Football: East Lake 34, Tarpon Springs 7
EAST LAKE – Five days ago, East Lake traveled to Waycross, Ga., for a regular-season game. The Eagles returned from the 526-mile trip with their playoff hopes in limbo after the Florida High School Athletic Association ruled the team used an ineligible player and had to forfeit its first three games, including two wins.
The school self-reported the infraction and is appealing the decision.
There was no time to dwell on what happened. East Lake had to get ready for a game this week against bitter rival Tarpon Springs.
It was the Spongers who notified East Lake of the infraction.
The game was supposed to be held Monday but a transformer blew up, causing a power outage in the East Lake area and forcing the game to be moved to Tuesday.
That only added to the drama leading up to the game.
The Eagles took out their frustrations, pounding the Spongers in a 34-7 victory.
The win was East Lake’s ninth straight in the series, the longest streak by any team.
“It’s been an up-and-down week, with coming back and then having the game delayed with the power outage,” Eagles coach Bob Hudson said. “I’m happy the way the kids responded and I’m happy that both schools were able to work hard to get this game in.”
Tarpon Springs (4-2) had won four straight entering Tuesday’s game. Early on, the Spongers looked strong. Dee Wright took a pitch on the first play from scrimmage and sprinted down the right sideline on a 77-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead.
After that, it was all East Lake.
The Eagles (2-5) responded as quarterback Jackson Rowland threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Tucker Gleason on an outstanding one-handed catch to tie the score.
Breon Hillmon did the bulk of the work on the ground. East Lake’s featured back scored two short runs.
Defense and special teams played a role, too.
Josh Bowers returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown. And Ian Woodward kicked a 31-yard field goal as time expired for a 31-7 halftime lead.
East Lake’s defense spent the second half making life miserable for Tarpon Springs quarterback Justice Parham. The Eagles recorded seven sacks and held the Spongers to 120 yards – 77 of which came on that touchdown on the opening play.
Woodward hit another field goal to round out the scoring.
The Eagles have a bye on Friday before facing St. Petersburg in a must-win game to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“I would have liked more production in the second half, but I was pleased overall,” Hudson said. “You get in these rivalry games and you get penalties, kids start cramping. It kills momentum both ways. They gave up one big play, but they shut them down after that.”