Tight schedule pays off for East Lake against rival Palm Harbor University
PALM HARBOR – From the outside, it may look like East Lake would be the underdog going into Friday’s Class 8A, District 11 opener against rival Palm Harbor University. After all, the Eagles were 1-4 and were on the road against a Hurricanes team in a three-game winning streak.
But appearances can be deceiving.
A closer look would show East Lake had lost a total of 28 points to teams with a combined 19-3 record. Coach Bob Hudson’s strategy of scheduling the toughest teams paid off in a 23-7 win on Friday night.
East Lake (2-4, 1-0) hit first. An interception by Colin MacLean in game two of the game led to a seven-game drive, capped by a 14-yard touchdown down center from sophomore Ti’lan McGee (11 carries, 67 yards).
Palm Harbor U. (3-2, 0-1) responded after second Gunner Fodor snatched the ball from the punt Eagle returner and placed the Hurricanes at the 25-yard line. A few plays later, junior hobbyhorse Luke Yoder (34 carries, 173 yards) rounded the left end to tie the score at 7.
In the second quarter, East Lake junior quarterback Jake Bechtel (18 of 26, 237 yards) connected with tight end Wyatt Stiehl (six receptions, 70 yards) on 20 yards for a 13- lead. 7.
“Jake does a good job and works extremely hard. It’s becoming more consistent, ”Hudson said. “We put a lot into our quarterbacks on the field. We allow them to make adjustments and modifications, and we give them options. He had some good balls tonight and made some good decisions.
Later in the quarter, it was Bechtel who joined Ryui Rivers junior (seven receptions, 73 yards) and Stiehl on a 14-game, 90-yard drive before diving from the 1-yard line to put the Eagles ahead. -7. Nathanial Eichner’s left-footed 42-yard field goal as time passed in half-time increased the lead to 16.
The second half was a defensive battle. East Lake came up with several big plays when he counted to overcome Yoder’s big night on the ground.
“Our defense comes up against our attack in practice. It’s a steady pace and the guys are in good shape. We were flying tonight, ”said Hudson.