EAST LAKE — East Lake (5-0) turned a hard-fought rivalry game into a rout Friday night, soaring past visiting Tarpon Springs, 49-6.
“It feels real good in a big game like this,” said East Lake wideout-linebacker George Campbell, who exploded for 121 yards receiving and a touchdown. “We wanted to put up some big points tonight, but it was just an all-around good job by our team.”
The victory extends East Lake's winning streak in the heated series of crosstown rivals to five. Heated may be an understatement for a game that saw both teams each rack up over 100 penalty yards in front of a packed and raucous standing-room-only crowd.
Despite the lopsided final score, East Lake didn't pull away until the third quarter. After surrendering touchdowns on the Eagles' first two possessions, Tarpon Springs stiffened up and received a big second-quarter jolt when linebacker Eric Kehoe got his hands on a Jake Hudson pass.
The Spongers (3-2) responded to the splash play by engineering a 14-play, 60-yard touchdown drive capped by Michael Ford's 4-yard run. Ford bruised his way to 87 yards on 25 carries but East Lake's hard-hitting, aggressive defense proved too much for its guests.
“The defense is playing great,” Eagles coach Bob Hudson said of a starting unit that's allowed just nine points through five weeks. Clearwater High scored 14 late points against East Lake's backups last week. “They've been playing lights out and giving the offense a lot of opportunities.”
The Eagles only surrendered 135 total yards, with just 17 of those coming through the air, as East Lake defensive linemen and linebackers turned in a dominant performance up front.
One of those aforementioned opportunities the East Lake defense and special teams provided the offense Friday was outstanding field position throughout the night. The Eagles' first four offensive series began at their own 43, 45, 45 and 49, respectively, and they took over in Tarpon Springs territory twice.
Joining Campbell with a standout night was fellow playmaker Artavis Scott. The Clemson commit scored three times, getting two on the ground and snaring a 26-yard reception in the back of the end zone. Scott displayed the speed, hands and footwork that make him such a highly sought-after recruit, and the pass came from East Lake's backup quarterback.
The Eagles had to play over half the game without Jake Hudson behind center, but didn't miss a beat. The first-year signal caller was hurt on the Kehoe interception and junior southpaw Brandon Swift stepped in.
All Swift did in response was complete all three of his passes for 83 yards during his first drive that ended with Scott's 26-yarder. His first attempt went to Campbell down the left sideline for 40.
“I feel comfortable with both our quarterbacks,” Campbell said of the QB situation. “Both of them get the job done and that's what they're here for. They both can start at any given time, but I've got to give credit to Brandon Swift for stepping up and taking over the leadership in a game like this.”
The Eagles finished with nearly 400 yards of total offense, piling up 229 on the ground. Campbell turned in his best offensive night of the season and Coach Hudson said the Eagles did a good job of taking advantage of what looks the Tarpon Springs defense was showing.
“They slotted double-coverage over [Scott] and gave single-coverage to George so we had to take advantage of it. They're both good and we just have to read what [defenses] do.”
Swift ended his night 6 of 8 passing for 103 yards after Hudson had completed 4 of 9 for 58.
Scott, who dove into the end zone for the game's first touchdown on a 10-yard stretch run right, gave the Eagles a 21-6 lead heading into halftime with his 26-yard reception. He notched his third score late in the third quarter with a 40-yard burst up the gut to make it 28-6 East Lake.
The Spongers worked in Eagles territory on only one more occasion the rest of the game and that drive came after two East Lake touchdowns within about a minute of each other.
Running back Weston Fordham (14 carries for 83 yards) polished off a seven-play, 78-yard march with an 8-yard run to put East Lake on top 35-6. When Tarpon Springs went three-and-out on its ensuing possession, Carson Lyndon blocked Louis Zervos' punt and recovered it for another touchdown and 42-6 advantage.
Lyndon's stuff was East Lake's second special-teams block of the night. Devin Abraham got a hand on Zervos' extra-point attempt after Ford's touchdown in the second quarter.
East Lake's second-teamers got in on the scoring action for the team's seventh and final touchdown when senior running back Ian Cronin took a 48-yard handoff the distance.
Both teams get back into district play next week.
The Eagles will try to continue its best regular-season start and reach 6-0 at home against Seminole (1-4).
Tarpon Springs stays on the road for the third straight week, traveling to Gibbs (1-4).
TS - 0 – 6 – 0 – 0 --- 6
EL - 14 – 7 – 7 – 21 --- 49
EL – Scott 10-yard run. PAT kick (LaCamera) – 1st Quarter (8:48)
EL – Campbell 40-yard pass from Hudson. PAT kick (LaCamera) – 1st Quarter (3:25)
TS – Ford 4-yard run. PAT kick (Zervos) – 2nd Quarter (2:38)
EL – Scott 26-yard pass from Swift. PAT kick (LaCamera) – 2nd Quarter (0:46)
EL – Scott 40-yard run. PAT kick (LaCamera) – 3rd Quarter (4:39)
EL – Fordhham 8-yard run. PAT kick (LaCamera) – 3rd Quarter (11:35)
EL – Lyndon blocked punt TD. PAT kick (LaCamera) – 4th Quarter (10:40)
EL – Cronin 48-yard run. PAT kick (LaCamera) – 4th Quarter (2:13)
TS – Ford (25-87, TD), Johnson (7-12), Miller (5-15).
EL – Fordham (14-83, TD), Scott (5-62, 2 TD), Cronin (1-48, TD).
TS – Casler (3-10 for 17).
EL – Swift (6-8 for 103, TD), Hudson (4-9 for 58, TD, INT).
TS – Johnson (2-15), Turner (1-2).
EL – Campbell (5-121, TD), Scott (1-26, TD).