WOODBURN – It took 28 and a half minutes, but when Eastside quarterback Laban Davis found a streaking Wade Miller up the left sideline for the game’s opening touchdown, a lot of things were altered.
The end result of that change was Eastside improving to 8-2 with a 21-0 win over host Woodlan; the Blazers’ seventh in a row. The score came after a scoreless first half that saw the then 3-6 Warriors gaining significant more ground than the NECC small division champions. But as soon as Davis and Miller connected on the 61 yard pass on third and long, Eastside was in business and never looked back.
“That is really what we needed coming out in the second half,” Davis said with a grin. “We knew we had to have a big explosion on offense and I think that really relieved us so we could play our game.”
Woodlan set the tone early on by keeping the ball in their possession for the first 10 minutes and two seconds. In that first drive, the Warriors had to convert on fourth down a couple of times, including a big quarterback keeper from Ben Reidy just over a minute in. Woodlan made their biggest pickup during the long possession with 5:22 left when Reidy connected with David Bischoff for 37 yards, moving Woodlan to the opposing 18 yard line. The Warriors got the ball down to the two and a half yard line but changed their mind on a field goal attempt to go for the touchdown before Trevor Wallace was stopped a yard short of the goal line.
Then neither team made big strides for much of what was left of the first half including Eastside going three and out on their first possession.
“For some reason, we have been a slow starting group and that’s gotta change next week or we are going to be in trouble,” said Eastside coach Todd Mason. “We are shooting ourselves in the foot offensively. We get drives going, then get penalties and do some dumb things. We’ve got to get more disciplined.”
On their second trip down the field with the ball, Davis used his legs to gain a little bit of headway. With 10:12 left, he scampered up the left sideline for 17 yards, but the drive later stalled when Wallace knocked down a quick hitch pass on third down.
The teams exchanged punts until Woodlan was able to advance the ball with 1:22 left on a Dawson Smyth pass interference call. Alas, Woodlan would stall too when Reidy had the ball slip out of his hands on a scramble right into the waiting arms of Treyven McKinley of Eastside, taking the game to the half tied 0-0.
Just like two weeks ago when Woodlan’s defense battled ACAC champion South Adams to a tie at nil at the break, the Warriors just didn’t have the get up to finish the game as strong as they started and Eastside took advantage. Both teams started the second half with their own three and out and it looked like more of the same was in store for Eastside before Davis and Miller connected for the aforementioned touchdown out of nowhere. The beautifully thrown pass from Davis was a big step forward for a team that is continuing to show growth.
“You can’t take away the effort that our kids gave tonight, they were fighting from the opening whistle to the last,” Mason said. “We are maturing as a team and every week just trying to get a little but better.”
Woodlan’s second half woes came in the way of the fumble; the Warriors coughed up the ball three times in a four and a half minute span late in the third quarter, losing two of those. The second, on a bad snap, led directly to an Eastside score when the Blazers recovered on Woodlan’s 12 yard line. The second Blazer score came with 38.6 seconds lefts on a Davis keeper following his third and 20 pass completion to Lane Burns.
Just into the fourth quarter, Burns picked off a Reidy pass deep in Woodlan territory and two minutes later, Davis scored from three yards out seal the Blazers advancing to play Bishop Luers in next Friday’s Class 2A Sectional semi final.
“Defensively, we are playing darn good football and if you play good defense, you are going to put yourself in a position to win,” Mason said. “When you play with great intensity and effort, good things are going to happen.”
Davis completed 5-of-11 passes for 89 yards and ran for another 43 yards on 13 attempts. Ethan Farnsworth ran for a team best 48 yards for the Blazers. Lane Cleckner led the Eastside defense with six tackles, followed by five and a half tackles and the interception from Burns.
Reidy completed 11-of-20 passes for 119 yards, finishing the game with a wild scramble, spinning out of the hands of multiple Eastside defenders to connect with younger brother Joe on a completion to finish the game.