arnold, who started the game, delivered a 26-yard strike to Grier for a touchdown. 

On the Eagles’ next offensive drive, senior running back Dallas Johnson, who accounted for four touchdowns against rival Alcovy one week ago, reached the end zone from nine yards out to give Eastside a 23-0 lead with 11:57 remaining in the second quarter.

Grier delivered a stellar offensive performance for the Eagles, as he accounted for two more touchdowns (four total) in just the first half.

After the defense forced another Knights three-and-out, Grier turned on the jets one play later and took the football 60 yards for a touchdown to widen the Eagles lead to 30-0 with 10:53 left in the second quarter. He later scored his fourth touchdown on a 48-yard run.

After Eagles junior defender Saabir Berrian recovered a fumble, Johnson took the handoff on the next play at the Knights 38-yard line and made his second trip to the end zone to widen the Eagles’ lead to 44-0 with 7:37 remaining in the first half.

Senior Jonathan Wright also joined the first half scoring explosion when he reached the end zone on a 10-yard carry.

In the second half, freshman Jayden Barr and junior Eryis Brown also scored touchdowns as the Eagles raced on to their 65-0 victory.

With the win, Eastside improves to 3-1 overall, and Johnson drops to 0-3, marking the 12th loss in a row for the Knights.