(Photos by Josh Mills, Staff)
CHARLESTON -- The East Prairie Eagles football team rolled the Charleston Bluejays 46-22 Friday night at J.H. Marshall Stadium in Charleston, gaining their first victory over the Bluejays since 1986.
The Eagles (5-3), who had not won in Charleston since Lyndon B. Johnson was in the oval office (1965), were led offensively by star senior tailback MC Williams. Williams had five touchdowns and 312 all-purpose yards, in addition to four extra points.
Williams also praised the efforts of his offensive line.
"Our offensive line played one of their best games of the season tonight," said Williams. "Charleston did a good job of stopping us some early. We made adjustments at half time and the running game did a lot better. I just can't say enough about the great opportunities my offensive line gives me to make big plays."
"When we came in tonight, we saw some signs that said that Charleston was going to beat us. But, we didn't let all of the 'hype' effect us. We were able to remain focused. We also had so many people travel from East Prairie to cheer us on, that always helps."
When asked how he felt about the games outcome, Williams simply replied, "It feel's good to beat Charleston."
Charleston (1-7) head coach Dan Kesselring knew his squad had a tall order in that they needed to limit Williams' impact.
"We knew coming in tonight that the key was to stop M.C. Williams," Kesselring said. "We were able to stop him at times but, when it was crucial that we stopped him, he made big plays."
Kesselring noted that his team did not have much success inside the 20-yard line against the Eagles.
"We moved the ball well," Kesselring said. "But, whenever we got close to scoring East Prairie was able to hold us. My hats off to them. They (East Prairie) came in ready to play."
Kesselring said that defense continues to be an issue for the Bluejays.
"Defense has been the deciding factor for us all year," he said. "We've played good defense at times but struggle at crucial times. One thing people don't realize is we have to play a lot of freshmen and sophomores on defense. They are getting good experience, but at this point their inexperience shows."
Kesselring was quick to point out that his team gave the contest their supreme effort.
"I'm very proud of the way my kids came out and played tonight," he said. "They played their hardest until the final buzzer."
Aycock said motivating his team for Friday's rivalry game was not an issue.
"It did not take much to get our boys motivated for this game," he said. "They know the history. They knew what they had to do."
Aycock spoke about his offenses half time adjustments to offensive line and running game.
"We went in at half time and pulled my offensive line to the side," he said. "We discussed our alignments in relation to the defensive line. What we discovered is the weak side was wide open. So we decided to really attack the weak side. I can't say enough about my (offensive) line and how they played. Our ability to exploit the weak side in the second half is what won us the game."
Aycock commented on the success of the Eagles passing game as another key to Friday's win.
"Conner (Scott) gets better at quarterback as the season progresses," Aycock said. "He is very confident in the pocket because the running game does such a good job of taking the pressure off of him. We know our running game is very reliable, but we continue to develop our pass attack and figure out ways to utilize the sound receiving corps that we have. It's very important to us to be a two threat team."
Aycock felt that the solid play of his defense had a major impact on the contest.
"In the first half, we felt like we knew what they were going to do offensively," he said. "We had them covered properly. However, we were just a few steps behind them on a lot of plays. We made adjustments with that at half time as well and we're more successful. On Charleston's flood pass play we had to put more pressure on (Chase) McClendon and get faster and more physical in our coverage of Charleston's receivers. Once we did that, we took that threat away."
East Prairie led the turnover margin, committing only one to Charleston's four.
"We were able to get some huge turnovers in our favor tonight," Aycock said. "Our defense did a good job swarming the ball so we were able to recover some of those fumbles. One of the biggest defensive plays was Kaleb Willford's interception on our 1-yard line, I feel like that was huge."
Aycock, who was doused with Gatorade after the win, said he and his team are pleased to hold the bragging rights to the "Battle for Mississippi County".
"We have only had four playoff teams in the history of East Prairie football," he said. "Hopefully, we can keep things up and make this team the fifth. The pride is back in our football team and in our town. We are all so excited. It's great that this game brought our community together in the way that it has. I just can not say enough about how hard our boys are working and how well everyone is supporting us."
Both teams will continue district play next week as Charleston travels to Malden and East Prairie is set to host Caruthersville.