It took all 48 minutes, but the East Marion Eagles got back over .500 on the season Friday night with a comeback 48-44 win over Bogalusa (La.) on the road.
After jumping out to an early 12-0 lead, the Eagles (3-2) found themselves in a seesaw affair all night with the Lumberjacks. The lead changed hands nine times as they went touchdown for touchdown.
The Eagles took a 42-36 midway through the fourth quarter on a fumble return by Ladarrius Watts for a touchdown, but the Lumberjacks answered with a score of their own with three minutes left to go back up 44-42. East Marion countered right back, though, to seal the deal with a minute left in the game as Latral Waller got around the corner on a sweep and cruised into the end zone.
“It was a good, exciting ball game all the way to the last second,” head coach Kevin Jackson said. “It just gives our kids a bunch of confidence when you continue to fight and continue to fight then come out on top. That’s kind of inbred in you, and you believe that can happen every Friday night. Hopefully that’s the case with this win and we can build on that and know that we’re in every game until the clock goes to zero.”
The win over Bogalusa capped off East Marion’s non-district schedule, and now the Eagles are rejoining the ranks of Region 8-2A. The Eagles had spent the previous two years in Class 1A but moved back up to 2A this season. They kick off their district slate at home Friday against Perry Central (2-4) for their homecoming game.
The Bulldogs have lost three straight games to Purvis, Bay and Pass Christian by a combined score of 90-16 and run a power spread offense. Running back Tyrion Sumrall is the straw that stirs the drink with 504 yards and seven touchdowns on 92 carries (5.5 yards per carry). While the Bulldogs haven’t had much trouble moving the ball this year, they have struggled to finish drives with 11 turnovers on the year.
Jackson said that the Eagles can’t afford to get caught up in homecoming festivities this week or that Perry Central has lost three straight games.
“Perry Central is going to be athletic. They have some big kids out there. They come from a good program, and they’ve been successful the last few years. It’s going to be a hard fought battle. We have to come ready to play and be focused.”
Homecoming is especially difficult for the Eagles because East Marion is a small school and a lot of his players are really involved with the week’s festivities, according to Jackson.
Quarterback Devin Daniels was once again the star for the Eagles in their win over Bogalusa Friday. The senior signal caller threw for 121 yards and three touchdowns to three different receivers and ran for 190 yards on 18 carries. Watts was all over the field defensively with 14 tackles — the next closest Eagle had eight — and had the fumble return for a score. Freshman Danta Newton came down with the first pick of his young prep career as well.
Jackson said the bye week before the game helped the Eagles a lot to get healthy, rest up and work on fundamentals.
“It was a big deal for us.”
The Eagles also seemed to find their offensive identity against the Lumberjacks as well. They started the season under center in I-form and had gone to the spread when they fell behind in games. Against Bogalusa, though, East Marion went with a split-back shotgun formation with a tight end and two receivers.
“It’s something we had talked about early on, but we just hadn’t gotten to it yet. It came about these past couple weeks of the season, and it especially helps with our pass protection,” Jackson said. “That’s one of the big reasons why we do it.”
The 48-point explosion was a big increase from the 19 points the Eagles were averaging in their first four games.