By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
Eastern Alamance’s defense delivered when it mattered most, and the Eagles came away with a 19-14 victory against visiting Reidsville in a non-conference showdown Friday night in Mebane.
A week earlier a defensive meltdown in the second half nearly cost the Eagles. This time, it was the defensive unit that saved them.
“We just proved how good we actually can be,” senior linebacker Anthony Saunders said. “We just had to lock in.”
The Eagles (4-0) went ahead on Tyrek Samuel’s 80-yard run with 3:38 to play in the third quarter. A two-point conversion play failed, but neither team scored again.
Reidsville (3-1) threatened plenty, moving inside the Eastern 20-yard line late in the third quarter following a turnover, but defensive tackle Davian Wilson made the stop on fourth-and-2.
Later, the Rams had a final chance, marching from their 19-yard line into Eastern territory. On the 12th play of the series, Eagles linebacker Payton Wright brought down quarterback A.L. Lea at the 13-yard line on a fourth-down play that left Reidville less than a yard short.
“Yes, we stopped them,” Wright said of his thoughts. “It’s a team effort. We kept pounding.”
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There was still 2:50 remaining. From there, running back Josh Murray ran on three consecutive plays for a first down and tacked on another first-down run that further clinched the outcome.
“I knew what I had to do to close the game out,” Murray said.
Samuel gained 176 yards on 18 carries and Murray racked up 102 yards on 17 attempts. Quarterback Jason Ball threw for 105 yards, completing seven of 16 attempts with an interception. Wright intercepted a first-half pass.
Eastern coach John Kirby said he was proud how the Eagles, who survived by 48-44 a week earlier against Northern Guilford, rose to the occasion in front of a massive crowd against a tradition-rich opponent. They avenged their only 2022 regular-season loss.
“I’m at a loss for words right now. That doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “What an outcome. We know we beat a really good football team. … We made plays when we had to make plays.”
While many of his teammates celebrated on the field, Saunders was rather subdued.
“I’m tired,” he said.
Reidsville scored first on Que’Sheyne Flippen’s first-quarter reception. It was his first game of the season because of a preseason injury.
The Eagles went up 7-6 with Murray running 20 yards for the touchdown after Samuel’s 54-yard burst. Those were the first two plays of the second quarter.
Murray ran the second-half kickoff into Reidsville territory and Samuel capped the possession with a 7-yard touchdown run. Murray said a different cut might have allowed him to reach the end zone, but it was still a crucial way to begin the half.
“That play, it boosted everybody’s morale,” he said.
Then a pair of transfers from Burlington helped the Rams go back on top. Former Williams receiver Cam’ron Jones hauled in a 34-yard, fourth-down touchdown catch from Lee. Ex-Cummings quarterback Johnniyus Sharpe dropped a direct snap on the conversion, but picked up the ball and tossed to Jones for the two points.
The Eagles overcame 13 penalties that cost them 106 yards. Reidsville ended with a 365-343 edge in total offense.
Jones was Reidsville’s second-leading receiver with 56 yards on six catches behind Kendre Harrison’s 88 yards on eight catches.
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In other games:
Evan Kuehnel threw for 285 yards and Western Alamance rallied in the fourth quarter and then defeated host Eastern Guilford 26-20 in overtime in a non-conference football game Friday night in Gibsonville.
The Warriors (3-1) have won three games in a row. Eastern Guilford is 2-1.
Williams 44, Eden Morehead 7: Haneef Rasheed II scored three rushing touchdowns and Williams won for the second week in a row at Burlington Memorial Stadium to wrap up non-league play with a 3-1 record.
Andrew Cruz, William Overby, and Amarion Richmond also scored touchdowns for the Bulldogs, who led 44-0 before the Panthers scored.
Grant Spoon kicked a 45-yard field goal.
Southern Alamance 22, Southern Nash 15: At Bailey, the visiting Patriots didn’t allow a point after the first quarter and snatched the non-conference victory. Both teams are 3-1.
Southern Alamance trailed 15-8 at halftime before a touchdown in each of the third and fourth quarters.
Cummings 42, Bartlett Yancey 14: At Yanceyville, the Cavaliers needed a big second half to ring up another big Mid-Carolina Conference road victory.
The Cavaliers (3-1, 2-0) trailed 14-0 before scoring in the second quarter. The score was tied 14-14 at halftime. Bartlett Yancey is 0-3, 0-1.
Seaforth 23, Graham 2: At Pittsboro, the host Hawks (1-2, 1-0) won the Mid-Carolina Conference game, avenging a defeat from last year. Graham fell to 0-2, 0-1.