LAND O'LAKES — East Lake may be replacing a lot of talent from last year, but it didn't take long into its preseason classic game with Sunlake on Friday — just one play, to be exact — for the Eagles' offense to show that it still has what it takes to be one of the best in the area.
Sunlake fumbled on its first drive of the night, and on the very next play, running back Xavier Jackson ran 42 yards for a touchdown. He had two more scores on the night, rushing for 109 yards as East Lake topped Sunlake, 34-19.
Sunlake's early turnover was a common sign of preseason mistakes, but East Lake made more of them. The Eagles punted just twice, as three drives ended with lost fumbles — all three of which were recovered by Sunlake defensive back Justin Beazley.
"We have a lot to clean up," East Lake coach Bob Hudson said. "We're young, young, young, young young. But we knew that coming in. I think we've got some bright things."
The Seahawks held their own through the first half. In the second quarter, they cut the Eagles' lead to 7-3 when Derek Walters kicked a 26-yard field goal. With one minute, 18 seconds left to play in the half, both teams went on a scoring frenzy.
Bryce Miller intercepted Sunlake's Justin Hall and returned it 63 yards to put East Lake up 14-3, but the Seahawks retaliated, taking advantage of a 69-yard Nick Valdes kickoff return and soon scoring a on a 15-yard touchdown pass to Cris Galdos.
East Lake had the last laugh of the half, though, as Miller responded with a 40-yard touchdown reception, giving the Eagles a 21-11 lead at the half. First-year starting quarterback Bobby Goldinak threw for 231 yards and two scores.
After the break, Jackson scored both of the Eagles' touchdowns, on a 5-yard run and a 35-yard screen pass.
"My O-line, they gave me a good hole," Jackson said. "When I hit the hole, I just knew. I'm good with one-on-one situations. I just did my thing."
Sunlake got on the board once more, when Tyler Peretti took off for a 35-yard touchdown run with just more than six minutes to play, and the Seahawks followed that up with their second two-point conversion of the night.
Though East Lake's turnovers held them back against Sunlake, Hudson and Jackson agree it's just a matter of preseason kinks that need to, and will be, worked out. The Eagles might not have won the turnover battle, but there's only one number with which Hudson concerns himself.
"Whatever wins the game. I'm not a stat guy," he said. "If it's offense, defense, special teams. If it's a referee that gives us a good call. Whatever it takes."