On a rare Tuesday evening game night, Eastern Alamance’s varsity football team hung tough on the road for a 41-21 triumph at Rockingham. The Eagles improved to 4-0 heading into the biggest game of the season - a Saturday afternoon homecoming clash with fellow undefeated Western Alamance with the Mid-State Conference regular season championship on the line.
Eastern was forced to modify its schedule earlier in March following a COVID-19 situation. The Eagles scrapped its home game, previously scheduled for March 26 against Morehead, and had to re-schedule its road matchup with Rockingham, which was originally supposed to be played the evening of March 19 in Wentworth. In addition, Eastern’s home showdown with Western was pushed back a day from April 2 to April 3.
Although the Cougars played the Eagles surprisingly well, EAHS took control from the outset, utilizing its rugged two-headed rushing tandem of Quentin Idley and Donte McCall, along with well-timed scrambles from Hunter Douglas, to take the initiative on the ground in the first half.
EAHS opened the scoring on its opening possession, marching down the field on the way to a 6-yard rushing touchdown from Donte McCall and a 7-0 lead in the game’s opening three minutes.
Although Rockingham’s Ayden Wheeler intercepted a Douglas pass to give the Cougars an opportunity, Will Burnette got the ball right back for the Eagles with an interception of his own. However, the Eagles were unable to take advantage, and gave the ball back to Rockingham after getting stopped on fourth down.
Rockingham came up with a big play to tie the game, as quarterback Luke Smith dropped back and connected with Ryan Covington, who scored from 65 yards out to tie the game with just over four minutes left in the opening period. Undaunted, the Eagles came out swinging, as Douglas found Ce’Darion Williams for a big gainer through the air out near midfield. Moments later, Douglas hit Williams again, this time for a 50-yard touchdown that gave Eastern a 14-7 lead heading into the second quarter.
Rockingham continued to fight, however, once again stopping the Eagles on a fourth down play deep in Eastern’s territory early in the second quarter, and then driving 65 yards in the final minutes of the second quarter to tie the game. A pass from Smith to Josh Campbell pulled the Cougars even with under a minute to play before halftime.
Proving that they can score even with minimal time on the clock, the Eagles went to work and took advantage of their final possession of the half, as Douglas found Casen McCawley for Eastern’s second long touchdown pass of the evening thus far, this one covering 45 yards. The extra point from Emilyn Krans gave the Eagles a 21-14 halftime advantage.
The third quarter turned into a defensive struggle, with both teams struggling to move the ball. EAHS stuffed the Cougars deep on their side of the field with under five minutes to play in the period, and converted a touchdown on a 3-yard carry by Idley to take a 28-14 lead with around two minutes left.
Rockingham took the ball and moved into Eastern territory as the third quarter moved into the fourth quarter, but the EAHS defense came up with a key stop, giving the ball back to Douglas and the Eagle offensive at their own 35 with just over 11 minutes left in the game. The visitors from Mebane went on the march, culminating in a third Douglas touchdown pass - this one to Williams from 11 yards out. Although the extra point was missed, EAHS held a 34-14 lead.
Another big play on defense by the Eagles - this one an interception by Kasen McCawley - gave Eastern a chance to add to its lead, but EAHS was unable to come through. Rockingham reclaimed possession and found the end zone again on a 9-yard carry by Campbell. Midway through the final period, Rockingham was still in striking distance, trailing 34-21. The Cougars got the ball back and had a chance to pull within one score, moving into Eastern’s side of the field, but the Eagles held, stopping Rockingham on a fourth down to take the ball at their own 41.
This time, EAHS took advantage of their chance to put the game away, marching nearly 60 yards in just over a minute. Idley burst through the line for a 30-yard touchdown run, which finished off the scoring for the night following Krans’ extra point. The 20-point triumph improved Eastern’s overall mark to 4-0, while Rockingham fell to 2-3 overall.
Douglas threw for 208 passing yards to go along with his three touchdown passes, while Williams finished the evening with 119 receiving yards and a pair of touchdown grabs. McCawley recorded the 45-yard touchdown in the second quarter to go along with an interception, while Idley led the way on the ground for the Eagles with 114 rushing yards.
Although the Eagles now have a short week to prepare for Western Alamance, who improved to 5-0 this past Friday night with a 49-6 home triumph over Northeast Guilford, EAHS will have the advantage of taking on the Warriors at home in the friendly confines of Fred Brady Stadium.
Many of the EAHS players will also have the fond memory of last year’s dominant blowout of the Warriors in Elon, which gave the Eagles the Mid-State Conference title and helped EAHS go on to an undefeated regular season. With only McMichael remaining on this year’s slate, the Eagles are staring at yet another undefeated regular season if they can find a way to beat Western. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon in Mebane.