ATHENS — The East Limestone High Indians celebrated like they had won a championship Friday night, even though it was just the sixth game of the season.
The Indians had good reason to dump ice water on head coach Jeff Pugh after beating rival Athens 24-12.
The win was their third straight to take a 4-3 lead in this young rivalry. The Indians’ fans partied and danced in their seats after the win.
But more important, it keeps East Limestone (3-3, 2-2 in Class 5A Region 8, in the playoff hunt. The loss likely ends the Athens Eagles’ playoff hopes after falling to 1-5, including 1-3 in the region.
“We’re celebrating because every game now is important but this keeps us in the playoffs,” East Limestone senior quarterback Matthew Franks said. “Plus, this is a rivalry game that means everything.”
Franks led the Indians on the key drive of the game.
After Williams Matthews’ 15-yard touchdown pass to Johnnie Anderson cut the deficit to 17-12 with 10:32 left, the Eagles just couldn’t stop Franks and the Indians’ offense.
East Limestone drove 82 yards in 14 plays with Franks’ sneak giving the Indians the commanding lead. Mitchell Mathis added the extra point and the Indians had taken six and a half minutes off the clock.
Pugh said his team found success in the running of Torren Haley and Franks in the speed sweep on the drive.
“I bet we ran the same play 10 times,” Pugh said. “Right before that drive, I told them we’ve got to start running all out, and they did a great job.”
Matthews did his best to keep the Eagles in the game most of the night. He had 231 yards passing and two touchdowns, but he also had two interceptions.
His 57-yard touchdown pass to Derek Teague with 1:11 to play shocked the Indians and cut the lead to 10-6 at the half. An Athens fumble, however, on the opening kickoff of the second half led to Jevon Turner’s 9-yard scoring push the East Limestone lead back up to 17-6.
“We gave up a couple of big plays by just letting them get behind us,” Pugh said. “But I can’t tell you how proud I am of our kids tonight. We were able to eliminate the mistakes for the most part and control the ball.”
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