EAST PRAIRIE -- The East Prairie Eagles took advantage of Scott City's lax ballhandling to capture its first victory of the season.
East Prairie squeaked out a 26-20 win over the visiting Scott City Rams in a SEMO Conference Southern Division matchup on Friday.
The Rams (1-2) coughed the ball up seven times -- three of five fumbles lost and four fourth-quarter pass interceptions.
"You can't win games like that," said Scott City coach Terry Flannigan. "I don't care who you're playing, the defending state champion or the bottom of the bucket, you can't turn the ball over seven or eight times and expect to win."
Coach Cory Adkisson, whose Eagles improved to 1-2, said, "I don't think we've got a turnover in the first two games and tonight we get them in bunches and we needed them all. Every one of those were big."
The Eagles opened the game with a crisply executed drive to paydirt, capped by quarterback Cameron Woodward's sneak from the 1.
Tailback M.C. Williams, giving an indication of things to come, reeled off 51 of the 52 yards in the eight-play drive.
On the evening, the sophomore Williams rambled for 253 yards on 33 carries, including touchdown runs of 43, 29 and 28 yards.
"He's going to have to be our feature back now and he stepped up," said Adkisson. "He's just a young guy, but he plays hard and his O-line loves blocking for him. He gives credit to those guys every time he gets a good run. He had a good night and, hopefully, he'll get better every game."
East Prairie, which missed the extra point, took the 6-0 lead in at halftime as the defense, led by cat-quick defensive end Tony Jones, kept Scott City off the board.
Of the Rams' four first-half offensive series, two went three-and-out and the others self-imploded with crucial fumbles -- one at the East Prairie 17, another at the East Prairie 19.
Scott City came out of the halftime break with a vengeance, promptly taking the kickoff and rolling 68 yards in 12 plays to score on Chris Blankenship's 2-yard burst and knot the score at 6-6.
On their next seried, the Eagles, with great field position on a short kickoff that squibbed out of bounds at the Scott City 41, advanced downfield until the drive stalled on downs at the 11.
The Rams, suddenly clicking, then mounted an impressive nine-play drive of 90 yards, with Blankenship, who led Scott City with 150 rushing yards, going in from 27 yards out. Cody Carlyle's point after sent the Rams ahead 13-6 with 1:11 left in the third quarter.
"We could have quit at certain times in the game," said Adkisson. "A lot of teams would have quit, especially when they came out in the second half and drove it down our throats. They could have quit right there, but they kept battling and battling and battling."
Any thoughts of quitting were quickly dispelled.
Jones, nearly breaking away, returned the ensuing kickoff 20 yards to the East Prairie 45. Williams ran for 12, then busted a 43-yarder, breaking off tackle to the outside and outracing defenders to the end zone to pull the Eagles to within one at 13-12 with 29 seconds left in the period.
Then it all began to unravel for the Rams in the fourth quarter.
An interception, the first of three in the quarter by Eagle defensive back Caleb Hatton, set East Prairie up at their own 40. Five plays later, Williams scored from 29 yards out, then ran in the 2-point conversion as the Eagles regained the lead at 20-13.
Another Hatton interception and a fumbled punt, recovered by the Eagles' Zach Secoy, short-circuited the next two Ram possessions.
Following Secoy's recovery at the Scott City 28, Williams broke free down the left sideline for a 28-yard TD to increase the Eagle lead to 26-13 with 4:38 left.
But, right back came Scott City on its next play from scrimmage as quarterback Ethan Watkins hit receiver Jamie Pinkston on a short out route that Pinkston turned into a 51-yard TD to narrow the gap to 26-20 with 4:19 on the clock.
The Eagles were forced to punt it back to the Rams with about 2:30 left, but Hatton's third pick returned the ball to East Prairie with 1:34 to go.
Now, it was just a simple matter of sitting on the ball to run out the clock.
However, it was not to be that easy as Williams fumbled on the first snap. Carlyle recovered to give Scott City one final chance at the tying or go-ahead points.
Starting at the Eagle 37, the Rams drove to the 20 where Watkins was again intercepted, this time by Secoy as time ticked away.
"East Prairie's not a bad team, but if we had come out and executed and done what we were supposed to do, we would have won the ballgame," said Flannigan. "Instead, we gave them the opportunities and they capitalized and did what they had to do.
"We're very frustrated right now, as a group."
East Prairie, following some early season off-field setbacks, relished the victory.
"It feels good to get that first win of the season and, hopefully, we can build on this and there'll be more to follow," said Adkisson. "Scott City played a heckuva game. They left it out on the field just like we did. That's a great football game and that's what high school sports is all about."