Friday night’s regular season finale at Fred Brady Stadium was a study of contrasts. The home team, Eastern Alamance, was looking to complete its first undefeated regular season in four years, while the visitors, McMichael, limped into the game 0-10 and with less than 30 players.
It took less than a quarter for the home squad to exert supreme dominance, as Eastern built a 41-0 first quarter lead on its way to a 54-0 triumph, which concludes the regular season 11-0 for the Eagles.
After pushing McMichael back eight yards on its opening offensive possession, the Eagles took possession with great field position at their own 40-yard line following a short 15-yard punt by the Phoenix.
Quarterback Austin Bryant hit wide receiver A.J. Camuto for 23 yards on Eastern’s first offensive play to move into McMichael territory, and senior running back Colby May ran the Eagles down inside the visitor’s 15-yard line. Moving quickly, the Eagles offense collected and handed off again to May, who scored a 14-yard touchdown to give Eastern an early 6-0 lead just over four minutes into the game.
Eastern quickly got the ball back, as Joey Teixeira forced a fumble with a hard tackle and the Eagles recovered at the Phoenix 20-yard line. Following Teixeira’s forced fumble, Darius Kane scored on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Bryant. The Eagles ran a successful 2-point conversion from Bryant to Lanier Rice, and EAHS led, 14-0, with 7:22 to go in the first quarter.
Jackson Stokes was the next Eagles defender to step up, picking off a pass to set the home team up for its next score - a 20-yard pass from Bryant to senior Kendall Montgomery. Montgomery’s touchdown gave EAHS a 21-0 lead at the 6:51 mark of the opening period.
McMichael got a big pass play on its next possession to briefly move into Eastern real estate, but the Eagles defense buckled down again. The Eagles regained possession, and a 24-yard run by May gave EAHS a 28-0 cushion just over nine minutes in.
After once again taking the ball away from the overmatched Phoenix, the Eagles dialed up a brilliant play call. Bryant took a high snap and nailed Darius Kane, who worked his way through and around the Phoenix for yet another Eagles touchdown. Although a second extra point was no good, Eastern led 34-0 with 56 seconds left in the first quarter.
A third EAHS defensive turnover led to another score before the end of the period, as Caleb Hester recorded a pick six to give Eastern a 41-0 advantage through one quarter of play.
By the start of the second quarter, Tyler Payne was under center for the Eagles, and the Eastern coaches began liberally inserting backups. The score remained 41-0 into halftime, but the Eagles scored again early in the third quarter.
Kasen McCawley, who led the Eagles junior varsity team to an unblemished record this season, broke off a 31-yard touchdown on a quarterback keeper for a 47-0 lead, and the institution of a running clock.
Ce’Darion Williams, another move-up from the junior varsity, closed out the scoring for the Eagles in the third quarter with a 14-yard touchdown reception from McCawley - their first touchdown connection at the varsity level - which made the final count 54-0.
Bryant, who played just a quarter, completed five of nine passes for 123 yards and threw three touchdown passes - two to Kane, and a third to Montgomery. May ran for 85 yards on only six carries and recorded a pair of rushing touchdowns for the Eagles to go along with Hester’s interception return for a score.
The Eastern defense was once again stellar, holding McMichael to less than 100 yards of total offense in recording its second shutout, and fourth straight contest allowing seven or fewer points.
The Eagles now prepare for their postseason destiny, as the Mid-State Conference champions sit back and wait to see who they’ll face next Friday night in the first round of the NCHSAA 3A state playoffs.
Eastern is widely expected to be among the top three overall seeds in the East Region, but may not get the top overall seeding because of the presence of two other juggernauts - Havelock, who crushed Jacksonville 40-14 Friday night to complete a clean sweep of the Coastal 3A Conference, and Southern Nash, who completed an 11-0 season Friday night themselves and a Big East 3A regular season title with a blowout win over Franklinton.
As a program, Eastern Alamance is no stranger to either Southern Nash or Havelock. And this time around, the Eagles may have to fight their way through both the Firebirds and the Rams as they look to bring an elusive NCHSAA 3A state championship to Mebane.