The defending champion jumped out to a big lead over district contender Thomas Walker Friday before having to make a dramatic play at the end of the game to escape with a 35-28 win.
“My kids battle and they never quit. That’s not in their vocabulary. And they showed that tonight,” Eastside coach Mike Rhodes said after watching his Spartans (1-3, 1-0) win the game with five seconds on the clock when senior quarterback Jordan Rasnick connected with senior receiver Nick Livingston for a 5-yard touchdown pass.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times, but they just never gave up,” said Rhodes.
With the game tied at 28, Eastside drove the ball to the Thomas Walker 46. But the Pioneer defense forced the Spartans to punt with 1:23 on the clock.
The Spartans got the biggest break of the game when they recovered a muffed punt at the Thomas Walker 27 with 1:15 left in the contest.
Eastside methodically drove the ball down field in eight plays and capped the drive and the game with the Rasnick-to-Livingston score.
“That last play there. That’s when you have senior leaders,” said Rhodes. “They were playing the game and they kind of knew something would work, and Jordan and Nick came to us and asked us if we could run it. They’ve been working together for years and it worked. So kudos to them on that.”
Rasnick completed 15-of-24 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns. He said the win was made possible by a team effort.
“These guys. I wouldn’t want to do with anybody else. They worked hard,” said Rasnick. “Thomas Walker fought a heck of a game.”
Livingston not only caught the game-winning touchdown pass, but he also had an 89-yard touchdown run on the opening kickoff. Livingston has been returning kicks only two weeks.
“I just tried to make it as quick as I could to the sideline,” said Livingston. “It’s not all about speed. I give my blockers credit for letting me have that lane and letting me get to the sideline.”
Eastside’s Garrett Whited also had a monster night for the Spartans, finishing with 173 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
“I couldn’t do it without any of my line. They give me a hole to go through every time. Any running back could do it. All you have to do is find the hole they give you.”
BIG COMEBACK FALLS SHORT
Eastside dominated the first quarter, scoring three times to build a 21-0 lead. But Thomas Walker (3-2, 2-1) battled back and eventually tied the game at 28 on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Zack Kidwell to Dalton Langley with 6:06 remainingt.
Kidwell completed 9-of-13 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns.
“We were shell-shocked. They run the opening kickoff back and then get up 21-0 in the first quarter. But the kids didn’t drop their heads,” said Thomas Walker coach Nick Johnson. “Our kids fought. I think if nothing else, they proved that they’re one of the teams that’s kind of on the up-and-up. They can compete with anybody.”