Vikings fall to Eas­ton in reg­u­lar sea­son fi­nale

Strand runs for two TDs, re­turns in­ter­cep­tion for an­other to lead Eas­ton

Dorchester Star - - Sports - By WIL­LIAM HAUFE bhaufe@star­dem.com

Eas­ton 42 Cam­bridge-SD 21 CAM­BRIDGE — Sev­en­teen points. Had Eas­ton High’s foot­ball team man­aged to find 17 more points this sea­son, it would have been mak­ing its third play­off ap­pear­ance in four years this Fri­day.

So while Class 2A East ri­vals Kent Is­land, North Caro­line and Queen Anne’s County spend this week pre­par­ing for next Fri­day’s re­gional post­sea­son open­ers, the War­riors will be home, per­haps mulling over the idea of how 17 more points would have given them one more week of play.

Maybe that’s why Eas­ton treated Fri­day night’s an­nual clash with Cam­bridge-South Dorch­ester as its play­off, and played like a team that was fed up with near misses.

“This was ab­so­lutely our play­off,” head coach Matt Grif­fith said after his War­riors had re­peat­edly an­swered the quick-strik­ing Vikings dur­ing a 42-21 sea­son-end­ing vic­tory. “We told the kids, ‘This is our play­off. It’s the Eas­ton-Cam­bridge ri­valry game, and we need to make sure that we left a stamp for the se­niors tonight on who they were and the legacy they did, even though we’re out.’”

While Cam­bridge-SD (7-3) en­ters next Fri­day’s 1A East play­off field as the sec­ond seed and hosts No. 3 Per- ryville (5-5), Vik­ing head coach Jake Cole­man walked away from his home turf im­pressed by the War­riors on mul­ti­ple lev­els.

“They may be the best team not to make the play­offs since the old eight-team for­mat,” Cole­man said of Eas­ton, which fin­ished 7-3 and one spot away from a play­off berth. “They played out­stand­ing. They were more con­sis­tently bet­ter at the point of at­tack than we were.

“There were times on de­fense we got nu­mer­ous stops,” Cole­man added. “But we had them on fourth down I think two times, or maybe three times, and their play­ers made plays.”

The War­riors also had a re­sponse ev­ery time Cam­bridge-SD scored and tried to swing mo­men­tum its way.

Eas­ton built a 14-0 firstquar­ter lead, start­ing with line­backer Zack Strand de­flect­ing a Tyler Hard­ing pass, catch­ing the ball for an in­ter­cep­tion, and rac­ing 75 yards for a touch­down with 6 min­utes, 20 sec­onds left in the pe­riod.

“That play that Zack made in the first quar­ter, that’s a de­fen­sive-player-of-theyear type of play,” Cole­man said. “I’ve seen him on film all year long. I’ve seen him make just a lot of plays this year. He’s just had an out­stand­ing sea­son.”

Tahjiere Nixon then latched on to a short Ma­son Led­ford pass and sifted down the side­line for an 18yard touch­down play with 1:21 re­main­ing in the pe­riod.

Just 15 sec­onds after Emma Skoglund’s sec­ond con­sec­u­tive point-after kick gave the War­riors a 14-0 bulge, Hard­ing (7 of 15, 211 yards, three touch­downs) con­nected with Taj Molock for a 71-yard scor­ing strike, that, along with Hard­ing’s ex­tra-point kick, trimmed the Vik­ing deficit in half.

But Cam­bridge-SD wouldn’t get any closer.

After a score­less sec­ond quar­ter, Cam­bridge-SD ap­peared to have a chance to shave that mar­gin even more, when Koby Jones in­ter­cepted Led­ford (19 of 28, 169 yards, two touch­downs) on the sec­ond play of the third quar­ter. But the pick was negated by a hold­ing call on the Vikings.

Ten plays later, on fourt­hand-eight, Led­ford lofted a pass near the cor­ner of the end zone that wide­out Matt Far­row made a leap­ing catch on for a 19-yard touch­down. Skoglund’s ex­tra point made it 21-7 with 8:13 left in the pe­riod.

Cam­bridge-SD put to­gether one of its best drives on its next pos­ses­sion, mov­ing from its 40 to the War­rior 14. But on fourth-and-one, the Vikings’ out­stand­ing run­ning back, Tre Lake, who fin­ished with 141 yards rush­ing on 27 car­ries, lost his foot­ing in the back­field for a 3-yard loss.

Eas­ton then be­gan feed­ing Strand. The se­nior run­ning back, who car­ried 18 times for 113 yards and a pair of scores, slanted off right tackle for 22 yards. Five plays later, Strand again found room on the right side, leaped over a de­fender and tore down the side­line for a 42-yard touch­down romp that — with Skoglund’s PAT — ex­tended the War­rior cush­ion to 28-7 with 3:22 left in the third.

Only 10 sec­onds slipped off the clock be­fore Cam­bridge-SD was back on the board, as Hard­ing hit the comet-like C.J. Brum­mell for a 55-yard scor­ing pass, then tacked on the ex­tra point.

Cam­bridge-SD forced an Eas­ton three-and-out and re­gained pos­ses­sion on its 35 with 1:14 re­main­ing in the third quar­ter. But any idea for a se­ri­ous come­back was dam­aged when fresh­man Thatcher Knox in­ter­cepted Hard­ing and re­turned the Vik­ing 24. Less than 2 min­utes into the fourth quar­ter, Strand scored on a 6-yard run that widened Eas­ton’s lead to 34-14.

Cam­bridge-SD an­swered with its long­est scor­ing drive of the game — three plays — that ended with Molock catch­ing and jet­ting 56 yards for a score. Hard­ing’s PAT made it 34-21 with 8:38 left in the game.

Knox re­cov­ered the Vikings’ en­su­ing short kick­off, giv­ing Eas­ton pos­ses­sion at its 43. With Grif­fith on the side­line, care­fully mon­i­tor­ing the time with a stop­watch, the War­riors me­thod­i­cally moved down field to Cam­bridge-SD’s 26, where on fourth-and-seven, Led­ford hit Tahjiere Nixon (6 re­cep­tions, 65 yards) for a 21-yard pickup. After Strand was dropped for a 2-yard loss, Led­ford wheeled around left end for a 7-yard touch­down run. T.J. Nixon then rolled right and tossed a two-point con­ver­sion pass to Far­row for a 42-21 lead.

Notes: Molock fin­ished with five catches for 152 yards and a pair of scores. … Eas­ton was 5 of 14 on third down, but con­verted 3 of 4 fourth-down con­ver­sions. … Cam­bridge-SD was 4 of 11 on third down, 1 of 5 on fourth.

PHOTOS BY DUSTIN HOLT

Cam­bridge-SD’s Bran­don Tibbs (15) back Zack Strand on Fri­day night. tack­les Eas­ton run­ning

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