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By Jeffery McClintock
The Homecoming game is traditionally a time when the home team schedules an opponent with which they match up favorably: a team against which they’ve have had some success in the past.
Such was the case in Moneta Friday night as the Eagles welcomed Tunstall, a team that was 0-2 against SR. The Trojans also had not scored on the Eagle defense in their two losses.
But what a difference a year makes.
When Jarret Moon took the ball 69 yards on the Eagles’ first play, it looked as though this game was going to be over quickly.
Not so fast, my friend.
Looking to spoil the festive mood, Tunstall weathered the storm by taking advantage of River turnovers and penalties. The Trojans went into the half leading the Eagles, 10-7.
Coach Poston gave the Trojans their due, saying, “….They came out ready to rock and roll. You gotta tip your hat to them. They played their hind ends off in that first half.”
It seems that SR might have been a little caught up in its (brief) history with Tunstall, as Poston explained, “Well, we came out flat. We got that first cheap touchdown and we thought we were going to roll tide, and it ain’t that easy.”
After seeing its opening second-half drive end on three consecutive pass attempts Tunstall knew that it was going to be seeing a lot of the man wearing the black and gold #2 jersey. The Trojans had managed to keep Moon out of the end zone after his first touch, but the young man had already run for 118 yards in two quarters.
Ah, but Coach Poston and staff switched things up just a bit. “We went to a two tight end set and balanced them up offensively.” Poston explained.
River signal caller Deshawn Martin came out passing, connecting with Michael Hajduk for a 25-yard gain. Mix in a little Moon and fullback Chris Tyree, and Tunstall was out of synch defensively. Martin completed the drive by hooking up with Cameron Paksoy for an 18-yard touchdown, which gave the Eagles a 14 -10 advantage early in the third stanza.
The lone Eagle miscue of the second half came after the Eagle defense had forced Tunstall into a three-and-out. Eagle return man Sam Jennings bobbled the Trojan punt, and the Eagle defense headed back onto the field.
The Trojans and QB Evan Huffman found themselves in good field position at the Eagle 48. A nice pass from Huffman to wideout Jake Whitaker, sandwiched between two runs put the Trojans in business at the Eagle one. Huffman called his own number on the QB sneak, bulldozing in for the touchdown to put his team ahead, 17-14, with just a few minutes left in the third quarter.
The Eagles answered right back with a steady diet of Moon and Tyree. Martin capped the nine-play, 55-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown to put the Eagles back on top, 21-17.
The exclamation point was provided by Jennings, who picked off a Huffman throw and dashed 73 yards to seal the Homecoming win for the Eagles.
Once Jennings had his hands on the pigskin, the Eagle defenders went looking for someone to block. When Poston was asked if he saw the blocking on the return he replied, “I didn’t see it, but I heard a lot of ooh’s and ah’s so it must’ve been pretty dadgum good.”
Once again, the Eagle defense slammed the door shut. This time, the slamming was symbolic, as no less than six Trojan players were mowed down on Jennings’s pick six.
And what of Jennings? Poston explained what was said on the sidelines after the special teams miscue, “You know, he was really down after the fumbled punt. But our defensive coordinator, Neal Mustard, said ‘Look, we’re going to need a big play from you, and you’re going to do one,’ and dadgum if he didn’t do one and he did it in style, too.”
When all was said and done, the guy Coach Poston refers to as the work horse, Moon, had a workman like 40 touches fro 257 yards and a touchdown.
Martin completed two passes for 43 yards and a touchdown, while contributing another one on the ground.
As Coach Poston, speaking on win totals, told his players after the game, “They don’t ask you how. They ask you how many.”
Right now that total is four, and the Eagles are soaring into a Blue Ridge District play with new member Rockbridge County Friday night in Moneta.
Should be a donnybrook.
-Moon now has an unofficial five-game total of 1,171 rushing yards.
-The last time Staunton River opened a season at 4-1? We don’t know. We know it hasn’t happened since 2000. Does anyone out there have an inkling?
-Linebackers Paul Williams and Brian Ellis had a feast. Williams logged a dozen tackles, while Ellis bagged 11. Four of Williams’s tackles resulted in lost yardage.
The Eagle secondary limited Trojan quarterbacks to eight completions on 23 attempts, though Tunstall netted 167 passing yards.