Eastern High junior varsity football improves to 8-0 with home win Thursday

Eastern Alamance junior varsity wide receivers Taraji Rogers (left) and Deshan Hairston (right) both made key receptions from quarterback Jason Ball Thursday night as the Eagles defeated Central Conference rival Person County at home, 40-30. Rogers also made multiple big catches the previous week as the Eagles shut out Cedar Ridge on the road, 56-0. The victories over Cedar Ridge and Person County improved Eastern's overall record to 8-0 and its league record to 4-0 with two games remaining. If the Eagles can knock off Northwood and Orange the next two weeks, they will win the first Central Conference regular season JV football championship. 

It’s been said in recent years that Eastern Alamance’s football program doesn’t have rebuilding seasons. And in recent years, that’s certainly been true. 

The Eagles don’t simply rebuild - they reload and retool. And if the results of the 2021 EAHS junior varsity football team are any indication, the Eagles should be in good shape on the gridiron for years to come. 

Eastern improved to 8-0 on Thursday night with a 40-30 victory at home in Fred Brady Stadium against Person. The win gives the Eagles a perfect 4-0 record in Central Conference play with two games remaining. If the Eagles can knock off Northwood on the road October 21, and then return home and defeat Orange in the regular season finale the evening of Thursday, October 28, EAHS will claim the first-ever Central Conference JV football championship. 

Eastern struck first against the Rockets, scoring early in the first quarter for a 6-0 lead. Later in the opening period, a pass from Jason Ball to Dalton Jones set up a 30-yard touchdown run by Samuel. Samuel added a two-point conversion, and the Eagles led 14-0 at the 4:46 mark of the first quarter. Person followed Eastern’s second touchdown with its first score of the night. A long kickoff return run by Dante Downey down the Rockets sideline led to a touchdown pass - thrown by Downey - to pull Person within a score. Daejon Hodge added a two-point conversion, and the two teams went into the second quarter with the Eagles leading, 14-8. 

Person recovered a fumble at their own 38 late in the opening period, and it appeared for a brief moment as if the Rockets may take the lead following a 62-yard touchdown run by Hodge. But the touchdown was called back due to a Person penalty. The Eagles forced a punt and partially blocked it, setting up the EAHS offense at the Person 39. A pass from Ball to Deshan Hairston pushed the Eagles all the way down to the Person 5, and a play action scramble by Ball made the score 20-8 in favor of the Eagles with 7:49 left in the first half. Person stuffed Eastern’s two-point conversion attempt. 

The Rockets rallied to score another touchdown behind their strong running game. A tough run by Omarian Watkins pushed Person into EAHS territory, and a handoff to Hodge led to a touchdown run. Downey added a two-point conversion, and the Rockets were within 20-14 with 2:50 remaining prior to halftime. 

The Eagles quickly countered, as Samuel broke off a long run, and Ball hit Hairston over the middle for a touchdown. While Eastern was again stuffed on a two-point conversion effort, the Eagles had a 26-16 lead with just 2:06 left in the half. But once again Person’s offense rallied, with Hodge reeling off a long run down the left sideline for a big gain, and a solid run by Downey pushing the Rockets into Eastern’s red zone. With the clock running in the final 30 seconds of the half, Hodge broke free off left tackle and scored his second touchdown of the half with just five seconds left on the clock. The Eagles held Person out on the two-point conversion, and EAHS went into halftime leading, 26-22. 

Eastern stopped Person on the Rockets’ first offensive possession of second half, forcing a punt. The Eagles took the ball and quickly scored another touchdown. After Samuel got the Eagles a first down on the ground, Ball connected with a wide-open Taraji Rogers. Person got a touchdown-saving tackle from one of its safeties, but Rogers soon scored on another reception, covering 30 yards, which gave Eastern a 32-22 lead just over four minutes into the second half. 

In what turned into two of the biggest game-changing plays of the night, Eastern recovered a fumble inside Person territory with 3:45 left in the third quarter, and a rollout pass from Ball to Jones led to another touchdown and two-point conversion by Samuel, pushing the EAHS lead to 40-22 heading into the fourth quarter. 

