COVINGTON — When Troy Hoff needed his team to come through on a rainy night, they did.
Three rushing touchdowns, two Ezra King field goals, a safety and an interception returned for a touchdown, the Eastside Eagles scored in virtually every way imaginable Thursday night and cruised past Hampton 36-6 to secure home field advantage in next week’s first round of the Class AAAA playoffs.
The Eagles will play host to Mary Persons next Friday night at Sharp Stadium.
“Going on the road is tough in the playoffs,” Hoff said. “So us being here next week is really big for us.”
The Eagles were led by sophomore running back Dallas Johnson’s 156 yards and two scores. As a team, the Eagles rushed for 247 yards on 34 attempts. Sincere Johnson chipped in with 70 yards and scored once on the night.
“Running downhill,” Hoff said of Johnson’s performance. “He doesn't look like it, but he runs like a guy that is bigger than he is. You know what kind of speed he’s got. He was putting his foot down and was getting behind our big guys. Our offensive line did a great job tonight controlling the line of scrimmage and giving our backs some creases to run.”
Field position proved to be key in the opening quarter for Eastside.
After a quick three-and-out from Eastside quarterback Noah Cook and the offense, it was an Ezra King punt deep inside Hampton territory that led to the games’ first points.
On the Hornets’ second play from scrimmage, Hampton quarterback JaivionDorris was taken down in the end zone for a safety. After receiving the ensuing kickoff, King extended the Eastside lead to 5-0 on a 45-yard field goal. Cook managed to move the Eastside offense 22 yards on the drive with the biggest play coming on a 12-yard completion to Dayton Green.
Eastside answered with a quick stop on defense and began their third drive of the night inside Hampton territory at the 40. The Eagles faced a punting situation on the drive after failing to convert a first down, but with the hosts positioned inside Hampton territory, the decision to fake the punt was made.
Sincere Johnson received a direct snap and picked up seven yards to give Eastside a first down. On the very next play from scrimmage, Dallas Johnson maneuvered his way through the Hornet defense and made two different cuts en route to a 29-yard score.
King’s successful point after extended Eastside’s lead to 12-0 with 5:20 remaining in the opening quarter.
With Hampton starting to gain momentum on offense thanks to several long Dorris runs, the Hornets were well on its way to cutting into the lead. Setting up shop at the Eastside 26, Dorris fumbled and Austin King recovered to give the ball back to the Eagles with 1:48 remaining in the first quarter.
A second opportunity to score for the Hornets, however, was cashed in on its ensuing possession. A Dorris 39-yard rush gave the Hornets a first-and-goal from the 8-yard line early in the second quarter, but they were quickly backed up following a Dorris fumble.
Facing a fourth-and-goal from the 24, the Hornets elected to go for it with the heavy downpour and were bailed out after an incompletion. Dorris was taken down on the play and earned a roughing the passer call to give Hampton a fresh set of downs from the 12.
Two plays later, Dorris found a wide-open Porter in the back left corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Appearing to throw the ball after crossing the original line of scrimmage, Eastside’s argument fell on death ears and the touchdown stood for the Hornets.
A missed extra point, however, cut the Eastside lead to 12-6 with 4:48 remaining in the second quarter.
The Hornets were gifted a turnover two plays into Eastside’s next possession after a Cook pass attempt slipped out of the senior’s hands. The hornets scooped up the fumble, but quickly found themselves in the midst of the games’ biggest swing of the first half.
Dorris immediately fumbled after starting the drive at the Eastside 19, but managed to recover the fumble for a loss of 14. After a timeout, a pitch play bounced off the hands of Dorris’s awaiting running back and into the hands of Jeff Haynes, who without hesitation, raced down the middle of the field and into the end zone for a 67-yard pick six.
“Corner on pitch,” Hoff said. “The outside linebacker was on the quarterback and the corner was on the pitch. (Haynes) beat his man and it was 1-on-1. It was a great play.”
Leading the Hornets 19-6 on the score, King tacked on three more points with a 31-yard field goal to extend Eastside’s lead to 22-6 at the half.
With rain giving both teams trouble in the second half, it was field position that once again set up a score for the Eagles. After forcing a punt deep inside their own territory, the Eagles took over at the Hampton 26 midway through the third quarter.
Johnson then followed with his second rushing TD of the night, a 32-yard score down the right sideline to give the hosts a 29-6 advantage.
The Eagles capped their scoring on their final offensive possession of the night. A 7-play, 46-yard drive ended with Sincere Johnson rumbling into the end zone from four yards out.
Hampton was held to just 75 yards rushing and 34 yards passing on the night. Of the Hornets’ seven fumbles of the night, three were recovered by the Eagles.
“When you’re playing an option team in these conditions, we told our guys to put the ball on the ground,” Hoff said. “It takes more than one guy getting to the point of attack. If you force them into some pitches tonight, they were going to have some shots.”
After starting the season 0-2, the Eagles have since won 7 of their last eight games and ended Region 4-AAAA play with a 6-1 record. In Hoff’s five-year tenure as Eastside’s head coach, the Eagles have now qualified for the playoffs four years in a row.
“We knew that we were going to be a work-in-progress,” Hoff said of the season. “In a couple of those games early on, we showed flashes of what we thought we could be. We were beat up and injured a little bit. That’s not an excuse, but we never really had that continuity. Guys kept working. I’ve got a hell of a coaching staff. Every week, they put them in position. The key is to continue to get better and our guys have bought into that.”
EASTSIDE 36, HAMPTON 6
Hampton 0 6 0 0 — 6
Eastside 12 10 7 7 — 36
Eastside: Safety, 10:17
Eastside: Ezra King 45 field goal, 8:50
Eastside: Dallas Johnson 29 run (King kick), 5:20
Hampton: 5 to 12, 4:58
Eastside: Jeff Haynes 67 interception return (King kick), 3:25
Eastside: King 31 field goal, 0:00
Eastside: Johnson 32 run (King kick), 5:57
Eastside: Sincere Johnson 4 run (King kick), 3:01