It was a tale of two halves for the Eupora Eagles.
The Eagles fell behind 8-0 in the first quarter, and found themselves down 8-6 at halftime.
"I told them we had been down this road before," Eupora head coach Junior Graham said about his halftime speech. "We have been in a lot of games this year. We didn't want to hit the panic button. I kept them grounded, I kept our coaches grounded and we stuck to our game plan."
The Eagles responded with 30 points in the second half and cruised to a 36-8 victory over South Delta Friday night at Wafford Field in Class 2A playoff action.
The Bulldogs got the ball to start the second half, but a fumble and recovery by Eupora's Vandy Smith put the Eagles in business at the Bulldog 30-yard line.
The Eagles took advantage of the good field position. Lazerick Davis punched it in from the 7-yard line with 9:55 remaining in the third quarter.
"We did a lot better job picking their stunts up," Graham said. "They brought a lot of pressure inside. I thought our offensive line did a good job of cutting those guys off a little bit better. We executed in the second half and I was excited about that for our kids."
The Eagles elected to go for the 2-point conversion. Davis got the ball again and had no problem finding his way back in the end zone to make it 14-8 Eagles.
On the next Bulldog drive, the Eagles forced a punt. Davis again found the end zone on a 15-yard scamper. Quarterback Trey Pittman found Will Bowen for the 2-point conversion to make it 22-8 with 5:05 remaining in the third quarter.
South Delta took the ensuing kickoff and marched down the field. The faced a fourth and goal from the 5-yard line and elected to go for it.
South Delta quarterback Ricky Green took the ball around the left side and had the end zone in his sights. Derrick Jones came out of nowhere and hit him at the 1-yard line knocking him out bounds to give the ball back to the Eagles.
"He proved he can run a 4-4-2 and he can play physical game," Graham said of Jones. "He laid the wood to that guy. That was a big-time hit."
The Eagles took the ball to the South Delta 12-yard line, but a Pittman interception kept Eupora out of the end zone.
"They brought so much pressure," Graham said. "He should have thrown it out of bounds and lived for another play. That's a sophomore mistake. He checked to some good plays."
The Eagles forced their fourth turnover of the game. Smith picked off the Green pass and ran returned it seven yards for the score.
"The turnovers were a big factor in the ballgame," Graham said. "They always play a big factor in it. I thought we protected the ball well. We got some timely turnovers."
Justin Lewis connected on the extra point to make it 29-8.
Lamonte Salley ended the scoring with a 12-yard rushing score late in the fourth quarter.
"They are special because they don't complain about who gets the ball and who don't," Graham said. "We don't have anybody that is going to jump out at you statistically in the run game. Those guys ran as hard as they did all year."
The Bulldogs got on the board first when Green found Terrale Washington for a 39-yard passing score with 37 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Hakeem Johnson rushed it in for the 2-point conversion to make it 8-0.
The Eagles answered back with a 7-yard rushing score by Savon Daughtery with 2:27 to go in the second quarter.
The Eagles moved their record to 12-1 overall for the season and travel to Calhoun City for the third round of the playoffs. The Eagles only lost came to Calhoun City earlier in the year.
"It is a tough place to play," Graham said. "They are so well coached and there is so much tradition there. It will be a fun week for both teams."
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