Kent Is­land bol­sters top stand­ing in 2A East, damp­ens hopes for Eas­ton

Record Observer - - Sports - By WIL­LIAM HAUFE bhaufe@star­dem.com

KI 14 — Eas­ton 7

EAS­TON — The one-point loss to North Caro­line High was tough, but tak­ing the de­fend­ing Class 2A East Re­gion cham­pi­ons down to the wire stoked op­ti­mism for a sea­son just get­ting started.

A six-point set­back to Queen Anne’s in Week 6 was also dif­fi­cult, though, there was still op­por­tu­nity to squeeze into this year’s fourteam re­gional post­sea­son field.

Eas­ton High’s foot­ball team still has a glim­mer of hope for gain­ing en­try into the play­offs, but Fri­day night’s 14-7 loss to un­beaten Kent Is­land may have been the War­riors’ most ag­o­niz­ing near miss of the sea­son.

“All three losses against play­off teams with one score or less,” Eas­ton head coach Matt Grif­fith said, ref­er­enc­ing a 49-48 loss to North Caro­line, a 26-20 loss to Queen Anne’s and Fri­day’s set­back. “You would think at some point we’d get one of them to bounce our way and it just hasn’t hap­pened.”

The most no­table bounce that didn’t go Eas­ton’s way against Kent Is­land (8-0) came with about 7 min­utes re­main­ing in the third quar­ter. With the Bucs hav­ing just taken a 14-7 lead, the War­riors looked ready to pos­si­bly pull even, driv­ing from their 32-yard line to Kent Is­land’s 3, the big play com­ing when Bran­don Booze turned Ma­son Led­ford’s short pass into a 37yard gain.

Led­ford crashed into the line on con­sec­u­tive car­ries, the sec­ond putting Eas­ton in­side the 1. But on third down, Zack Strand slammed into the right side of the line, bounced to the out­side and fum­bled. Eas­ton wide­out T.J. Nixon had a chance to re­cover, but the ball slipped away and Kent Is­land’s Bran­don Gal­loway fell on it at the 2-yard line with 6 min­utes, 49 sec­onds re­main­ing.

“T.J. did have his hands on it,” Grif­fith said. “I thought he was scoop­ing it up to take it in, and then it squirted out and a Kent Is­land kid jumped on it. Ball doesn’t bounce our way, they get it, take ad­van­tage of it.”

Eas­ton (5-3), which al­lowed eight first downs and stopped Kent Is­land on 9 of 12 third-down at­tempts, forced a three-and-out and re­gained pos­ses­sion at the Bucs’ 40 with 4:07 left.

Kent Is­land, which also yielded just eight first downs and stopped Eas­ton on 8 of 14 third-down tries, watched Led­ford throw for no gain on first down. Jor­dan Walker sacked Eas­ton’s ju­nior quar­ter­back for a 9-yard loss on sec­ond. Led­ford then arced a pass to an open Tre’ Thomas run­ning a seam pat­tern down the mid­dle of the field, but the speedy sopho­more couldn’t make the catch. On fourth-and-19, Led­ford rolled left and was tack­led for a 2-yard loss by Austin Ryan.

“De­fen­sively we were just mak­ing sure that we could cut off their pass,” Kent Is­land line­backer Mike Scott said. “We kept more guys out­side than in­side for the run. I think we did a great job of (stop­ping) that out­side run and mak­ing tack­les.”

The Buc­ca­neers ran out the re­main­ing 2:36, with Braden Doyle (20 car­ries, game-high 128 yards) car­ry­ing for a first down be­fore an Eas­ton off­sides penalty gave Kent Is­land an­other first, al­low­ing Bucs’ quar­ter­back Jor­dan Mar­ciano to kneel down twice to end the game.

“They’re a good de­fense,” said Grif­fith af­ter his team — which came in av­er­ag­ing 35.8 points a game — was held to its low­est point to­tal of the sea­son. “They do a good job of putting pres­sure and still main­tain­ing their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. And that’s why they’re good.”

Said Kent Is­land head coach Damian Fer­rag­amo: “What we’ve done for years is we try to take what you like to do and take it away from them, and make you do some­thing else. That’s the same thing Eas­ton did to us to­day on their de­fense. It’s just sound foot­ball.

“So that’s what we did,” Fer­rag­amo added. “We tried to make them run the ball. They had some suc­cess, es­pe­cially run­ning the quar­ter­back to­day. He made some big plays. But our de­fense is the epit­ome of a team de­fense. If they all do your job, we’re a pretty tough team to score against.”

Though a rainy first-half didn’t ap­pear to ham­per Led­ford, who for the game com­pleted 15 of 24 for 178 yards, a touchdown and one in­ter­cep­tion, Kent Is­land held the Bay­side Con­fer­ence’s pass­ing leader to just one pass­ing touchdown.

“It didn’t limit him too much,” Fer­rag­amo said of Led­ford and the early rain. “He was zing­ing them in there. He just didn’t have the touch­downs. And he threw a touchdown pass. I think he was on. I don’t think this both­ered him even a lit­tle bit.”

Af­ter Doyle fum­bled on the game’s first play from scrim­mage, Eas­ton was in the end zone in two plays. Led­ford threw to Tahjiere Nixon, who dodged and raced down the side­line for a 37-yard scor­ing play. Emma Skoglund’s ex­tra-point kick gave the War­riors a 7-0 lead 54 sec­onds into the game.

Kent Is­land, which came into the game av­er­ag­ing 38.4 points an out­ing and was held to its low­est point to­tal of the year, watched its first four pos­ses­sions end with a fum­ble and three punts, the sec­ond of which was blocked by Strand.

The Bucs looked ready to tie the game late in the first half. Start­ing from its 43, Kent Is­land reached the War­rior 5 for a first-and-goal, when Mar­ciano and Ryan con­nected for a 18-yard pass play. Ryan bulled to the 1 on first down, but was then stuffed on suc­ces­sive runs, which in­cluded Carter Tay­lor and Bran­don Spear­man tack­ling him on third down. An off­sides penalty on Kent Is­land, pushed the ball to the 6, set­ting up Bert Schre­con­gost’s 22-yard field goal with 1:26 re­main­ing.

Doyle in­ter­cepted Led­ford on Eas­ton’s next play. Five plays later, Schre­con­gost ham­mered a 37-yard field goal with 34 sec­onds left in the half to draw Kent Is­land within 7-6.

“I know when we’re driv­ing down the field, if we don’t score, it’s my job to pick them up,” Schre­con­gost said. “And when I pick ‘em up it feels good.

“But there are three parts to ev­ery kick,” Schre­con­gost added. “The snap, the hold and the kick. I’m just the one that gets to fin­ish it off. Those two guys, (snap­per) Jake Hipps and (holder) Selby Scaggs de­serve a lot of credit.”

Eas­ton main­tained its one­point lead, but with 15 sec­onds re­main­ing in the third

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