EAST LAKE — This was the first chance for Hillsborough to tinker with its new weapons on offense. Jefferson transfer Tyrese Spain made a few catches. Wiregrass transfer Da Da McGee had some nifty moves on a handful of carries.
But for most of Friday night, the Terriers were stuck in neutral.
East Lake's defense had a lot to do with that.
Twice, the Eagles stopped Hillsborough on downs. East Lake's defense also forced four turnovers, scoring off one. That was more than enough to pull through in a 16-0 preseason win.
In the second quarter, Eagles quarterback Jackson Rowland hit Tucker Gleason on a 31-yard touchdown pass, and Reed Puzzitiello scored on a fumble return. Ian Woodward hit a 42-yard field goal late in the quarter to make it 16-0 at the half.
"The guys played within their responsibilities," East Lake coach Bob Hudson said. "We've got just enough kids in the right spots to hopefully compete and try to get back in the playoffs."
Earlier this week, Hudson lost defensive coordinator Raleigh Daves, who left his position as a teacher and coach at the school to take another job. That would be enough to make any coach nervous, especially trying to prepare to slow down the Terriers' explosive offense.
But the staff is a veteran group and the players had enough experience and playmaking abilities to make the right adjustments.
Miscues thwarted Hillsborough all night. A pair of penalties wiped out a 69-yard touchdown pass and an 80-yard punt return for a score.
Counting the playoffs last season, the Eagles' last three wins have all come against Hillsborough County teams. East Lake beat Durant in the Class 7A region quarterfinals and Tampa Bay Tech in the region semifinals.