The Trojans entered Friday night’s game at Leroy Byars Field with a perfect 4-0 record, while the Wildcats were 3-1 and winners of two straight. Another aspect of Friday night’s contest was the winner would receive the first Sears Trophy.
The game lived up to all the hype as the many fans that filled the bleachers and stood next to the fence witnessed a shootout.
The Wildcats and Trojans traded scores with each other for most of the game. In the end, the Trojans came away with a 36-26 victory. The Trojans improved to 5-0, while the Wildcats fell to 3-2. East Side has now won three straight in the rivalry, cutting CHS’s series lead to 13-10.
It was a weird, weird game,” East Side head coach Roger Burton said. “There were a lot of momentum shifts and lots of crazy stuff happened. I don’t think anybody really stopped anybody other than themselves to tell you the honest to God’s truth about it.
“Cleveland High did an outstanding job. They’re just as physical as us, and I take pride in being physical. I don’t run many plays, but we run them well.”
The Trojans’ offense was led by the hard running of Quadre Butler and Taquille Eatmon. Butler rushed for 197 yards with three touchdowns and a 2-point conversion on 26 carries, while Eatmon ran for 169 yards with a touchdown and a 2-point conversion on 12 carries. The Trojans also had several players on defense that made big plays.
“This was a total team effort and it took everybody,” Burton said. “This is how it’s done. Quadre probably ran the ball the best he’s had all year, and I’m very proud of that.”
The Wildcats were without a couple of key players as senior wide receiver and defensive back Donivan Henderson and senior quarterback and linebacker Marshall Boggs were out of action due to injuries.
Cleveland High head football coach Kelly Causey said the injuries can’t be an excuse.
“That’s part of football, and that’s when you have adversities,” Causey said. “People have to step up and play. They’ve got to do it, and we have to get them ready to do it.”
“The kids have played well,” Causey added. “I think overall the team has played well and played hard, but we just have to take it to another level.”
The Trojans jumped out to a huge lead in the first quarter. Eatmon marched on a 68-yard touchdown run, and Butler galloped on a 21-yard touchdown run. Jonathan Clerk-Beamon threw a 2-point conversion pass to Quadarrius Shaw after Eatmon’s touchdown to contribute to the scoring. The Trojans’ defense also forced two turnovers in the first quarter as Jamarcus Burns intercepted a pass, while Michael Hurns recovered a fumble. Hurns’ fumble recovery set up the Trojans’ second scoring drive of the game. When the first quarter came to a close, the Trojans led 14-0.
The Wildcats proved that they weren’t out of it by a long shot. Toward the end of the first quarter, Wildcat running back Jason Young marched on a 51-yard run to put Cleveland on East Side’s 3-yard line. With 11:49 left in the second quarter, Young charged into the end zone from three yards out. The point-after kick was no good, but CHS had cut the deficit to 14-6.
CHS came up big on the ensuing kickoff by forcing East Side to fumble the ball away, giving the Wildcats possession on the East Side 17-yard line. With 11:01 left in the first half, Vaughnte Dorsey scored Cleveland’s second touchdown of the game on a nine-yard run. The two-point conversion was no good, but Cleveland cut East Side’s lead down to 14-12.
The Trojans came right back on offense as Beamon connected with Brandt Williams on a 20-yard touchdown pass with 7:55 left in the second quarter. The two-point conversion attempt was no good, but East Side had extended its lead to 20-12.
After the score, the Wildcats’ defense turned up the intensity. With around two minutes remaining in the half, East Side ran a play where three players were stacked on a CHS defensive back. When Beamon threw the ball, Young read the play and was able to intercept the ball in between a couple of Trojans and ran it to the end zone on a 66-yard return for a touchdown. Dorsey scored the 2-point conversion, and Cleveland tied the game up at 20-20 with 1:52 still left in the first half.
The Wildcats forced another turnover later in the quarter as Jamal Fifer recovered a fumble to make sure the score was tied 20-20 going into halftime.
When the second half began, East Side was able to get the momentum back. On fourth down for CHS, East Side’s Barron Burns blocked a punt to give the Trojans possession of the football deep in Cleveland territory.
On the next play, East Side handed the ball off to Butler who ran on a 22-yard touchdown run. Butler also scored the 2-point conversion to give the Trojans a 28-20 lead with 8:10 left in the third quarter.
The Wildcats continued to battle hard as Dorsey played well in place of Boggs at the quarterback position. Dorsey was able to find Trace Bray on a pass that went for 44 yards for a first down. Dorsey continued to lead the Wildcats’ offense as he ran the ball on three consecutive plays. On his last play, Dorsey marched on a one-yard touchdown run with 4:35 left in the third quarter. The two-point conversion was no good, and East Side still held a 28-26 advantage.
After their defense forced the Wildcats to punt, the Trojans were able to get the ball on their own 42-yard line. Butler delivered his third touchdown of the game as he galloped on a long 58-yard run to the end zone. Eatmon scored the 2-point conversion, and East Side increased its lead to 36-26.
“We didn’t execute on defense,” Causey said. “We missed some tackles and things like that. We had some blocking issues early too. We didn’t execute like we needed to.”
Cleveland tried to put together a drive toward the end of the game, but East Side’s Paddarrius Bronner came up with an interception in the final quarter to seal up the win for the Trojans.
Hurns led East Side’s defense with nine tackles including a sack and a fumble recovery, followed by Vernell Baldridge with eight tackles and a sack, Burns with eight tackles and a blocked punt and Edgar Eatmon and Johnny Russell with eight tackles each.
For Cleveland, Young and Dorsey led the way for Cleveland. Young rushed for 94 yards with a touchdown on 18 carries, while Dorsey ran for 77 yards with two touchdowns on 19 carries. Dorsey also completed 2-of-9 passes for 44 yards. Dorsey and Young also played hard on defense.
Both teams will be back in action on Friday. East Side will host Greenwood at Leroy Byars Field, while Cleveland High will host New Albany at Mickey Sellers Stadium. Kickoff for both games is set for 7:30 p.m.