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Eastside triumphs over region rival Loganville
Eastside vs. Loganville Red Devils
Eastside junior Montarious Reed (2) and the Eagles defense stepped up in a major way Friday night. Eastside held the Loganville Red Devils out of the end zone to squeak out a narrow Region 8-AAAAA victory. (Melinda Pease | Special to The Walton Tribune)

LOGANVILLE, Ga. — Debt repaid.

On the road against Clarke Central last week, Eastside’s offense was called upon to produce enough fireworks to overcome a lackluster performance on the defensive end. The Eagles came up short, but the offensive unit received praise from players, coaches and spectators alike for the effort.

On Friday night, the Eagle defense returned the favor.

Eastside traveled to Red Devil Stadium to rekindle the flames of an old rivalry with Loganville. After taking an early lead, the Eagles leaned on their defense to hold their ground for the next three quarters as they squeaked out a 7-3 region victory.

It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but Eastside head coach Troy Hoff will still gladly take it.

“We challenged the kids and they finished. That’s it,” Hoff said. “We definitely didn’t play our best football [Friday night.] Hat’s off to Loganville, man. They played their butts off and played a physical football game. We had to earn every inch tonight.”

The Eagles (5-2, 3-1 Region 8-AAAAA) were clinging to a seven-point advantage midway through the third quarter when a gaffe put the defense in a bind.

Eastside attempted to punt the ball, but miscommunication led to a botched play as Loganville senior Neto Okpala, a Boston College commit, pounced on a fumble. Okpala’s recovery set the Red Devils up on the Eastside 34-yard line. Six plays later, freshman kicker Devin Pugh drilled a 29-yard field goal to trim Loganville’s deficit to 7-3 with 4:10 left in the quarter.

A special teams miscue allowed the Red Devils (2-4, 1-2) to threaten once again in the fourth quarter. After a punt bounced off an Eastside player, extending its drive, Loganville worked its way into the red zone. But the Eagles bowed up, stuffing a run play on fourth down to force a turnover with less than six minutes to go in regulation.

Even still, the work was not yet done for Eastside’s defense.

Loganville’s final drive of the night saw the Red Devils take over on their own 36 and begin pounding away on the ground. Appearing to take advantage of a gassed unit, Loganville eventually set itself up with a first down on the Eastside 11 with 56 ticks of the clock remaining.

Once again, Eastside’s defense stepped up.

The Eagles stuffed a run before defending three straight passes to thwart the last-minute attack and pull out the victory.

“We’ve got to take care of us a little better. We’ve got to coach a little better. But our defense right there in the second half did a hell of a job,” Hoff said.

Eastside was gifted favorable field position on each of its first two drives of the night.

The Eagles won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff. They returned the kick out to near midfield before being aided by a personal foul penalty, which set them up on the Loganville 39. They were ultimately unable to capitalize, however, as the drive ended with a missed field goal from 33 yards out.

Loganville’s first possession of the night ended with a botched punt, allowing the Eagles to take over on the Red Devil 30. 

This time, the Eagles made the most of their short field.

After sneaking inside the the red zone on just two plays, Eastside capped off a six-play drive as senior running back Sincere Johnson took the snap in wildcat formation and powered his way into the end zone for the four-yard rushing touchdown. The score gave the Eagles a 7-0 lead with 4:42 left in the quarter.

From that point on, offense remained at a premium. The teams trotted into the locker room having booted five combined punts and missed one field goal apiece.

After back-to-back nail-biting finishes, Eastside’s bye week couldn’t come at a more opportune time. The Eagles will return to the gridiron on Thursday, Nov. 5, when they welcome Jackson County to Sharp Stadium.