Aug. 26—Eastern's football team rode a dominant third quarter to a 60-31 victory over Northwestern on Friday night on the Tigers' turf.
The Comets outscored the Tigers 27-0 in the quarter to turn a 26-24 halftime lead into a 53-24 advantage.
The Edwards brothers fueled the breakaway as senior end Eli Edwards and freshman linebacker Abe Edwards had two interceptions apiece in the quarter.
The Tigers had the ball to start the second half, but Eli Edwards quickly ended their drive with his first pick. After each team had a three-and-out, the Comets' Jayden Eagle capped a short drive with a three-yard score for a 32-24 lead.
The Tigers followed with a nice drive into Eastern territory, but Eli Edwards crashed from the edge and picked off Tiger QB Brock Shank's screen attempt. He raced 75 yards for a touchdown and a 38-24 lead.
Abe Edwards picked off Shank's next two attempts and the Comets turned both takeaways into points. First, Eli Edwards had a 20-yard TD pass to Ian Hewitt. Next, Eagle had a 15-yard TD run.
Just like that, the Comets were in complete control with a commanding 53-24 lead.
Eagle added an 80-yard TD run in the fourth quarter to put an exclamation point on the Comets' win. That made it 60-31 with 8:09 left.
The Comets evened their record at 1-1 while the Tigers dropped to 0-2.
Eagle finished with 20 carries for 223 yards and three touchdowns. Eli Edwards completed 9 of 17 pass attempts for 182 yards and three touchdowns to go with his rushing TD and defensive TD. Braylen Word had four receptions for 127 yards and Hewitt had four catches for 52 yards.
The Tigers had offensive highlights too. Shank completed 19 of 38 pass attempts for 311 yards and three touchdowns, but also had four interceptions. Jackson, a promising freshman, had seven receptions for 117 yards and two scores. Gabe Felix-Craig had 75 rushing yards, 82 receiving yards and three scores.
All told, the teams combined for close to 1,000 yards. They also combined for more than 25 penalties.
The first half moved in fits and starts as penalties, incompletions, timeouts and other clock stoppages caused the game to drag for stretches. When play was going, the teams combined for a whopping 567 yards and 24 first downs.
Eastern opened the game with a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive. Eagle converted a fourth down midway through the drive and Eli Edwards capped the drive with a one-yard TD sneak for a 6-0 lead.
Northwestern had an immediate response, scoring on its first play from scrimmage as Shank connected with Jackson on a 60-yard TD pass down the left sideline for a 6-6 tie.
Eastern needed just three plays to answer with a big play of its own as Eagle ripped off a 45-yard run for a 12-6 lead at 5:49 of the opening quarter.
After the Tigers turned the ball over on downs and the Comets had to punt, the teams traded scores in the final minute of the quarter. First, the Tigers had a quick four-play, 60-yard scoring drive. Felix-Craig scooted 43 yards on a reverse for a score that tied it 12-12 at :51. Eastern needed just two plays to regain the lead. Eli Edwards fired downfield to Word, who hauled in the pass and raced into the end zone for a 61-yard score. Ethan Hasting kicked the PAT and the Comets had a 19-12 lead.
The ensuing kickoff finally brought the quarter to a close. The first period lasted a full hour — which in the heat and humidity surely seemed longer.
The second quarter moved along better. The Tigers opened the quarter with a seven-play, 75-yard scoring drive, Shank plunged in from the 1-yard line for a score. The Tigers failed to convert on a two-point conversion, leaving them down 19-18.
Eastern answered with an 11-play, 50-yard scoring drive. The teams combined for three penalties — the Tigers had one that wiped out a 90-pyard interception return for a score by Felix-Craig. Four plays after that, Eli Edwards found Hewitt wide open for a 22-yard TD. Hastings' extra point made it 26-18 at 2:39.
The Tigers had an impressive answer. They ran their two-minute offense to go 70 yards in 15 plays. Sam Craig converted a fourth-and-one inside the 10-yard line and Shank capped the drive with a three-yard TD pass to Jackson at :13. Trailing 26-24, the Tigers went for two to tie, but they did not convert.
Bryan Gaskins is the Tribune's sports editor. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 765-454-8567.