Once Hayti senior Josh Gilyard took a fly sweep and raced 62 yards untouched down the sidelines on the second snap of the game for a score, the air seemed to be taken out of the sails of the Eagles.
"I am just dumbfounded about our performance tonight," said East Prairie head coach Corey Adkisson. "We worked on what to expect from Hayti for a month straight and the kids decided to do their own thing. They were smarter than the coaching staff. We did not execute tonight and that is the bottom line."
Working behind an offensive line that averages 6-foot-2 and 285 pounds, Hayti stayed on the ground most of the first half and chewed up big yards on offense.
After a 32-yard scamper by senior Tremayne Pickens to set up first-and-goal for the Indians, Gilyard punched the football in from four yards out. Hayti led 13-0 with seven minutes to play in the first quarter.
"We had excellent line play tonight on both sides of the football," said Hayti head coach David Gilmore. "This is the first year we have had all our big kids together on the line at the same time and it was a pretty sight. They just got better and better as the game went along."
East Prairie had a nice drive after the Gilyard score and were moving toward the end zone on their own 34-yard line.
Hayti has a massive offensive line, but their defensive line is also a force averaging 265 pounds and is led by junior nose guard William Norris.
On a fourth-and-one play on the 34, East Prairie tried to sneak M.C. Williams through the middle of the Eagle line, but was stoned by Norris and a scoring opportunity was thwarted with three minutes to play in the first.
Hayti's offense was explosive at times during the contest, but their defense came to play the entire 48 minutes. East Prairie's all-state running back Paris Tipler was harassed and frustrated all game long by the Indian defense. Tipler finished with 123 yards on 21 carries as his night ended early.
After a fumbled handoff between the Eagles quarterback and Tipler, which Hayti recovered late in the third quarter, Tipler tossed his helmet towards the East Prairie sideline and walked off the field toward the locker room.
"Our defense had a good feel for what they were doing on offense," said Gilmore. "Corey runs that wing-T and I have a pretty good understanding of what they are trying to do. Our kids just played extremely hard on defense and we used our speed and size to shut down their traps. When you can make an all-state running back quit, you are doing some good work."
When questioned about the status of Tipler, Adkisson stated that it was an internal matter.
Gilyard continued his great first half by scoring on a 3-yard run at 11:54 of the second quarter.
Gilyard scored touchdowns on three of his first four carries and finished the half with six carries for 104 yards.
The Eagles cut into the lead late in the second quarter as Tipler ran the football in from four yards out to cut the score to 21-6 heading into the half. The East Prairie score was a direct benefit of a mishandled snap on a punt by Hayti. The Eagles took over deep in their own territory on the 19-yard line.
The Eagles moved the ball in the first half but when it was time for a crucial play, a Hayti lineman seemed to make a big play behind the line of scrimmage.
Norris was dominant from the nose position for Hayti as he recorded 10 tackles in the game including a sack.
"Norris played very well for us tonight," said Gilmore.
"He was our linebacker last year and is such a force in the middle. Quick and strong, he just causes havoc for the opposing team."
Adkisson admitted that Norris was a force, but injuries played a major factor in the Eagles inability to block in the middle.
"Our first-team center, David Stalker, was out tonight with an ankle injury," said Adkisson. "We had a kid playing there tonight for the first time as a starter. He did his best and gave great effort, but it was a tough assignment for the youngster. I have to give him credit for stepping up when called upon."
The second half was all Indians as they scored on a 13-yard run and a run from one yard out during the half. Hayti also got the passing game going with first time junior starter K.C. Gilmer.
After only one pass attempt in the first half and four straight incompletions in the second, Gilmer's first completion was a 26-yard touchdown pass to Shawn Jones in the third quarter. Gilmer completed his last three passes of the game for 74 yards.
Although it wasn't a particularly hot and humid night, several East Prairie players cramped up during the contest.
"It is hard to win when we have second- and third-team players in the game because our first team guys are out for cramps," said Adkisson. "We were definitely affected by that tonight. Once again it is a case of the players knowing more than the coaches. We have told them over and over to keep fluids in the body. I just wonder what some of my players are thinking. I am very disappointed in our play tonight."
Williams had a good showing in his first start at running back with 15 carries for 120 yards. Sophomore Tony Jones led the Eagles in tackles from his defensive end position with nine.
Pickens finished with 131 yards on 17 carries and Gilyard had nine carries for 119 yards for Hayti in the contest. Jones had two receptions for 58 yards
"I give credit to our offensive coordinator Jackie Johnson for a great offensive game plan," said Gilmore.
"We just took advantage of what they gave us. After we got to them early on the ground, they started to mix it up on the line. When they put eight in the box, we just ran outside."
Hayti (1-0) hosts Malden (1-0) in a key SEMO South Conference matchup Friday at 7 p.m.
East Prairie (0-1) hopes to get on the winning track at home on Friday night as Corning, Ark. comes calling for a 7 p.m. kickoff.