By CHUCKIE MAGGIO
East High co-head football coach Steve Flagler noted his team was a shell of itself in last week’s season-opening loss to Greece Athena.
”That wasn’t us last week,” Flagler remarked. “We had an off night.”
The Eagles’ 32-14 road victory over Eastridge on Friday night was anything but an off night. East led wire-to-wire at Lancer Stadium, jumping to a 13-0 first quarter lead and shutting out the Lancers in the third quarter.
Energized but not reliant on Oregon Ducks pledge Seven McGee’s return, the Eagles scored five touchdowns with four different players. Todd “TJ” Gillam caught two scores, one in the first quarter and one in the fourth.
Gillam’s first end zone trip came on the Eagles’ first drive, a 20-yard reception in which he gained a step on his defender and easily secured Anthony Gilbert’s toss. His second served as a quick dagger to Eastridge’s comeback hopes.
The Lancers and Eagles both had red zone opportunities in the third quarter but came up empty on downs, making for zero points in those 12 minutes.
Eastridge withstood a six-minute East drive to keep a 19-7 deficit entering the fourth, where Lancer Champion Cromes, playing in his first varsity game, ran for a 14-yard touchdown. The scoring play was set up by both A’mir Proctor’s 45-yard run-and-catch and Eric King’s run for a first down.
But the Eagles had a four-play answer, capped by Gillam’s eight-yard diving reception. The junior caught eight passes total for 86 yards, responsible for over half of Gilbert’s 168 passing yards.
“It was an emotional shift in the game,” Flagler noted. “We could feel that our guys were feeling the sting a little bit, another close game, and we wanted to take a shot. Earlier we talked about it, taking a shot, and it was a great catch, great throw by Anthony. We were able to punch it in.”
“Coming off the loss, we were picking up everything in practice,” Gillam commented. “Everything faster, everything smoother. We were a team; we came close together, we fought through our adversity. That’s all.”
The East defense provided the exclamation point when defensive lineman Myrio Corbin intercepted a pass near the line of scrimmage and returned the ball to Eastridge’s five-yard line. McGee, who wasn’t otherwise a standout in his first game of the season after clearing the practice threshold this week, broke two EI tackles and scored on the next play.
East’s defense, which had a strong opener, delivered again in Week 2. Eastridge managed just one touchdown in each half.
“Just finishing those guys was huge for us,” Flagler said. “Last week, fundamentals got to us: bad snaps, throwing and catching the ball, basic stuff. Just to be able to jump on it early was, I think, a good boost of confidence for us. We knew we could play; we just had to finish.”
Gillam succinctly agreed that the Eagles are confident again.
“Feels like we’re back, East football,” he stated, jogging away mid-sentence. “That’s all.”