Parkside 31 — Easton 14

SALISBURY — The defense was tougher, the offense better.

But that wasn’t enough Thursday night for Easton High’s football team, as Parkside scored the first 17 points of the second half en route to a 31-14 victory over the Warriors at Wicomico County Stadium’s Charlie Berry Field.

“I’m mad because I feel like we should have played with them,” Easton head coach Pat McGlinchey said after his team lost its third straight after a 3-0 start to the season. “The score should have been a lot closer and I think we should have had a shot at the end.

“I pointed out their mistakes and at the very end when I huddled them up I made sure I tell them I love ‘em, because I do,” McGlinchey said. “I do love my team. And I believe that we’re a good football team. But they’ve got to find it in themselves. We can’t do it for them. As much film as we watch, as much coaching up as we do, we can’t do it for them. They have to perform. And they have to believe.”

On Parkside’s first possession of the game — set up by Eli Sellinger’s interception of Easton’s Ryan O’Connor — quarterback Makai Smiley scored on a 17-yard run to cap a 10-play, 55-yard drive with 6 minutes, 18 seconds left in the first quarter. Seth Carter added the point-after boot for a 7-0 lead.

Easton (3-3) answered with a sustained drive, marching from its 44 to the Rams’ 14, where O’Connor connected with Grant Copper for a 14-yard touchdown pass. Brogan Stofa’s extra point evened the slate at 7-7 with 4:09 left in the quarter.

The Rams blocked a Stofa punt 54 seconds into the second quarter to take over at the Easton 45. Parkside drove to the Warrior 17, but was flagged for holding on third down, then got stuffed on consecutive runs, turning the ball over on downs.

After a Warrior three-and-out, Parkside drove from Easton’s 48 to the 18. Again the Warriors stiffened, stopping Alijah Bivans two yards short of a first down on third-and-six before dropping Bivans for a 1-yard loss on fourth down.

“I think defensively we did well all game,” McGlinchey said. “We gave up 10 points because of a snap over the (punter’s) head — that was three points — and then that muffed punt at the end. That put them right on the (2-)yard line. I think our defense did a phenomenal job minus the fact of in the flats (on passes).”

Parkside received the second-half kickoff and drove from its 43 to the Warrior 40, where on third-and-five, Smiley hit tight end Skylar Hopkins for a 26-yard gain. Three plays later, Smiley scored on a 1-yard sneak. Carter’s extra-point kick made it 14-7 with 7:41 remaining in the third quarter, a lead the Rams never surrendered.

“Credit them,” Parkside head coach Brendan Riley said of Easton’s defense. “They were beating us at the point of attack early on. But we made our adjustments at halftime and we were able to get our offensive linemen to understand. They gave us a different front than what it is that they have been doing, so they switched it up on us. We’re used to teams giving us a different front anyway, but credit them for coming out and having that.”

The Rams stuck with their pounding inside running game for the bulk of the second half and steadily stretched their lead.

“It’s bread-and-butter type stuff,” Riley said of his offense. “Our guys, they got to go an execute when we’re giving them the plays, and what it is they need to do. I thought they did a much better job in the second half executing just our base stuff. Once they get the base stuff, then everything else opens up.”

Easton’s ensuing possession ended with a high snap over the head of punter Stofa, who recovered on the Warrior 24, though the Rams took over on downs. Easton’s defense looked ready to deliver yet another stop, but on fourth-and-six, Smiley connected with Junior Desty for a 14-yard gain to the 6. Consecutive runs by Bivans gained two yards, before Smiley was stopped for no gain, setting up Carter’s 20-yard field goal that gave Parkside a 17-7 edge with 2:29 left in the third quarter.

The Rams stretched their lead to 24-7 with 7:06 left in the game when Malachi Jones scored on a 7-yard run to cap a five-play, 36-yard drive, and Carter added the extra point.

Easton shaved its deficit, as O’Connor, under pressure most of the night by Parkside’s big defensive line, led by 6-foot-1, 280-pound Michaelangelo Collins, found Copper, who juked a defender and broke loose to complete a 43-yard touchdown play. Stofa’s point-after kick drew Easton within 24-14 with just under five minutes remaining.

Parkside recovered the ensuing onsides kick, was forced to punt, but regained possession on the Easton 2, when Copper had the ball jarred loose just as he fielded the punt. Bivans scored on a 2-yard run and Carter again added the PAT to punctuate Parkside’s fifth straight win.

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