GIBSONTON — Postgame with players on a knee, East Bay coach Frank LaRosa offered a simple message to his attentive players — “Continuing to make history.”
History, legacy and heritage have been more than buzz words for LaRosa this season and those were all on display as a handful of members of East Bay’s 1973 football team — the last Indians district champions — attended the game where the first district championship team from the Gibsonton school in 40 years played host to Gaither.
The Indians rewarded and honored those returnees as East Bay did what no other team in school history has ever done, recording its first playoff win dominating the Cowboys in the second half and winning 34-14.
Trailing by a touchdown at the half, LaRosa said he made his intentions known for his team in the final two quarters.
“These guys give me such an uneasy confidence,” LaRosa said. “I really struggle with myself on game day because I worry about these guys playing apprehensively, but once I say something to them in the locker room we just always answer in the second half.”
Chris Greene served as the answering call for the Indians early on, countering the Cowboys’ opening drive, a 7-yard Jeff Suarez touchdown, scoring on the next drive from 5 yards out. Greene chipped away for 30 more first-half yards as the Cowboys again took the lead when Alex McGough connected with Logan Young for a 58-yard score.
However, the second half was almost entirely in East Bay control. Greene again evened the game, scoring from 15 yards before adding 135 second-half rushing yards setting up a pair of Chris Carpentier keepers and a well-deserved 1-yard scoring run from Deondre Romeo, who leads the Indians’ defense in tackles.
“We were able to not worry about anything they were going to do,” Greene said. “It was basic stuff — just run it down their throats.”
After the Indians took the lead on Carpentier’s first rushing score, Gaither lost the ensuing kickoff as the muff was recovered by Kevin Sails, setting up the senior quarterback’s eventual touchdown.
Curtis Wilder responded with a long return for the Cowboys, but Indians senior Kameron Daniels essentially ended Gaither’s chances, sacking McGough and causing the senior to leave the game with a leg injury on third down.
“I tried a new stance and it finally worked,” Daniels said with a chuckle. “I wanted a W so bad, I wanted to be a part of history so much.”
Next week, East Bay plays at Sickles in a Class 7A-Region 2 semifinal.
Gaither 7 7 0 0 — 14
East Bay 7 0 7 20 — 34
G – Suarez 7 run (Hobson kick)
EB – Greene 5 run (Morgan kick)
G – Young 58 pass from McGough (Hobson kick)
EB – Greene 15 run (Morgan kick)
EB – Carpentier 18 run (kick failed)
EB – Carpentier 2 run (Morgan kick)
EB – Romeo 1 run (Morgan kick)