Eastern Alamance’s varsity football team hit the road for the first time in more than a month Friday evening, as they continued Mid-State Conference play with a showdown in Roxboro against Person County.
While the surroundings may not have been familiar, the outcome was. EAHS made quick work of the Rockets, building a commanding 28-0 halftime lead on their way to a decisive 42-14 triumph. The win improves Eastern’s overall record to 6-0, and its league mark to 2-0.
“It just seems weird when you’re not playing in your own confines of your own home,” Eastern head coach John Kirby said moments after the game.
Despite the lopsided halftime score, things actually got off to a slow start for the Eagles in comparison to some of their other early lopsided victories. A dropped punt by the Eagles following a successful defensive stop on the first offensive possession of the game gave Person a chance to take the early lead. And while the Rockets ran their way down inside the EAHS 15, the Eagles defense stiffened up, forcing Person to attempt a 34-yard field goal. Fortunately for the Eagles though, the kick was partially blocked and fell well short.
“Our guys work hard. They work extremely hard. We kind of bend, but don’t break. I hope we can just keep from bending too much,” Kirby said of the EAHS defense.
Eastern took the ball following the blocked field goal and embarked on its first scoring march, with quarterback Austin Bryant nailing A.J. Camuto for a 19-yard gain and a EAHS first down. Colby May took his first carry of the night and gained six yards, but Eastern was ultimately forced into a fourth down.
Taking the field in punt formation, May took a pitch on a fake punt and ran it down near midfield. The Eagles were subsequently held again and faced with another fourth down, and for a second straight time the visitors faked a punt, as a pitch to Elijah Burnette swept the Eagles down to the Person 33-yard line.
Following an offsides call on the Rockets, Burnette ran the ball down to the 26, which led up to Bryant’s first touchdown pass of the night - a strike over the middle to a wide-open Darius Kane. Kane’s touchdown made the score 7-0 with 3:10 left in the first quarter, and it opened the floodgates for the visitors from Mebane.
After quickly stopping the Rockets on their next offensive possession, the Eagles took over at the Person 42 following a short punt, and Bryant connected with Kane and Rice for a first down. As the second quarter got going, May ran the Eagles down to the Person 21, which set up a pass from Bryant to Camuto for a 21-yard touchdown, and a 14-0 Eagles advantage.
Although a strong wind may have played a factor in a few deep balls that were underthrown in the first quarter, the Eagles passing game got going in the second quarter, when they started going into the wind and not against it.
“Austin made a statement - he thought the wind had something to do with it (some of the underthrown balls in the first quarter),” Kirby said. But I don’t know - he throws it like a missile anyway. I thought that we started off - I don’t want to say sluggish, but it wasn’t crisp. But we got our feet up underneath there.”
Eastern’s defense continued to stymie the Rockets offense, forcing yet another punt. Although a targeting penalty pushed EAHS back to its own 28, Bryant dropped back and heaved a home run ball for Kendall Montgomery. Although the ball was nearly intercepted by Person defensive back Kentrayle Holloway, Montgomery came away with the ball and ran 72 yards for a huge touchdown, and a 21-0 Eastern lead.
“Players make plays. And I think sometimes, if you’ve got that horseshoe and everything is going right, it goes right,” Kirby said of Montgomery’s big play. “Sometimes when things are going in the opposite direction, it’s not good. I just hope it keeps bouncing our way.”
Although the Rockets pushed into Eastern territory on their ensuing possession, the Eagles finally regained the momentum and forced a turnover on downs.
Taking the ball with a little over three minutes before halftime, Bryant handed off to May for a 3-yard gain, and then rolled out left, where he bought himself some time and nailed Camuto over the middle. Camuto moved all the way down to the Person 18-yard line, where on the next play Bryant took off on a bootleg and ran Eastern to the 2. May settled the issue on the subsequent snap with a short burst over the goal line, and Eastern had a 28-0 cushion at the intermission.
“I thought Colby was better tonight,” Kirby said. “Quentin Idley, I think we probably need to get him more snaps. He runs extremely hard. I thought Austin had another stellar game. We’ve got a lot we’ve got to work on, but we did some good things.”
Eastern wasted no time in the second half, taking the opening kickoff of the third quarter and quickly moving to the Person 30. May subsequently ran twice for a first down to the Rockets 15, which set up A.J. Camuto for his second touchdown reception from Bryant - a 15-yard strike that gave EAHS a 35-0 advantage at the 11:01 mark of the third quarter.
After recovering a Rockets fumble at the Person 35, the Eagles tacked on another touchdown, a short run from Darius Kane, which made the count 42-0 at the 9:26 mark of the third quarter and brought on the running clock.
“The second half, two possessions, we played very fast and put points on the board,” Kirby said.
The Rockets brought on sophomore A.J. Terrell to replace junior Ridge Clayton at quarterback, and suddenly the home team began to surge downfield. A quarterback keeper by Terrell brought Person past midfield, and a run by Dashaun Brown pushed the Rockets to the Eagles 15.
It was the second significant gut check of the game for the EAHS defense, but the Eagles came through. First the EAHS secondary managed to break up a deep pass in the back of the end zone. Then the Eagles defensive line broke through and stuffed a Rockets running play.
Clayton returned to the game at quarterback for Person in place of Terrell, who was temporarily injured, and on third and goal, Jackson Stokes showed excellent recognition for the Eagles, stepping up and breaking up a would-be pass reception on what turned out to be the final play of the third quarter.
The Rockets went for it on fourth down, and Clayton connected with Trey Lunsford at the 1-yard line for a first-and-goal. Clayton tried to bootleg into the end zone, but the Eagles stuffed him for no gain. Brown finally scored for Person on third-and-goal, making the score 42-7 with 8:44 to go.
The Eagles fumbled a punt return midway through the fourth quarter, which helped set the Rockets up for another late touchdown - a short carry from Lunsford with 4:12 left.
“We’ve got to do a better job of tackling. And we’ve got to be smarter on special teams,” Kirby said of EAHS’s punt return and late defensive errors. “I think if we can continue to do what we’re doing, and get those things ironed out, I think we’ll have a great year.”
Despite the two late touchdowns, Eastern had come to Roxboro and accomplished what they needed to accomplish.
Now the undefeated Eagles head to Greensboro next Friday night (October 11) for a huge Mid-State Conference clash with Northern Guilford. The Nighthawks got off to a 4-2 start this fall, but suffered a 35-21 loss on the road Friday night at Northeast Guilford - the Nighthawks’ first conference setback.
“It’s where we want to be,” Kirby said of Eastern’s 6-0 start. “We beat a really good team (Northeast Guilford) last week. Northern, they’re going to come out hungry. It’s going to be a big part of going for the conference championship.”