Ball had an impressive evening, completing 12 of his first 14 passes for 222 yards as of late in the fourth quarter. Person managed to put another touchdown on the board, as a long pass down the right sideline led to another touchdown pass by Downey. The two-point conversion pulled the Rockets within 40-30 with 1:52 left in the game, but the Eagles managed to run out the clock to get the important victory. 

On the evening of Thursday, October 7, the Eagles traveled to Hillsborough to take on Cedar Ridge, who isn’t hosting a varsity football program this fall, but does have a junior varsity squad. It was no contest, as Eastern cruised to a 56-0 victory that could have been even more lopsided had the EAHS coaching staff not sportsmanly emptied its bench and slowed things down a little in the second half. 

The Eagles wasted little time getting on the scoreboard against the overmatched Red Wolves, as freshman running back Zephaniah Gattis raced 24 yards down the left sideline for an Eagles touchdown just 20 seconds into the game. Gattis’s touchdown climaxed a 67-yard march by EAHS on just two plays. On the first play from scrimmage, sophomore quarterback Jason Ball raced 43 yards on a scramble to set up the Gattis touchdown. Ninth grader Tyrek Samuel followed moments later with a two-point conversion run up the gut, and the Eagles had a quick 8-0 lead. 

Following a fumble recovery by sophomore K.J. Clary, which he returned to the Cedar Ridge 26-yard-line, Eastern quickly built upon its advantage. Samuel pushed the ball to the CRHS 7 with a tough run, and on second-and-goal, Samuel got the ball again and trudged off right tackle into the end zone for a 7-yard score. Gattis added a two-point conversion, and Eastern led 16-0 less than three minutes into the game. 

Midway through the first quarter, following a defensive stop by the Eagles, Ball connected with freshman wide receiver Taraji Rogers down the right sideline for a 51-yard completion, setting up Eastern’s third score of the evening. On first-and-goal, Ball rolled left and hit sophomore Charlie Deacon in the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown. Although the Eagles failed on their two-point conversion attempt, they held a 22-0 lead with 6:05 remaining in the opening period. 

Eastern continued its offensive explosion in the waning minutes of the first quarter, as Ball completed a pass to a a wide-open Deacon for a 36-yard touchdown and a 28-0 lead for the Eagles at the 1:44 mark. Once again the Eagles missed a two-point conversion effort, but the Eagles took a commanding 28-0 lead into the second quarter. 

The Eagles continued their offensive dominance on their first play from scrimmage in the second quarter, as Samuel burst untouched 47 yards to the end zone for yet another EAHS score. A two-point conversion pass from Ball to Samuel by made the count 36-0 with 11:29 remaining in the half. Regaining possession with just over seven minutes left in the half, Gattis broke off another big play for the Eagles, racing 44 yards down the left sideline to the Cedar Ridge 21. On the next play, Ball pump-faked and connected with Rogers for a 21-yard touchdown pass, and the Eagles padded their lead to 42-0 with 6:52 remaining in the opening half. Cedar Ridge finally put together a meaningful offensive drive, pushing into Eastern territory as the half wound down. But the Eagles held out the Red Wolves, taking a 42-0 lead into halftime. 

Eastern added another pair of touchdowns in the second half before winding down its offensive efforts. Samuel broke off a brilliant 78-yard touchdown midway through the third period, sprinting his way past numerous Cedar Ridge defenders down the right sidelines on his way to the end zone. Samuels’ third touchdown of the night gave EAHS a 48-0 lead with 6:01 left in the third quarter. 

Eastern’s final touchdown came courtesy of Clary, who raced 70 yards on a carry up the middle to make the score 54-0 with 7:22 left in the game. Backup quarterback freshman Gavin Matthews added a two-point conversion on a scramble, and the Eagles had their 56-0 margin of victory. The pair of victories over Cedar Ridge and Person improved Eastern’s league mark to a perfect 4-0.