Eagles hold Owls to 96 yards, earn homefield advantage through semifinal round
NASHVILLE – The East Nashville football team managed just two home games during the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season.
In claiming the Region 5-3A title last night over Smith County, the Eagles could be making themselves at home for the foreseeable future.
East Nashville (6-4 overall, 4-0 Region 5-3A) jumped out to an early 29-0 lead en route to a 36-0 win over Smith County in a contest that featured two undefeated region squads.
“I love playing at home and I love playing with my team and my class out here,” East Nashville senior wide receiver Willie Wilson said.
“We didn’t get to do it a lot last year, but we’re looking forward to getting to come back next week and even longer.”
East Nashville opens at home with White House-Heritage in its first-round playoff game which is the first of possibly four home playoff games for the Eagles. In odd-numbered years, the team on the top line in each bracket in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds is designated as the home team in Division I.
Smith County is set to host Fairview next week.
Wilson hauled in two touchdown catches along with a 54-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Classmate Amarion Ford had 113 yards rushing and a pair of scores.
East Nashville junior quarterback Zacc Beard was 8-of-10 passing for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
The first East Nashville drive of the game stalled after a goal-line stand by Smith County (5-5, 3-1), but the Eagles’ defense quickly proved why they were the unsung hero of Friday’s contest.
On Smith County’s second play, Owls’ junior running back Kylan Johnson was smothered in the end zone by a host of Eagles for a safety that opened the night’s scoring.
The safety was an omen for Smith County as the Owls were able to do little with the East Nashville defense.
East Nashville limited Smith County to 96 yards of total offense as the Owls were only able to manage three plays on the Eagles side of the field through the first three quarters.
“I told the kids that I believe that they could be the group that could do it and win a region title and they did it,” East Nashville coach Jamaal Stewart said.
“Our kids faced so much adversity this year with injuries and the tough schedule that we played, but our kids never complained.”
On the next East Nashville possession, Ford scored the game’s first touchdown with a 38-yard touchdown that put the Eagles up 8-0 after the missed point-after attempt.
Wilson’s punt return for a touchdown with just under a minute left in the first quarter increased the score to 15-0, and at that point, it was all Eagles.
A Smith County fumble on the ensuing possession set up a quick score as Beard hit Wilson for an 18-yard touchdown early in the second quarter.
East Nashville capped off the flurry with a 12-play, 54-yard drive that was capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by Ford.
First-year Smith County coach Matt Dyer saw some fight from his players, particularly in the second half after being largely overwhelmed through the first 24 minutes.
Sophomores make up just over half of Smith County’s starting offensive and defensive lineup.
“Tonight, we had some missed assignments with the punt return and for their first touchdown run we had hands on him, but we didn’t wrap up,” Dyer said.
“But our guys came out in the second half and put a long drive together and strung together some first downs and continued to fight even with the weather battling us so I’m proud of that.”
Junior Bryce Currie led Smith County with 36 yards rushing, followed by Johnson’s 35 yards on the ground.