MONROE – The field is wet, a little bit muddy and Adams Central is on the home sideline.
Oh, and your team just turned the ball over three times in the first quarter.
That is not a recipe for success.
But Eastside took all of that and overcame early issues on Friday, scoring 21 unanswered points to overcome Adams Central with a blend of grit and quickness in a 28-14 win.
“Any time you play an Adams Central team, they have a fantastic staff, they have fantastic football players,” Eastside coach Todd Mason said. “Any time you get a win against AC, that is a good night.”
Adams Central had won four of the last five in the series with Eastside’s lone win in that time coming in 2017.
Eastside looked to have the early edge on a three-minute opening drive that culminated with quarterback Laban Davis finding Gavin Wallace for a 10-yard score. But the Flying Jets struck back quickly.
Less than two minutes later, sophomore Adams Central quarterback Ryan Black bombed a 57-yard touchdown score to Nick Neuenschwander that Eastside had no chance to keep up with. It was a frantic early pace that had many expecting a bigger final score.
Black, in the starting role due to an injury to Joshua Mosser, ended up throwing for 98 yards on 6-of-16 passing with that early bomb to Neuenschwander certainly helping his psyche.
The mental state of the rest of the Flying Jets was helped early by the aforementioned Eastside miscues.
After Adams Central scored its first touchdown, Lane Burns of Eastside slipped on the ensuing kickoff return, giving the Blazers poor field position. That possession ended with Laban Davis being intercepted by Adams Central’s Alex Currie with 4:26 left in the opening quarter.
Although the Flying Jets couldn’t move the ball, a Blake Heyerly punt pinned Eastside down to their own 10 yard line. More field position issues for the Blazers turned into a Joe Collier sack and a Chase Green interception all within a minute to kill any Eastside hope for momentum.
“We have got to eliminate turnovers. Its killing me and we looked awful in the first half. Luckily our defense played well enough, with a great defensive play, to stay in the game,” Mason said. “We still occasionally get jitters in big games and we’ve got to eliminate that.”
Yet again though, Adams Central was forced to punt in the seesaw first quarter. This time, however, Burns fumbled the return catch and the Flying Jets recovered the ball to set up a 25-yard scrambling dash to the endzone for Currie.
Adams Central led 14-7 at the first break and all seemed well for the home team.
They would not score again.
“What was impressive was that they had a couple of drives and our kids didn’t hang their heads, they kept fighting,” Mason said.
Another Collier sack helped open the second quarter and Adams Central continued to eat up clock, but not much yardage. Things started to shift though with 7:11 to play in the first half when an incomplete pass from Black to Neunschwander was ruled a fumble on a lateral and Eastside recovered the ball just one play after punting.
The Blazers wouldn’t score on that possession, but did take advantage four minutes later. After each team had their chance with minimal movement, Eastside’s Phoenix Smyth flew in to block a Heyerly punt with 3:03 left in the second to set the Blazers up with great field position. Davis again found comfort throwing to Wallace on a go route, hitting a seam on a 41-yard play that set up an Eastside game-tying touchdown as Davis kept it himself on an eight-yard run.
With how the first half started, Eastside could have been comfortable taking the game to halftime tied at 14. Yet with 1:39 to play, Burns made up for some of his earlier miscues by scooping up an Adams Central fumble in a scrum at the line of scrimmage and returning it 53 yards for a touchdown to put Eastside ahead at the break.
Burns would further redeem himself by intercepting an early third quarter pass that would help widen Eastside’s lead.
“What is great about Lane Burns is he is a freaking competitor. If I am in a foxhole, I want Lane Burns with me,” Mason said of his senior leader. “He just has a short memory. Nobody has ever played a perfect game and you’ve just got to shake off mistakes and go back and play and that is exactly what he did and turned the ball game around for us.”
After Burns’ pick, the Blazers would push up the field and finalize their scoring on the night with Davis finding Wade Miller for a diving catch in the back left side of the end zone from nine yards out with just under nine minutes left in the third.
With 6:50 left in the third, Adams Central offensive lineman Joshua Smith was injured on a third down play. Action was stopped for nearly 20 minutes as Smith was tended to and eventually stretchered off the field. No updates have been given on his condition.
The Flying Jets got close to the end zone just one more time on a 31- yard run from Currie toward the end of the third quarter that set up first and goal from the 10-yard line. But with four chances to get in, Adams Central was consistently stopped.
The red zone defense on that series was a huge highlight for the Blazers, who held Adams Central to just 3.2 yards per carry on the game, including holding Heyerly to just seven yards on a team-high 13 attempts.
“Coach [Corey] Schoon did an awesome job with the game planning with these guys,” Mason said. “We were able to slow down that run game. Any time you can slow down an Adams Central run game, that is a good night and certainly proud of our defense and how they played.”
Eastside actually ran the ball for less total yardage despite seven more total rushes, yet it felt like it controlled much of the game in the trenches on the slick “Landing Strip” in Monroe. Johnny Eck added another turnover for the Eastside defense late with an interception and the Blazers took their time milking the remaining time on the clock to improve to 2-0.
Davis ended the night leading Eastside on 9-of-17 passing for 143 yards and running for another 27. Matt Firestine ran for 43 yards for the Blazers. Lane Cleckner and Dax Holman each registered 7.5 tackles to lead the Eastside defense. Currie was the leading man for Adams Central’s offense with 12 carries for 94 yards.
“Hey, we did some good things, we did some bad things. That is why we are in Week 2,” Mason said. “It is a non-stop process of trying to get the best Eastside Blazer ball club out there.”
Next Friday, Eastside will travel to West Noble (0-2) while Adams Central currently does not have a Week 3 game scheduled, although they are still working to add an opponent.
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