Eastern Alamance’s varsity football team once again got off to a fast start in Friday night’s road game at Cummings, building a 41-0 first half lead over the Cavaliers. But Cummings fought back, scoring five touchdowns over the game’s final 27 minutes for a respectable 58-32 final score.
It was a solid win that left the Eagles 2-0, but it was evident that Eastern’s players and coaches left the field in Burlington with a bad taste in their mouths.
“I didn’t think we had the best week of preparation. It starts on Monday and it works through Friday’s game day. I just didn’t think we were as focused Monday through (the rest of the week) as we’ve been,” EAHS head coach John Kirby said moments after the game. “Cummings has got some speed and some athletic kids. They’re going to be okay in their conference.”
As they did in their season-opening triumph over Graham the week before, the Eagles got off to a big lead behind big plays on offense and a series of turnovers on defense.
Eastern went three and out on the game’s first offensive possession, but the Eagles quickly got the ball back and scored on a juggling 59-yard touchdown reception by sophomore receiver Darius Kane.
After a nice kickoff return by Cummings was brought back by a penalty - one of numerous penalties that crippled the Cavaliers chances over the course of the first half - River Faulker stepped in front of a pass by Cummings quarterback Tyrese Crisp and returned it 18 yards for another Eagles touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Eastern’s defense got tremendous pressure on Cummings on the Cavaliers next offensive possession, as Crisp was drilled by linebacker Jake Libbey on a second down pass, and linebacker Joey Teixeira and defensive end Tyler Pendygraft met at Crisp to bring him down as he threw a short pass on third down. Eastern regained possession, and took advantage of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty following what was a Cavaliers sack to avoid having to punt.
A pair of runs by Elijah Burnette got the Eagles a first down, and then a hard charge on a third-and-5 play by Burnette - his second straight third down conversion - got the Eagles in the red zone.
A pass completion to wide receiver A.J. Camuto gave EAHS first and goal, and Bryant and Burnette took care of the rest. Following a 6-yard bootleg by Eastern’s quarterback. Burnette settled the issue with a 3-yard burst over the goal line.
Leading 21-0 late in the first quarter, Eastern’s defense came up with another key play, as Jordan Moore picked up a fumble at the Cavaliers 15-yard line following miscommunication in the Cummings offensive backfield.
On the first play from scrimmage, EAHS backup running back Quentin Idley veered left and found space, making his way to the goal line for a 28-0 Eastern lead at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter was much of the same for the Eagles, as Teixeira, who scored two defensive touchdowns in his first career varsity start the previous week against Graham, scooped up another Cummings fumble and rambled to the EAHS 42. Teixeira himself lost the ball, but the alert Eagles managed to recover. Eastern’s ability to force early turnovers, as they did against Graham, allowed them to dig Cummings too deep a hole to climb out of in the second half.
“That’s a big part of the game,” Kirby said of Eastern’s turnovers. “Our defense did a great job.”
On the very next play following Teixeira’s fumble recovery, Bryant rolled out to his left and threw deep across his body over the middle of the field. Waiting for his pass was a wide open Camuto, who easily scored from 53 yards out to give the Eagles a 35-0 cushion with 11:01 remaining before halftime.
The Eagles defense got another three-and-out, which led up to another EAHS scoring drive. Bryant bootlegged the Eagles to one first down, and a pass completion to a diving Tyler Ellison gave Eastern another first down at the Cavaliers 15-yard line. A play-action pass over the middle to Camuto, similar to Eastern’s first touchdown play, made the count 41-0, although the Eagles were unsuccessful converting the extra point.
With a 41-0 lead, and then a 44-7 halftime lead following Cummings’ first touchdown and a 20-yard field goal by Jackson Poteat, the Eagles thought they had another possible running-clock situation on their hands, similar to the week before the in the season-opening triumph at Graham.
That wasn’t to be, however, as Cummings put up a tremendous fight in scoring 32 points over the game’s final 27 minutes.
The outcome was never in doubt for Eastern, but the Eagles were decisively outplayed by Cummings in the second half. The Cavaliers outscored EAHS 25-14 over the game’s final 24 minutes.
Instead of a running clock, the Eagles kept many of their offensive starters in the game well into the fourth quarter, while having to bring back the first-string defensive unit to stall Cummings’ late momentum.
“Our guys were going to be done for the night, and then we had to bring them (the starters) back. That’s a credit to those guys (Cummings),” Kirby said. “I think we’re growing. I think we’ll continue to get better.”
Happy to get the victory, the 2-0 Eagles now look ahead to this Friday’s home opener at Fred Brady Stadium, as Eastern will don the home green jerseys for the first time to face another local rival, Williams.
The Bulldogs are riding high following Friday night’s impressive 35-16 home victory over Western Alamance - the school’s first football triumph over the Warriors since 2002. Led by gifted senior quarterback Kennedy Miles, Williams is looking to make more program history by coming to Mebane and ending another long losing streak against the Eagles.
Williams hasn’t beaten Eastern Alamance on the gridiron in varsity play since a 17-0 shutout in Mebane back in 2005. Last season, EAHS claimed a 21-14 road triumph over the Bulldogs.
“Obviously they’ve got a good football team, and they’ve got a good athlete at quarterback,” Kirby said of Williams. “Western is for real. I’m sure those guys are ecstatic over in Bulldog land.”