Eastern improves to 8-0 with shutout over Rockingham

Eastern High quarterback Austin Bryant scrambles for yardage during Friday night's 42-0 Homecoming victory over Rockingham. The Eagles got over 200 passing yards and three first half touchdown passes from their senior quarterback, as Eastern improved to 8-0 on the regular season with its first shutout of the year. EAHS's defense held the Cougars to under 100 yards of total offense and kept the visitors from making even one trip inside the Eastern 20-yard line. 

Eastern Alamance’s varsity football team made Homecoming Friday night a memorable evening for the alumni, spectators, students, and parents onhand at Fred Brady Stadium. The undefeated Eagles took command from the outset and shut out Rockingham County, 42-0, to improve to 8-0 overall, and 4-0 in Mid-State Conference play with three regular season games to go. 

“I think to win a game - that’s the objective coming in. We made some mistakes, but we’ve got to learn from them,” Eastern head coach John Kirby said moments after the game. 

Rockingham got a stop on EAHS’s opening drive of the game, and then got a long gainer on a halfback pass to move into Eastern territory. But the Eagles got a key sack on a third down by Joey Teixeira and Jordan Moore to stop the Cougars’ temporary momentum. Following a Rockingham punt, Eastern quarterback Austin Bryant connected with sophomore Darius Kane for a 64-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Eagles lead at the 6:07 mark of the first quarter. 

Defensive back Caleb Hester came through with an interception for EAHS moments later, which set up Eastern’s second score - a 19-yard pass to Kane and a 14-0 advantage. 

The 14-0 score held up through the end of the first quarter and most of the second quarter. The Eagles had two prime opportunities in the Rockingham red zone to score, but were turned away twice with turnovers on downs. Finally the Eagles broke back through, as Bryant found A.J. Camuto for a 14-yard touchdown - Bryant’s third of the half. Camuto’s score at the 1:35 mark of the second quarter gave the Eagles a 21-0 halftime edge. 

“Going into the half, we were up 21-0, and we were frustrated,” Kirby said. “You can get a little over-complacent sometimes. I didn’t think we played as well in some spots tonight that we played during (other parts of) the year. But that’s kind of part of it, you know. Coming off a big win with Northern last week, we might have still been celebrating that a little bit. But hats off to Rockingham. I thought they came after us. I thought they put some pressure on Austin. I think they challenged us on the edge, and they made some plays. That’s going to make us go back and do some work to try and figure it out.”

After Cole Jordan started off the second half for the Eastern defense with a third down sack that killed Rockingham’s opening offensive possession, Bryant hit Camuto again on a third down snap to cross midfield. The Cougars forced an Eagles punt, but for the second time in three weeks, EAHS successfully ran a fake punt with running back Colby May. May took the direct snap and rambled 40 yards to the end zone for 28-0 Eagles lead at the 6:55 mark of the third quarter. 

Less than two minutes later, after Eastern retained possession, May broke off another long scoring run, as he raced 55 yards to make the score 35-0 at the 4:56 mark. One additional touchdown - a short run by Quentin Idley at the 7:20 mark of the fourth quarter - completed the scoring, and brought out the running clock to wind the play to a quick conclusion. 

Bryant finished the evening with three touchdown passes, completing 13 of 24 passes for over 200 passing yards, while May produced his second straight 100-yard rushing game with 170 yards after pounding out 138 yards on the ground against Northern Guilford. 

“Week by week, Colby is getting better and better,” Kirby said. “The first week, I thought he was a little bit sluggish in the Northeast Guilford game. But that could have had something to do with Northeast, because they’re pretty doggone good. But I think he’s gotten better each and every week, and I think the more he plays, the more game speed, the more game situations he plays, the better he is going to be.”

The Eagles defense nearly bankrupted the Cougar offense, holding them to under 100 total yards, producing five quarterback sacks, and allowing the visitors from Wentworth zero trips inside the EAHS red zone. Only once did Rockingham cross midfield against Eastern, which came on the early halfback pass in the first quarter. It was the first shutout of the season for the EAHS defense. 

“I thought that our defense played extremely well. I think they had a good game plan,” Kirby said. “They controlled the line of scrimmage. We made some plays in the secondary. I thought Jordan Moore and Cole Jordan played really well up front, and I thought our linebackers filled very well.” 

There was one particularly scary moment in the first half, when Eastern standout wide receiver Darius Kane smashed into one of the goalposts while racing for a deep ball thrown by Bryant. 

Kane made the catch, though he was out of bounds, but he was looking in another direction and didn’t see the large padded post. Kane went full-speed into the post and fell to the ground, creating a tense moment in what was otherwise a festive evening in Mebane. The crowd sat in stunned silence for several minutes as Kane’s mother made her way from the bleachers onto the field, and an array of EAHS trainers, coaches, and medical personnel evaluated Kane. 

Thankfully, Kane managed to get up after a few minutes, and even played a few more snaps before leaving the game. Kane does not appear to be injured from the scary situation, and is fully expected to take the field with the Eagles next Friday night at Morehead. 

Eastern now closes out the regular season with a pair of road conference games - at Morehead October 25 and at Western Alamance November 1 - before closing out the regular season slate with Senior Night November 8 back in Mebane against McMichael. 

The Eagles will be expected to easily handle Morehead, who comes into Friday night’s contest with a 3-5 overall record, and having recently gotten spanked 49-21 by the same Northern Guilford squad that Eastern handled relatively easily on its home field a little over a week ago.