Eastern Alamance’s varsity and junior varsity football teams provided a glimpse of the season ahead Friday night, as the Eagles hosted nearby Orange High School for a scrimmage at Fred Brady Stadium.
For the preseason favorites in the Mid-State Conference, it was a great opportunity to test themselves against a high-quality opponent leading up to this Friday night’s season opener at Graham.
Orange, a perennial power and playoff team out of the Big 8 Conference, doesn’t have the sheer numbers that Eastern Alamance has heading into the upcoming campaign. But the Panthers proved they’ll once again be a handful on Friday nights in the coming months by coming to Mebane and playing the Eagles tough.
The scrimmage was played under game-like conditions, with 12 minute quarters, the usual compliment of officials calling the game, and timed and measured downs. During the first two quarters of the varsity portion, which was kept officially unscored, both the Eagles and the Panthers scored two touchdowns in an evenly-matched battle.
Orange got the ball first and drove the length of the field in a run-oriented, time-consuming 8 1/2 minute drive, taking the early lead on an 8-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Nigel Slanker to running back Machai Holt. OHS missed the extra point.
EAHS got the ball for its opening possession and subsequently put together its own touchdown drive. Senior quarterback Austin Bryant converted a fourth and short yardage, and connected with Kendall Montgomery for a first down inside Orange’s 35 yard-line. Bryant then found junior Tahree Wright wide open for another first down, and eventually found A.J. Camuto on a rollout pass to the right.
Camuto, who also was wide open, caught the pass along the right sideline and scored from 24 yards out. The extra point attempt by Jackson Poteat split the uprights. The score, which came with 18.7 seconds left in the first quarter, would have given Eastern a 7-6 lead over the Panthers heading into the second quarter had the official score been kept.
While Orange managed to score another touchdown midway through the second quarter against Eastern’s second-string defense, the Eagles first-team unit came through with a variety of key plays to hold off the hard-nosed Panthers. Jordan Moore and the EAHS defensive line got a good surge on a fourth and short yardage play and not only stuffed Orange’s run attempt, but forced a fumble in the process. Later on, senior defensive back Caleb Hester got an interception on a deep pass by Slanker.
Although he was picked off for an interception at the 4:43 mark of the second quarter by Orange junior Will Torian, Bryant put together a second scoring drive for the Eagles just before halftime. Bryant connected with Darius Kane over the middle, and a subsequent 15-yard penalty got the Eagles to the Orange 35.
Once the Eagles got in close, Bryant took care of the rest, first getting a key first down on a 3rd-and-1. Eastern quickly got up to the line and Bryant pushed the ball over the goal line with 1:17 left in the second quarter. Poteat nailed the extra point, and the first half ended with Eastern technically ahead, 14-13. The junior varsity teams took the field for the second half of the scrimmage with a running clock.
As is typical early on in the season, the scrimmage featured its fair share of procedure, false start, and pass interference penalties. The assemblage of officials onsite, there to practice themselves for the upcoming season, got plenty of practice pulling the flags from their back pockets.
The biggest key for both Eastern Alamance and Orange from the scrimmage was the fact that they got good experience against quality opposition, both teams played hard, and most importantly, no players got hurt heading into the start of the regular season.
There were plenty of positive takeaways from the scrimmage for the Eagles. Safety Jackson Stokes showed nice recognition on a pass play, racing over to the right hash and converting a pass breakup. The Eastern defensive line appeared solid in terms of controlling the line of scrimmage and keeping Orange from busting huge holes. And while the Panthers did move the ball at times, the Eagles only gave up one big play - a long pass play with the second-team defense on the field.
The EAHS offensive line gave Austin Bryant good pass protection, giving him plenty of time to throw for most of the varsity portion of the scrimmage. Although there were some overthrown balls and dropped passes, the Eagles offense showed the potential to be both versatile and fast-striking.
Eastern is going to have a host of wide receivers, including A.J. Camuto, Kendall Montgomery, Tahree Wright, Darius Kane, and David Bunker, capable of making plays this season, along with a pair of running backs in Elijah Burnette and Quentin Idley who can eat up chunks of yardage and keep the chains moving. Camuto, Montgomery, Wright, and Kane all showed good ability at times of separating themselves from Orange's defensive backs and linebackers. If Kane, a long and athletic sophomore, can rise up and become a featured playmaker with all the other weapons at their disposal, this offense can be one of the best in the area.
Eastern opens the regular season Friday night at Graham, with a scheduled kickoff at 7:30 p.m..