The quest of defending the District 6-4A title got off to a bit of a rocky start Friday for the Eagles of South Pike as they dropped their season-opener to 6A opponent Harrison Central 32-16 at home.
Early season rust and a plethora of new players playing in new positions proved to be tumultuous for the Eagles throughout the evening.
“We made some big plays but we struggled a lot,” Eagle head coach Brinson Wall said. “We got a lot of bodies to replace (but) the potential is there for us to be really good team this year."
The Eagles managed to strike first on the scoreboard after a botched snap by Harrison Central deep in its own territory resulted in a safety giving the hosts a 2-0 advantage.
Later on, the Red Rebels took advantage of good field position after returning a punt to the Eagle 40. Six plays later, Harrison Central plowed ahead into the end zone from three yards out to take a 6-2 lead.
The Eagles defense came up big again later in the second quarter when defensive end Chase Powell forced a Harrison Central fumble before senior linebacker Tyger Bateaste picked it up and scampered 77 yards for a touchdown giving South Pike an 8-6 advantage. Running back Brandon Johnson converted the two point play on a dive and increased the lead to 10-6.
Just before half, the Red Rebels once again took advantage of great field position. A botched Eagle punt gave them the ball at the 23 yard line of South Pike. Three plays later, Harrison Central seized the lead after a 23-yard run and successful 2-point conversion. The visitors from Gulfport found themselves ahead 14-10 going into the half.
The momentum swung back in South Pike’s favor after the Eagles recovered a fumble on the opening second half possession giving them the ball on Harrison Central 43 yard line.
Senior running back Kam Reynolds capped off a four-play drive with a 20-yard burst for a score to put the Eagles up 16-14.
This momentum would be short lived, however, as Harrison Central returned the ensuing kick off all the way to the South Pike 18. A few players later, the Red Rebels connected on a 5-yard touchdown pass to regain the lead at 20-16.
Late in the third quarter the Eagles botched a snap deep in their territory and Harrison Central recovered on the 2 yard line. Harrison Central went through the air on the next play and connected on a two-yard strike for the touchdown.After a successful two point conversion the Eagles trailed 28-16.
Harrison Central defense snuffed out the Eagles struggling offense during the 4th period never allowing any momentum swings. The Red Rebels offense another score late in the 4th to give them a 34-16 advantage.
The Eagles will try to regroup and as they prepare for their first road contest on Friday when they will face non-district rival Amite County.