Nathan Fry | Eastside Contributor
In a highly dramatic shootout that ended 35-28, Eastside and Greer provided one of the best games of the season on Thursday night at Dooley Field. The 7-1 Eagles defeated the Yellow Jackets on the road, ending a sixteen year losing streak to Greer.
The game began at a frantic pace, as both teams scored three touchdowns in the first half. The running game was the key factor for both offenses as the pressure in the backfield made it difficult to throw downfield throughout the night. In a matchup that seemed like it could change on any possession, it was certainly a surprise to see such a low scoring second half. This led to every drive becoming more and more tense as the offenses were able to move the ball, but couldn’t score to end drives.
Greer’s defense was a standout unit on Thursday night, forcing Eastside off the field after two failed fourth and short attempts. Those denials kept the contest close, as the Eagles went for it while within seven points of the Yellow Jackets each time. They held the Eagles to only fourteen points in the second half, while the Eastside defense held the Greer offense to seven, respectively.
Offensive production didn’t slow for the Eagles, with over 500 yards for the team in total. However, the long drives didn’t always turn into points, and the scoring slowed down for the Eagles. They had to depend on the running game late to wear out the Yellow Jackets’ defense. Eastside running back Max Louris had yet another big game, with 174 yards and 7.9 yards per carry.
“I don’t think that Max [Louris] gets enough credit for everything that he does.” said Coach Woolcock. “He’s well over 1,000 yards this season and has a lot of touchdowns as well. We put the ball in his hands last night and he responded by putting the team on his back. He was up for the challenge.”
Quarterback Marshall Skoloff answered the call as well, rushing for over 100 yards and forcing his way into the end zone three times. His final touchdown included a heroic goal line effort with four minutes left, winning the game for Eastside. After his five touchdown performance, Skoloff said “I credit my offensive line and my running back man, they were keying in on Max all night and it opened up lanes for me.”
“Having this o-line is a blessing; they protect me.” said Skoloff. “We’re gonna play good teams and we’re gonna get hit a lot, but I trust them. I’m gonna go to war with these guys every single week.”
Late in the game the Yellow Jackets faced a crucial 4th and inches near the Eastside 40. That’s when the unexpected happened: The Eagles’ away crowd turned the tide on the Yellow Jackets’ offense. In their loudest effort of the night, the Eastside faithful distracted Greer’s offense enough to force a delay of game penalty that pushed them back, causing them to reconsider the risky fourth down conversion. They punted on the next play, which lead to Eastside’s biggest opportunity of the night.
“That was huge, oh man that was huge!” exclaimed Coach Woolcock. “Hats off to our fans. These guys came out and supported us on a Thursday night on the road. The kids have to go to school in the morning, parents still have to get to work the following day, but they came out and supported our program. Not only did they support us, but they were a part of our victory so I thank them as well.”
After the punt, Eastside started at their own five yard line. That’s when receiver Kodi Jones broke out of the shadow of his own endzone, dashing up the right sideline on a huge gain that set up the offense for the rest of the drive. Helped along by a face mask penalty, the offense really started to build up steam after crossing the 50 yard-line. Eastside ground out first down after first down, running Louris straight at the defense and using play action reads to get the ball downfield when the box was stacked.
With four minutes left in the game, the Eagles found themselves inside the ten, tied at 28 a piece. That’s when they called on Skoloff to punch it in up the right side, making one man miss and diving into the end zone to secure the first lead of the night for Eastside, 35-28. This would be the last score of the game as the Eastside defense forced their final stop of the night on 4th and 20 during the next drive.
Speaking about the pressure he faced in the backfield and one of his top receiving targets against Greer, Skoloff said “[Having Payton] is a great blessing as well, because I know that if I’m under pressure or freaking out, I know Payton is somewhere down there and he’s gonna go up and get that ball.”
Both Mangrum and Kodi Jones were able to score a touchdown, as well as pass the 100 yard mark in receiving Thursday night. They stretched the field constantly when the Greer defense was focusing on the backfield of Skoloff and Louris.
“Marshall has been playing good, man.” said Eastside’s Mangrum. He’s been playing real well in the games that mattered. We’re 4-0 in the region, he has at least 15 touchdowns, he’s playing great right now.”
Following the win, Eastside’s locker room was a madhouse. Players jumped around and danced in what was one of the largest victories of the season for the Eagles. “It feels great to beat Greer finally; the first time in sixteen years.” said Eastside’s coach. “We couldn’t have done it tonight without the offensive line. It was a great effort all around.”
Eastside, who is riding a four game win streak, will cap off a three game road trip at Greenville next week in a winner-take-all matchup that features the two undefeated teams of Region 4A-II. The Yellow Jackets will stay at home in Week 10, playing Blue Ridge to finish their season.
Following the game, Coach Woolcock stated that he “definitely wants to appreciate this win,” but that he and his team are focused on the task ahead as well. “We understand that going into Sirrine Stadium is a tough challenge, but we’re up for it. There’s a region title on the line and we’re very excited and motivated. And we know Coach Porter is gonna have his team ready to roll too. It’s going to be a good one.”
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