After a dominating performance against Genoa-Hugo in their season opener a week ago, Eads Eagles fans were wondering if their Purple & Gold was the real deal. After all, it had been a long year last year as the fans watched a team loaded with freshmen and sophomores struggle to find their bearings in varsity high school football. But, evidently, with a lot of weight room work, some lessons from the school of hard knocks, and the simple fact that freshmen boys have a whole lot of growing left in them, the Eagles have managed to turn things around after they dominated a physical Manzanola team, 78-48, in front of the Eagle fan base.
At least in the early stages of the game it didn’t seem like Eads was dominating as they let the Bobcats march down the field on the first possession scoring at the 4:46 mark on an easy 5-yard touchdown run from freshman Dalton Carroll.
Eagle Coach Trey Eder explained, “It was good to see our guys come together and rally after a rough start to the game. This shows the growth and maturity we have gained from last year.”
Eder went on to describe the first quarter where Eads found themselves trailing 12-7, “It took a while defensively to figure things out and make our adjustments to stop their run game. Manzanola came at us hard from the start and was very physical and we were not ready either offensively or defensively. Once this turned around and we became a more physical team like the week before, we were able to get stops and win the blocking battle and open some things up.”
One could say that the turning point to Eads going on the attack came from backer Damien Barnes on his last carry before the end of the first quarter. In an impressive sideline spin move, a la Barry Sanders, Barnes gained a big first down on the fourth down run. That move set up a touchdown for Eads at the beginning of the second quarter, on a 17-yard run by Barnes, that gained the lead, 13-7.
But Manzanola was not ready to lay down and roll over just yet. After the Barnes touchdown, the Bobcats attacked once again and would score on an electrifying 60-yard TD run from the quick and extremely fast Daniel Escareno at the 7:44 mark.
Both teams did not have a kicker and relied on the extra run/pass PAT strategy. The Bobcats really struggled with this aspect of their game and for three periods this was the difference in the game. Eads managed to convert most of their PAT attempts; Manzy did not.
During the second quarter both teams went streaking up and down the field. After the Escareno TD, Barnes answered at the 7:22 mark with a 33-yard TD run putting Eads back up, 19-18.
On the kickoff, the young Eagles missed a number of tackles and allowed Carroll to score on a 50-yard scamper. But, on the first play of Eads’ next possession, senior Angel Medina answered the Manzy challenge with an electrifying 42-yard run to the house.
Penalties would hurt both teams during the contest, but particularly Eads was stabbed in the heart twice when Barnes broke away for long touchdown runs that were called back due to holding penalties. One of those happened with 5:00 minutes left in the first half when Barnes ran the pigskin home from 55 yards out. However, the junior responded to the challenge scoring from 10 yards out at the 3:44 mark. Medina punched one more in with :31 seconds left in the first half. Eads had the slight lead going into the locker room, 32-24.
Eagle fans caught their breaths while the coaches adjusted for the final half. And what a half it was as the two teams left it all on the field. Eads came out swinging right away. Barnes scored from 4 yards out at the 8:28 mark extending the lead to 38-24. Medina’s intensity on defense sent a strong message to Manzy that Eads was ready to be physical. The senior got a big stop on 4th-and-one to electrify his team and fan base. Barnes then ran one to the house, but that was the second touchdown called back on a holding penalty.
That penalty took the fire out of the Eagles and on the next play from scrimmage Eagle quarterback Cade McDowell threw an interception that put Manzy on the Eads 30-yard line. They would find the endzone on a pass play from Axel Escareno to Carroll bringing their deficit closer still trailing, 38-30. Manzy obviously had the momentum and despite a beautiful save by sophomore Donte Sierra on a broken up pass play, the Bobcats struck again with 1:47 left in the third to make it a heck of game trailing by two, 38-36.
Medina seemed to know his Eagles were struggling as the senior picked it up and turned the tide back to Eads with an electrifying 44-yard power run to the endzone at the 1:32 mark of the third. The extra point effort was good by Barnes and Eads had the 44-36 lead going into the final period.
One adjustment Eads made on defense was putting the quick Sierra on the pursuit of the quarterback. Sierra’s speed and quickness really started to bother the Manzy offensive backfield. As the fourth quarter started Manzy was threatening to score on the Eads 5-yard line. Sierra scrambled to put pressure on the quarterback forcing him to throw off balance. Barnes was able to catch the poor pass at the line of scrimmage and carried the ball 75-yards in the other direction for a back-breaking touchdown for Eads. The PAT was good, and the Eagles finally had some breathing room, 51-36.
Sierra seemed to come into himself in this game as the sophomore realized he could use his quickness to his advantage. If he continues to get more aggressive, he is going to be that element needed to win big games.
The rest of the Eagles continued to make big plays. Coach Eder gave credit where credit was due, “We would not have been able to put this game away without four guys, Hatch Nelson, Zack Fowler, Ty Wilson, Dillon Hernandez, up front who have done a tremendous job of winning blocks. I’m very proud of the boys and their hard work and the way they have dedicated themselves so far and put together a good start to the season.”
Medina would lead the way in the fourth quarter for the Eagles. The senior scored three times in a row putting an exclamation mark on the victory including a 35-yard run with 8:50 left in the game, an 8-yard rushing TD with 7:39 left in the contest, and a 21-yard touchdown run at the 5:47 mark. By the time Medina was done Eads had the 71-36 advantage.
Giving the Bobcats credit, they never quit and would score twice late in the game. However, Barnes would shut the door on Manzy with a 55-yard exclamation mark touchdown. The PAT was also his and Eads ended up with the 78-48 victory.
Barnes carried the ball 25 times for an impressive 353 yards and 7 touchdowns. Medina racked up 131 yards and 4 touchdowns on the night. According to a CHSAA.org article, the 11 touchdowns figure is the third-most in state history, trailing only Briggsdale's 14 in 2016 and 12 from Hugo in 1930.
Barnes is now leading the state in rushing touchdowns with 13 in two games. Eads is averaging 69.5 points per game in the very early going.
But no team will ever win a championship on just outstanding offense, and, as they say, defense wins championships. Eads’ defense is still developing as they had a number of costly mistakes and some missed tackles. However, they are hitting hard, blocking well, and improving on every down.
Eder knows where the game is won stating, “By the end we were able to wear them out with some good hard tackles.”
Medina led Eads with 12 take downs, Fowler added 11 tackles, and Sierra and Barnes each added 8 more. Hernandez and Barnes each grabbed an intercetion, while Nelson and Sierra each recovered a Manzy fumble.
The Eagles will now face off against one of the many formidable opponents when they take to the road for the first time this season traveling to Granada for a Friday night contest. This will be the game of the undefeated as both teams are 2-0 on the early season.
Photo 1: Eads running back Damien Barnes rushed for 353 yards and 7 touchdowns in Eads' 78-48 win over a physical Manzy team on Friday night in Eads.
Photo 2: Donte Sierra (#20) attempts the squid kick while teammates Ty Wilson (#11), Cade McDowell (#12), and Hatch Nelson (#35) prepare to chase down the offense. - Photo Credit Wilson Photography