GRAY, Ga. — Eastside’s quest for a state title came to an end in the Class AAAAA state quarterfinals Friday night.
A fourth-quarter push from the No. 2 seed Eagles temporarily placed top-seeded Jones County on its heels. The Greyhounds found a way to defend their home turf, however, as they salted the game away late en route to a 28-7 victory.
Eastside finished its first season in Class AAAAA at 10-3. The team has now met the end of the road in the third round of the playoffs twice in the last three seasons.
Trailing 14-0 late in the third quarter, Eastside swung the momentum in its favor when senior defensive end Sambo Button make an acrobatic interception at the Greyhound 30-yard line. Six plays later, senior quarterback Jaylen Woods connected with junior tight end Cole Shannon for a 9-yard touchdown pass.
Jones County’s advantage was slimmed down to 14-7 with 10:38 remaining in regulation.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, the Greyhounds had an answer — and quick.
On its ensuing drive, Jones County marched the length of the field before senior running back Andrew Carner rolled into the end zone from two yards out. The score pushed the point differential back out to 14 at the 6:41 mark.
Desperate to stay in the game, the Eagles were forced to go for it on fourth down and 14 deep in their own territory on the next drive. They failed to convert, giving Jones County the ball on the 33-yard line going in. Shortly thereafter, the Greyhounds put the game away on Carner’s third and final rushing touchdown of the game.
Carner and company found a way to crack the code to the Eagle defense. Prior to giving up 28 points on Friday, Eastside had refused to allow an opponent to reach 10 points in six consecutive contests.
Just how dominant was head coach Troy Hoff’s bunch on the defensive side of the ball this fall?
Eastside allowed 130 points through 13 games. That average of 12.31 points per game ranks fourth all-time in program history behind only the Eagle defenses in 2008 (11.15 PPG), 2009 (11.64 PPG) and 1997 (11.75 PPG).
Jones County put Eastside’s defense to the test right away Friday night.
The Greyhounds started their opening drive on their own 33-yard line. After back-to-back incompletions — both of which were the result of batted-down balls that could’ve been intercepted — they moved the chains with a 19-yard pass.
The big gain gave the offense momentum, which later resulted in a 30-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback John Alan Richter to senior Maleek Wooten to make it 7-0.
Jones County’s first score of the night came by way of dissecting the Eagle defense through the air. On their second scoring drive, they gashed the unit on the ground.
Following a series of big-yardage runs from Carner and sophomore Javious Bond, Carner ran it into the end zone from one yard out. Jones County took a 14-0 lead with 2:27 to go in the first quarter.
Jones County will take on Warner Robins in the state semifinals next week in a battle of No. 1 seeds. The Demons took down Blessed Trinity, 35-28, in the quarterfinals Friday night.