High School Sports

East Central knocks St. Stanislaus from 8-4A pedestal with dominant 2nd half

There's a new top dog in Region 8-4A and it resides in the tiny community of Hurley.

St. Stanislaus ruled the region the last two seasons, including a 70-50 win over East Central a year ago. On Friday night, it was East Central who put together a dominant second half for a 41-7 victory over SSC to improve to 7-0 overall and 3-0 in region play.

East Central, which is not known for its football tradition, is on pace to earn the program's first region championship since 1993, according to head coach Seth Smith.

"These kids, they're relentless with the effort, attitude," Smith said. "If you start from the bottom and keep working and working, great things happen. You saw it tonight."

East Central had two players score three touchdowns a piece in junior Cameron Gray and senior Tony Brown.

Gray had four carries in the game and all came on end-around plays. He found plenty of space off the edge all night, running four times for 110 yards and three scores.

His first touchdown was initial score of the night for East Central, running 35 yards to the end zone at the 5:56 mark in the first quarter. He added touchdown runs of 40 and 23 yards in the second half.

"As soon as I went around the end it was open so I just kept running," Gray said.

Brown had one of his better performances of the season with 27 carries for 269 yards and touchdown runs of 50, 39 and 36 yards.

"It's senior night, the energy was amazing," Brown said. "It's record after record. We've just got to keep going."

The East Central defense allowed its first offensive touchdown since Sept. 8 when SSC quarterback Jake Greer took off 36 yards up the middle to tie the game at 7-7 with 1:46 left in the first quarter, but the Hornets imposed their will as the game wore on.

"I felt like we were a little more physical in the second half, able to control the ball," Smith said. "Man, our defense. I can't say enough. There's a bunch of cliches and one of them is 'Defense wins championships,' but it's a fact."

East Central junior linebacker Avery White was very active, making 21 tackles (13 solo). Cade Miles, who had a pair of sacks, and safety Andrew Seward both had 11 tackles.

Heavy rain moved in midway through the second quarter and that played to East Central's advantage.

"For us, we're happy," Smith said of his thoughts when the rain began. "That fits us great."

As for St. Stanislaus, the soggy conditions were to its disadvantage.

"We just weren't able to throw the football," SSC coach Jeff Jordan said. "The weather took us out of our game plan. We just weren't able to throw the ball effectively."

Greer put together a gutsy performance while taking several hard hits, leaving the game at one point.

"He took a helmet to the head, a direct helmet to his helmet," Jordan said. "We're not sure what kind of condition he's in right now."

Greer finished with 15 carries for 87 yards with one score and completed 7-of-12 passes for 86 yards and one interception by East Central's Trenton Baldock.

St. Stanislaus dropped to 4-4 overall and 2-1 in region play before playing host to Vancleave next week.

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