Eagles adjust again at halftime
Fri. October 04, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. | By Vince Nairn | StarNews Staff Writer | Vince.Nairn@starnewsonline.com
Topsail's Nick Altilio (left) rushes against Ashley's Anthony Boone in a Mideastern Conference game Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. (Photo by Jason A. Frizzelle)
HAMPSTEAD | Three-game winning streaks have not come around often for the Ashley High School football team.
So the Screaming Eagles are making sure to enjoy this one.
Ashley benefitted from 11 Topsail penalties and came up with big scoring plays when needed in defeating the host Pirates 26-0 on Friday in a Mideastern Conference game.
"I just want these kids to be able to walk around New Hanover County without having to hold their heads down," Ashley coach Tom Eanes said. "And people can say what they want to, but Topsail beat us last year. So for us to get a victory over here, I thought that spoke well to the kids."
The Screaming Eagles (4-2, 2-0) won their third game in a row for the first time since 2010 and are 2-0 in the MEC for the first time since 2004, which was the only winning season in the school's 12-year history.
Ashley led 7-0 at halftime thanks to a 70-yard touchdown run from Jesse Jewell and opened up the lead in the third quarter as Topsail (3-4, 0-2) began to unravel. Topsail quarterback Nick Altilio was intercepted by Bruce Kopka on the first drive of the second half, and Kopka ran 37 yards for a touchdown.
"We're a second-half team, but that needs to become a whole game," Jewell said. "We just had to learn from our mistakes and take advantage."
The Pirates could not seem to get out of their own way. Every Topsail drive in the first half lasted at least eight plays, but penalties short-circuited most of them. On one drive, back-to-back holding penalties took the Pirates back into their own territory after advancing past midfield.
Topsail's best drive of the half ended up a fourth-down play from the Ashley 31. It appeared running back Josh Jessup had room to run on an option pitch, but the ball was fumbled before it got to him and the Eagles took over.
"We're just not good enough to overcome those types of things," Topsail coach Wayne Inman said. "I've coached teams that were, but this group just isn't good enough to get behind the chains and make it up."
In all, Topsail was penalized for 100 yards. Throw in three turnovers – two in the red zone – and it amounted to a miserable night.
"That killed every drive we had," Inman said. "We're very frustrated right now as a team and as a coaching staff."
Jewell ran for 170 yards on nine carries. Quarterback Chris Kane ran for 59 yards including a touchdown that put the Eagles ahead 19-0 in the third quarter. An 82-yard run by Jewell set up the Eagles' final touchdown, an eight-yard run by Anthony Andrews, in the game's final minutes. Jessup ran for 126 yards for Topsail.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the entire Ashley sideline – including Eanes – jumped up and down in celebration. Eanes then led an enthusiastic postgame huddle that ended with a little dancing.
"It just feels real good to get the reward," Jewell said. "When we come together as a team we think we can beat anybody."
The other Class 4A Wilmington schools still linger in conference play, and Eanes said he knows that. But the Eagles are going to enjoy their current success and hope it can continue.
"We're so happy," Eanes said. "But we'll be able to enjoy it until about Sunday then it's back to work."
Vince Nairn: 343-2262
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