COVINGTON, Ga. — Eastside didn’t hold the lead for a single second of regulation against Newton County rival Alcovy in Friday night’s matchup.
And yet it was the Eagles who stormed the field victorious in the end.
Knotted up at 31 points apiece with less than a minute to go, Eastside’s defense forced the Tigers to punt the ball away from inside their own end zone. The Eagles set up shop on the Alcovy 34 and inched their way down the field, positioning themselves for a 36-yard field goal attempt with just two ticks remaining on the clock.
Lined up on the left hash, junior kicker Jaydon Fain took three steps and promptly drilled the ball through the upright to lift Eastside to a 34-31 win as time expired.
“We’re not playing to the scoreboard. You play every play, you play with relentless effort, and you keep doing that for the duration,” Eastside head coach Troy Hoff said. “[Friday] we made enough plays down the stretch and put ourselves in position to win the football game.”
The final kick spelled victory for the Eagles. It also spelled redemption for Fain.
With his team facing a seven-point deficit in the first half, Fain lined up for an eerily similar 36-yard field goal, but pushed it wide right for a miss. When Eastside’s defense came up with a late stop, the coaching staff had no question about who was going to get a shot to win it.
“I just told [Fain] to get ready,” Hoff said. “He’s been solid all week, solid in pregame. I know he missed the one earlier in the game that he’s going to kick himself for, but we trust him. He’s put in the work. He takes a lot of pride in what he does, and the guys trust him.”
Fain’s game-winner sent the Eagles to 2-1 on the year while dropping the Tigers to 0-4. Eastside has now won seven straight in the series dating back to 2013.
The night ultimately belonged to Hoff’s Eagles, but second-year head coach Jason Dukes had his Tigers rolling from the jump.
After winning the coin toss and electing to receive, Alcovy marched straight down the field during its first possession. The Tigers capped off an eight-play drive with a 1-yard rushing score from junior Tristian Mayweather to go up 7-0.
They found success on the ground again early in the second quarter. A drive that begin on their own 27-yard line ended in the end zone when sophomore Joseph Seay punched it in from six yards out. The Tigers held a 14-0 advantage with 10:37 to go in the half.
Coming off six straight losses to their county rival, it appeared as if the tide had suddenly shifted in Alcovy’s favor.
And then Eastside woke up.
The Eagles mounted an 11-play drive — extended early on by a perfectly executed fake punt — that resulted in a 12-yard touchdown run from sophomore Kenai Grier. They would take that 14-7 deficit into the locker room.
Chaos ensued in the second half.
Alcovy pushed its lead out to 21-7 on a six-yard rushing touchdown from sophomore quarterback Ashton Evans. Two plays later, Eastside struck back with a 30-yard passing touchdown from senior Dayton Green to junior Ramon Hernandez.
With 3:12 to go in the third quarter, the Tigers extended their lead to 24-14 with a 33-yard field goal. Once again, the Eagles had an answer. A 23-yard field goal off the foot of Fain trimmed the deficit to 24-17 with 9:10 left in the game.
The teams later found themselves tied at 24 before Evans connected with junior Jamel Johnson, who skirted his way to the end zone before diving at the pylon for a 58-yard touchdown. Fittingly, the Eagles came right back with a score of their own as Green hit junior Cole Shannon for a 23-yard touchdown with 1:14 left in regulation.
Eastside will look to carry this momentum into its road matchup against Johnson (Gainesville) next Friday, Oct. 2. Alcovy, meanwhile, will take a week off before looking for win No. 1 at South Forsyth on Oct. 9.