COVINGTON — Overcoming a two-score deficit in the first half was a tough task for Eastside Friday night at home against Alcovy.
Finding separation with the game tied on two separate occasions in the second half was an even bigger challenge.
In danger of losing their third consecutive game to begin the season, the Eagles found the separation they were looking for from the unlikeliest of sources with a scoop-and-score fumble recovery from Sambo Button and a blocked punt recovered in the end zone for a touchdown from Giovanni Macek in a span of 59 seconds early in the fourth quarter.
The 14-point swing in favor of the Eagles was all the momentum needed en route to a 42-28 victory.
On a night in which the Eagles were out-gained in total yards 380-225, and converted six fewer first downs than the Tigers, Eastside head coach Troy Hoff was more than pleased to come away with their first victory of 2019 on a night where his team created five turnovers.
“We needed this,” Hoff said. “It’s been a tough week. Starting 0-2, obviously nobody wants to start 0-3. They had a great week of practice and they handled it well. I’m happy with how hard they played. My staff did a good job of putting these guys in place. It’s a great win.”
Eastside running back Terrence Reid finished with a team-high 93 yards rushing on 16 carries and scored three touchdowns while senior quarterback Noah Cook threw for 117 yards and one score. Senior safety Jalen Davis paced the defense with two interceptions while Devin Brown added a third.
Andrae Robinson led the Tigers in rushing with 148 yards on 11 carries while sophomore quarterback MJ Stroud rushed for 98 and passed for 87.
With the loss, the Tigers have lost nine games in a row dating back to last season.
Failing to come away with points on their opening possession despite converting three first downs and reaching as far as the Eastside 26-yard line, Alcovy did not falter on their second drive of the night.
After forcing a quick three-and-out by Cook and the Eagles, the Tigers used a quick three-play drive to score the games’ opening touchdown. A quick first down conversion led to MJ Stroud’s first career touchdown quarterbacking the Tigers, a 42-yard run down the right sideline with 6:35 remaining in the first quarter.
The Eagles answered back on the ensuing kickoff with a 37-yard return from Haynes and quickly moved the chains for the first time on the night following a 17-yard rush from Terrence Reid. Setting up shop from the Tiger 30-yard line, the Eagles were stopped in their tracks on three consecutive runs and later turned the ball over on downs.
Looking to capitalize, the Tigers did just that with their second scoring drive in a row. A 15-yard rush on first down from JJ Strong-Williams set up a Robinson 64-yard touchdown run to give the away team a commanding 14-0 lead with 2:50 remaining in the first quarter.
A second consecutive turnover on downs for the Eagles thanks to an Ezra King bobbled punt attempt set the Tigers up near midfield with an opportunity to extend its lead to three scores. However, a much-needed momentum shift in favor of the Eagles soon happened following an interception from senior safety Jalen Davis.
On the Eagles’ first offensive play following the turnover, Cook connected with Haynes on a 54-yard catch-and-run down to the Tigers 17-yard line. Three plays later on third-and-4, Cook found a wide-open Jaylen Woods in the left corner of the end zone for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 14-7 with 10:46 remaining in the half.
With neither offense moving the ball with any effectiveness in the second quarter, a costly mistake with under two minutes remaining in the half by the Tiger set the Eagles up with a fresh set of downs inside Tiger territory.
Cook converted a third-and-10 through the air to Haynes and watched as a Reid 2-yard rush on first-and-goal tied the game at 14-all with 47 seconds remaining in the first half.
The first of three critical special teams plays took place on the Eagles’ opening possession of the third quarter when Johnny Salter and Eastside executed a fake punt to perfection. Salter raced down to the Tiger 3-yard line setting up Reid’s second touchdown of the night.
The score gave Eastside its first lead of the game, 21-14 with 9:51 remaining in the third quarter.
Looking to maintain the momentum, the Eagles were unable to as they watched Stroud and the Tigers march down the field with relative ease. Stroud completed all three of his pass attempts on the drive for 44 yards and finished off the drive with a 27-yard run into the end zone, his second of the game.
Deadlocked at 21-all at the end of the third quarter, the Eagles quickly took control of the game with their back-to-back special teams touchdowns. Dayton Green’s forced fumble of JaQuez Snell led to Button’s scoop-and-score to give the Eagles a 28-21 lead.
A quick three-and-out by the Tigers set up Macek’s blocked punt and subsequent recovery in the end zone for the Eagles’ third score of the second half with 10:34 remaining.
With all momentum on Eastside’s sideline, Stroud tossed his third interception of the game, a pass that was intercepted by Brown at the Tiger 46-yard line. Two plays into the Eagle’s ensuing possession, Reid found the end zone for a third time after racing past the Tigers defense from 36 yards out.
Leading the Tigers 42-21 with three scores in a matter of 2:17, Alcovy tacked on one last touchdown, a TD pass from Stroud to Caleb Jackson with 4:49 remaining.
While it wasn’t the start on defense the Eagles had hoped to have, Hoff was proud of the way they responded down the stretch and making plays when they needed to the most.
“We didn’t start out really well defensively,” Hoff said. “We sat them down, made some calls, got our personnel and they. Started lining up and communicating. They got back to some fundamental football and doing their job. I give coach Ross and the defensive staff credit. They made some adjustments and our guys responded.”