Eastern Alamance opened its 2019 football season with a dominant effort Thursday night in a 63-12 triumph over Graham. The Eagles defense forced six Red Devil turnovers, while the EAHS offense showed off numerous playmakers.
“I thought those first few series, I thought our defense played well. I thought our special teams played well,” EAHS head coach John Kirby said moments after the game. “We’re glad to win. We’re glad to get out of here healthy. We’ve got to prepare ourselves for down the line, too.”
Eastern wasted no time asserting itself, as safety Jackson Stokes intercepted a pass from Graham quarterback Dexter Flood on the very first offensive play of the game. The Eagles needed only four plays to get on the scoreboard, with Elijah Burnette racing for a first down on the initial play, and quarterback Austin Bryant finding Tyler Ellison for a first and goal at the Graham 2. Bryant scored the game’s first touchdown on a 2-yard keeper.
Following a Graham three-and-out, Eastern showed its potential through the air. On a first down play, the EAHS offensive line gave Bryant plenty of time. Bryant stepped back, assessed his options and connected with sophomore Darius Kane, who was making his first varsity start for Eastern. Kane caught the ball and easily scored from 36 yards out for a quick 14-0 EAHS advantage.
“The line gave him (Bryant) all kinds of time. I was just open, and made the catch,” Kane said.
On Graham’s next possession, a slew of EAHS defenders, including Jordan Moore, Cole Jordan, Joey Teixeira, and Will Burnette, met at the quarterback for a sack, resulting in another Red Devils three-and-out. Eastern quickly scored yet again, as a pair of runs by Elijah Burnette set up Bryant’s second touchdown pass to Kane, this one covering 17 yards.
It was 21-0 in favor of the Eagles less than seven minutes into the game. But as it turned out, Eastern was just getting started.
Following the three fast offensive scores, the EAHS defense stepped up and took center stage, stifling the Graham offense and recording a pair of defensive touchdowns to push the score into blowout range.
After the EAHS defenders stuffed the Red Devils for a loss of eight yards, in which Graham’s running back had to recover his own fumble, it was Eagles sophomore linebacker Joey Teixeira - another youngster making his first varsity start - who scooped up a Red Devils fumble and scored for a 28-0 score at the 4:02 mark of the first quarter.
Moments later, Teixeira stepped in front of a pass from Graham’s Chris Kelly and scampered 22 yards into the end zone.
Remarkably, Eastern had a 35-0 lead less than nine minutes in, and Teixeira had two touchdowns in the first quarter of his varsity career.
“It was pretty awesome,” Teixeira said of his two defensive scores. “The first one, I kind of looked down and the ball was right there. I picked it up, and I was already in the end zone. The second one, I dropped into the flats. I saw the receivers and kind of picked it up. He threw it right to me, and I just ran into the end zone. It feels great. It feels great to be able to know you’re going to come out here and kick butt, and just do your best.”
The Eastern defense kept up the intensity, holding the pinned-back Red Devils to another three-and-out. As the Eagles began to liberally insert second-string players into the rotation, the offense displayed another potential up-and-coming standout - junior running back Quentin Idley.
Idley needed only two attempts to push the Eagles to a 42-0 advantage, as he trudged ahead for a first down heading right on the first carry, and then busted outside to the left on the next carry and scored from 27 yards out. It was the first of three touchdowns Idley would have on the night, and the score was 42-0 in favor of the Eagles at the end of the first quarter.
The remainder of the game was fairly anticlimactic, although Jackson Stokes had to make a key open field tackle to keep Graham from returning a kickoff for a touchdown following Idley’s first score. The Red Devils didn’t score on that possession, but they eventually would get on the scoreboard.
Eastern’s offense wasn’t stopped until three minutes into the second quarter. Bryant attempted only three passes and produced the pair of touchdowns to Kane, while the first-string offense had needed only eight offensive plays to generate 21 points.
With the backups playing, Graham was able to get a few stops in the second quarter. But that didn’t stop EAHS’s second-string quarterback, Tyler Payne, from leading a scoring drive of his own before halftime. After throwing a nice ball over the middle to David Bunker, Payne took off on a quarterback keeper and raced 30 yards to the end zone, making the score 49-0 with 4:15 left before halftime.
A pair of pass interference calls that went against the Eagles, combined with a completion by the Red Devils, got Graham’s offense into Eastern territory. And on a 3rd-and-19 play with the half winding down, Red Devil signal-caller Floyd threw a pass that jangled around, hitting the hands of multiple players including Eastern defensive back Kenan Walker, before Fletcher Strickland hauled it in for a Graham touchdown.
With a 49-6 halftime score, the second half was played with a running clock.
The Eagles scored yet again in the early moments of the second half, with Elijah Burnette coming up with an excellent kickoff return to bring EAHS out to the Graham 32 yard-line. From there it was once again Idley who carried the load. After producing a first down to get EAHS into Graham’s red zone once again, Idley made a nice cutback to the left to score an 18-yard touchdown for a 56-5 score at the 9:29 mark of the third quarter.
Eastern scored its final touchdown in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, as Idley made another brilliant cutback to the left and reached the end zone from 46 yards out. Idley finished the night with 133 rushing yards.
“Quentin is a really good little player,” Kirby said. “It’s obvious he’s been in the weight room. It’s obvious he’s been training. It’s obvious he’s been doing a lot of things”.
Senior cornerback Brannen Maxfield, who also got snaps at quarterback late in the game, broke off a long touchdown run himself just before Idley’s long score, but the officials called Maxfield’s touchdown back on a penalty.
Nonetheless, it was a night where pretty much everyone would share on the field in the Eagles’ triumph.
The Red Devils, starting over under first-year head coach Derek Bryant this fall after going winless in 2018, scored a second touchdown on a pass from Floyd to Khavarie Hightower from 16 yards out on the game’s final play. The win was EAHS’s 15th straight over the Red Devils going back to 2005.
Eastern (1-0) stays on the road next week, as they’ll travel across the county to Burlington Friday night (August 30) to face Cummings.