By KEVIN OKLOBZIJA
The scoreboard will tell you the difference between East High and Greece Arcadia in their high school football showdown on Saturday afternoon was five points.
East 26, Arcadia 21.
Arcadia coach Tony Streb will tell you the difference instead was three inches.
That’s all that stood between the spot of the ball and the first-down marker with 2:39 to play, when the Titans were looking to run out the clock and preserve a 21-20 lead.
“We get that three inches, we keep the ball,” Streb said.
Instead, East defender Naeem Folks applied the finishing touches on a stop of Arcadia running back Jaquan Davis at the Eagles 38.
“Coach told our whole line to get into a four-point stance and blow it up,” Folks said.
The East line did just that, allowing Ajay Sonny and then Folks to deny Davis — Arcadia’s second-half offensive hero with 96 rushing yards and the go-ahead touchdown — from gaining the one yard the Titans needed.
Then East’s electric offense went to work, and the 2:39 remaining was more than enough time. In fact, the Eagles needed just 70 seconds and four plays to cover the 62 yards for the winning touchdown, improving to 2-1 in the process.
Freddie Brock accounted for the final 30 yards, breaking a pair of 15-yard runs around the right end on what was East’s go-to play in the second half.
“We kept doing that same play but they couldn’t adjust to it,” said Brock, who rushed for 167 yards on 19 carries. “They were undefeated so this means a lot to us.”
The Titans (2-1) still had 1:25 to work with but went four-and-out and East went into victory formation for one kneel-down before the Eagles’ celebration began.
“They’re an explosive team, they have unbelievable speed,” Streb said of East.
That Folks was involved on the deciding play on defense wasn’t a surprise. The junior was in on 12 tackles with a sack, a pass break-up and a forced fumble.
That fumble was game-changing. Arcadia was marching for a touchdown in the final minute of the second half but the turnover halted the drive at the East 7.
Rather than run out the final 49 seconds, the Eagles struck in an instant. Brock ran 40 yards and then Justus Ross-Simmons caught a perfectly thrown Anthony Gilbert pass over the middle and ran 53 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 halftime lead.
Instead of trailing 14-6, East was up by 7.
“That just motivated us, that got us hyped,” Ross-Simmons said.
Arcadia did tie the game on its first possession of the third quarter, with Anthony Stephenson-Sutton capping a 51-yard drive with a five-yard run.
Davis carried for 27 yards on the drive, taking over in the backfield when standout running back K’myn Crumity suffered a right calf ailment and was unable to return. He had rushed for 115 yards before he was forced to leave.
East went right back on top, scoring on a 53-yard drive. Brock accounted for 38 of the yards, including the final 17 on a sprint around the right corner and down the sideline.
Arcadia retaliated immediately with a 61-yard scoring drive of its own. Davis carried the final seven yards, powering in up the middle.
“But we didn’t fall down, we kept fighting,” Brock said.
Folks was given East’s “championship belt” for causing the defensive turnover. He was asked what he gets for winning.
“Hopefully some pizza.”