BUTLER — Trailing West Noble 19-7 at halftime and 25-7 in the third quarter Friday, Eastside’s football team looked to have taken over the momentum.
For the second week in a row, however, the turnover bug bit the Blazers hard, resulting in a 38-19 loss.
The Chargers (3-0) took the second-half kickoff and wasted little time finding the end zone.
Josh Gross, who scored three times on the night, ripped off a 28-yard gain to the Eastside 36. Five plays later, quarterback Kyle Mawhorter found split end Rocky Slone behind the defense for a 33-yard TD strike. The Chargers failed to convert the extra point, leading 25-7 with 9 minutes, 41 seconds left.
It took just a minute for Eastside to respond. Quarterback Laban Davis hit Wade Miller for 18 yards to the Charger 42. On the next play, Davis called his own number, and got a huge block from teammate Phoenix Smyth that resulted in a 42-yard touchdown run. Eastside missed the two-point try, trailing 25-13 with 8:38 left in the third.
The defense forced a West Noble punt, and the Blazers went right back to work.
Freshman Dax Holman, who ran for 47 yards in his first start, gained 18 to the Charger 29. Four plays later, Davis and Dylan Bredemeyer hooked up on a 17-yard TD play. Eastside missed the extra-point try, however, and trailed 25-19 with 4:37 left in the third.
Eastside forced another three-and-out and got the ball back late in the third.
Davis and Burns connected for a 39-yard pass play to the West Noble 7, but two plays later, the Chargers’ Jeramyah James recovered a fumble at his own 8 to snuff out a potential go-ahead score.
It didn’t take long for the Chargers to regain control.
On the fourth play of the fourth quarter, Brandon Pruitt, who rushed for 161 yards on the night, ran 27 yards for a touchdown, running over an Eastside player near his own sideline to clear space to the end zone. The run failed, but West Noble led 31-19 with 10:05 to play.
The Blazers moved the ball, but turned it over again in Charger territory, with West Noble’s Raven Slone recovering a fumble at his own 38.
West Noble’s defense again rose to the occasion. Gross punched the ball out of Miller’s hands near the end zone to save a touchdown, and intercepted Davis’ next pass, returning it 96-yards for the final score.
Those three possessions summed up Eastside’s night: close but no cigar. Turnovers at key times have been costly in losses to the Chargers and last week to Adams Central.
In addition to Pruitt’s big night, Gross carried 10 times for 92 yards. He caught three passes for 46 yards. Slone caught three passes for 112 yards.
Davis ran for 57 yards and completed 15-of- 28 passes for 233 yards and two scores. Ethan Farnsworth ran for 51 yards. Bredemeyer and Lane Burns each caught four passes for 78. Miller caught six passes for 66.
West Noble scored twice in less than a minute of the first half to take a 19-7 lead into the break.
Mawhorter connected with Gross for a 16-yard TD pass with 5:31 left in the first. Eastside blocked the extra-point kick.
The Blazers answered right back, overcoming an illegal block penalty during the drive. Davis completed passes for 13, 12, 12 and 8 yards, the last on a fourth-down play to Burns, who stretched the ball across the goal line with 46 seconds left. Jaiden Baker’s kick gave the hosts a 7-6 lead.
The Chargers responded with a two-play drive, with the final 44 yards covered by Pruitt on a nice run up the sideline.
West Noble recovered an onside kick near midfield. Pruitt ran for 31 yards on the first play after the recovery, and Gross scored from the three on the second play of the second. Coy Wolheter made the extra-point kick for a 19-7 lead.
Eastside (1-2) was nearly equal in total offense (399 yards to 395) with West Noble. It was the turnover margin — an interception and three lost fumbles — that was the biggest statistic the Blazers couldn’t overcome.
Until they get that figured out, wins could be hard to come by.
It doesn’t get any easier this week when Eastside opens Northeast Corner Conference Small Division play at Churubusco (3-0), a 40-22 winner over Garrett Friday.