CLEARWATER — Sixteen minutes into Thursday's game, Countryside had forced an East Lake turnover and held a 7-3 lead. But the second quarter proved deadly for the Cougars (1-3, 0-1) as the visiting Eagles (3-2, 2-0) jumped on every opportunity during a scoring blitz that led to an eventual 45-14 victory for East Lake.
Key plays: The biggest came early in the second quarter as Countryside forced East Lake to punt near midfield. A low snap slowed punter Alan Kervin, and Cougars senior Peyton Xayasone blew through the line and knocked the ball down before it could even be kicked. However, not only did the Eagles' Jake Castle recover the fumble but he advanced it to the Countryside 41 for a first down. A steady ground game created the first of two 1-yard touchdown sneaks by QB Jackson Rowland, turning a stalled drive into a 17-play, 70-yard scoring march to give East Lake a lead it would not lose.
Key drives: After Rowland's first touchdown, a Karsen Lilley fumble recovery started a 40-yard drive capped by Breon Hillman's first of two touchdowns on a 7-yard run. Joshua Bowers turned an Eagles three-and-out into seven points via a dazzling 60-yard punt return. Surviving a Countryside pass interception wiped out by a personal foul penalty, Rowland notched his second score with 29 seconds left in the half. Twenty-eight points in 5:29 locked up the victory.
Stars of the game: Thanks to tackles Joe Allaster and John Laspada, guards Jack Pignozzo and Blake Norrie, and center Matt Ullstrom, East Lake had 284 rushing yards. Hillman carried 11 times for 128 yards, including a 58-yard, third-quarter TD run where he fought off leg cramps the entire way. Rowland added 40 yards on nine attempts, and Isaac Gibbs rolled up 45 yards on 10 attempts. … Countryside was led by Derek Jenkins, who passed for 77 yards and touchdowns to Troy Reeves and Royce Prescott, and ran for 55 yards.
Stats of the game: East Lake had possession for almost 30 of the game's 48 minutes, rolling up 25 first downs, converting 9 of 14 third downs and either scoring or getting first downs on its five fourth-down plays.
Final word I: "We didn't play that badly against Lakeland (last week). They're a top team, and when we stayed with them, I knew that we were back and we'd start rolling." — Hillman
Final word II: "Our defense has experience and has been tough all year, and the offense is starting to gel. We're making adjustments, playing together and playing to our own responsibilities. We talked about keeping our foot on the gas pedal, and we did that." — East Lake coach Bob Hudson