PALM HARBOR — A slightly tweaked ankle sustained in the third quarter was about the only thing that could stop East Lake running back Jamaal Wilburn against Palm Harbor University.
Wilburn scorched the Hurricanes for 127 yards on 17 carries and a career-high three touchdowns to cap three of the Eagles' four scoring drives in a 27-7 rout Friday night.
East Lake, after starting the season 0-2, has won four straight and is 2-0 in Class 5A, District 8, tied for first with Countryside.
"I'm just happy for the win," Wilburn said. "It's all about the win."
East Lake seized control by punishing the Hurricanes with two long, sustained drives in the second quarter. Trailing 7-6, East Lake embarked on an 11-play, 64-yard drive that culminated in a Wilburn 6-yard romp up the middle for the Eagles' first lead at 13-7 with 7:21 left in the first half. After stopping PHU near midfield, East Lake got the ball at its own 33 with about five minutes left. The Eagles continued wearing down PHU on the ground. And although kicker Cameron Mitchell missed a 32-yard field goal at the end of the first half, the Eagles had set the tone.
PHU (2-4, 0-1), which has lost three straight, had the ball for just seven plays and less than two minutes in the second quarter.
"Anytime you can keep your offense on the field and hopefully wear the defense down, that's what we try to do," East Lake coach Bob Hudson said. "We're not a real fancy, flashy team. We just try to keep churning out yards and moving the chains."
In the second half, East Lake's defense held PHU to two straight three-and-outs in the third quarter, and the Eagles' Leo Gilghrest picked off Ja'Tyuan Landing to thwart the Hurricanes' third drive.
In all, PHU was able to muster just 33 yards on the ground on 28 carries. The Hurricanes had just 112 yards total, 65 coming on a fourth-quarter drive with the game out of reach.
"Our defense has been playing lights-out all year," Hudson said. "Our team has such good chemistry this year, and the kids rally around each other. … As long as we keep doing that, we're going to keep competing."
Wilburn made it 20-7 with 5:51 left in the third after scoring off the left side from 2 yards out. The key play in the drive was a 47-yard pass from Sam Shaffer to Kyle Dovel down to the 2.
Rocco Roefaro put the game out of reach with a 4-yard plunge up the middle to make it 27-7.
Landing opened the game's scoring with a 3-yard TD run for PHU in the first quarter before Wilburn answered by running 22 yards into the end zone to make it 7-6 PHU after one quarter.