The Eastbrook Panthers scored four unanswered touchdowns in the second quarter Friday night at home to turn a 9-7 deficit into a 35-9 lead and effectively put away the Eastside Blazers on their way to capturing their fourth straight regional championship, 42-9.
“It never gets old,” said Jeff Adamson, head coach of the Panthers. “Each one is unique and you remember things about each one of those.”
It didn’t seem as if the night would be all that memorable for the Panthers in the first quarter. Eastside took the opening kick and marched 66 yards in 11 plays, scoring on an 11-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Laban Davis to wide receiver Payton Terry to take a 7-0 lead.
“They’ve got a diverse offense and a lot of team speed, and it took us a series to get acclimated to that,” Adamson said, “[but] We were able to go down and answer the score.”
The Panthers drive covered 73 yards on eight plays, including a fourth down conversion. Wyatt Stephenson took it in from the nine yard-line to tie the game.
The Panthers stopped Eastside on its next series, but a good punt by Davis put Eastbrook back at its own 10. The Blazers’ defense stopped the Panthers on three straight plays, and they lined up to punt from their own seven.
The Blazers’ Treyven McKinley came through the line untouched to block the punt, which went out the back of the end zone for a safety, giving Eastside a 9-7 lead.
“Our two-person protectors miscommunicated on who they had, something that shouldn’t be happening this late in the season, obviously,” Adamson said.
The Panthers had to punt the ball away after the safety, but the defense responded by getting to Davis on all three downs and sacking him on the third to force a quick punt.
“That’s when we started bringing a little bit more blitz and getting to him a little bit,” said Adamson, “The main thing was tackling him once we got to him, or at least getting in his face enough that he had to get rid of the ball a little quicker. He definitely didn’t have enough time to get anything deep downfield.”
The strategy of blitzing proved effective; the Blazers would not score again. “We were trying to concentrate as much attention to the quarterback as we could,” said Adamson, “He’s picked up a ton of rushing yards for them and he’s really thrown the ball well…We were able to get to him with a couple of blitzes and took the passing game out of their offense.”
Meantime, the Panthers offense was moving the ball, gaining big chunks of yardage with a play called 51-Lead. “The quarterback reads the defensive tackle and can either give it to the fullback or the second back,” explained Adamson, “[Quarterback] Dylan Bragg did a good job of reading it and getting it to the right guy.”
Most of the time, that right guy was Zeke Binkerd, who ripped off big chunks of yardage on the play: seven yards, then 14, then 43 yards for a touchdown to give the Panthers a 14-9 lead. “He’s just got so much speed that if you can get a little crease in there he’s going to be able to pick something up,” Adamson said. Binkerd would wind up with 189 yards rushing; the Panthers had a total of 341.
The Blazers gained just five yards on their next possession and were forced to punt. The Panthers took only four plays to go 57 yards, scoring on a 46-yard touchdown pass from Bragg to Isaiah Dalton, and the score was 21-9 with 4:30 left in the first half.
The Panthers weren’t done.
On the second play of Eastside’s ensuing possession, Davis threw an interception to Dalton and the Panthers took over on the Blazers’ 30 yard-line. Six plays later Dalton scored again, running it in from the five and giving the Panthers a 28-9 lead.
They still weren’t done.
Eastside fumbled the ball away on the next play; Jason Hale recovered on the Blazers’ 21. A play later Binkerd carried on 51-Lead again, scoring from 19 yards out. With 46 seconds left in the half, the Panthers led 35-9 and the game was, effectively, done.
Neither team would score in the third quarter–the Panthers had a field goal attempt blocked after a bad snap. In the fourth quarter, the Panthers added a final touchdown. Stephenson did the honors with a one-yard run.
Sophomore Isaac Rans takes his turn at holding the trophy signifying the regional championship.