Explosive first quarter propels Eupora
Eupora's Rusty Johnson fields a punt Friday night. (Photo by Lee Adams, SDN)
By LEE ADAMS
An explosive first quarter was all the Eupora Eagles needed to enjoy success in opening division play.
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The Eagles scored a whopping 33 first quarter points and got things started on the right foot with a special teams touchdown and the defense causing a turnover. They went on to a 52-0 victory against J.Z. George.
Eupora (4-2, 1-0) found the end zone early as Derrick Jones returned the opening kickoff 81 yards to take a 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing drive, the Eagle defense got a huge play from George Starks that caused a fumble and allowed Kevon Embry to gain possession for Eupora. After the turnover, it took Vandy Smith only two plays to find the goal line and extend the Eagles lead to 14-0.
"I was proud of the way special teams set the tone early and then we come up with a big defensive hit and got a big turnover there," said Eupora head coach Junior Graham.Â
The early lead made things a little easier for the Eagles new quarterback Trey Pittman and Graham was happy with the way things worked out.
"It gave him a chance to get his feet wet and get adjusted," said Graham. "I was real pleased with the way he played tonight."
Pittman only completed one pass out of three attempts, but his one completion was a big one as he connected with Devin Simmons for a 17-yard touchdown. However, until he gets more accustomed to the position, the running game will be the Eagles bread and butter.
"Until Trey gets some maturity under his belt at quarterback, we're going to have to be able to run the football," said Graham. "Vandy can run inside, outside and catch the ball out of the backfield and he's deceivingly faster than he looks, so we came in tonight trying to establish him and we got some things a lot easier than we anticipated."
By the end of the first quarter, Smith had racked up 77 yards and three touchdowns on five carries, but by the end of the game, he wasn't the Eagles leading rusher.Â
Smith didn't get a carry after the first quarter, and Eupora sent several guys into the backfield, but freshman Lamonta Sally shined brighter than the rest.
Sally picked away at the Jaguars defense on seven carries, but it was his eighth and final carry that propelled him into the spotlight. Late in the fourth quarter, he broke a 70-yard touchdown run ending his night with 101 yards which was a surprise to him.
"It's excellent," said Sally. "I didn't plan to do it, but It feels good to be a freshman and do it. I thank the Lord and I give Him all my thanks to make it through the night."
One reason for the success Sally, who also had an interception, is the amount of work he has to do in practice.
"We give him a lot in practice," said Smith. "He runs against our starting defense a lot and we give him a tough time."
That tough time makes him stronger and he knows it.
"I know I get smacked around a lot at practice, but I get up and I survive it," said Sally.Â
Smith not finishing as the leading rusher is an oddity but he was excited for Sally.
"It was good to see, because he's going to have to play with us next year," said Smith. "He'll have to step it up and play with us."
The Eagles referred to Friday night's game as the beginning of the second season and they wanted to start out 1-0. Even though the offense put up big numbers, the Eagle defense played a huge role by holding the Jaguars to only 69 yards of total offense.
"I thought we tackled in numbers better than we have all year," said Graham. "We had guys at the point of attack and when the whistle blew, we had seven or eight guys around the ball."
Graham wants his defense to keep it up next week as they travel to Hamilton.
"Hamilton has some really good skilled people," said Graham. "They got two or three guys who can score from any place on the field so it's going to be important for us to play disciplined and get to the ball in numbers next week."