FAIRMOUNT - Eastern’s football team pulled off a stunner Friday night when the Comets scored a 26-22 come-from-behind victory over Madison-Grant with the go-ahead score coming with just 1:12 left on the clock after a lightning 97-yard drive.
“I feel extremely proud of these guys,” Eastern coach Josh Edwards said. “We were told by several people that there’s no way you can win with [only] three seniors. That’s been a fueling force for us. This is a huge win. This is still just one win, we’ve still got a huge mountain to climb this year. We’re not saying this is a world-beating game for us, but to be  yards away with just over three minutes to play, that shows the heart of these kids and the leadership that we’ve got on this football team.”
Trailing 22-20 with 3:37 left, Eastern pounced on a fumble by Madison-Grant on a pitch to running back Cameron Myers, who ran for 176 yards on the night. M-G had been driving to put the game out of reach in the closing moments. With that play, everything changed.
Comet quarterback Austin Bates was hungry for a chance to turn the game.
“Austin Bates said to me on the sideline when we got that fumble, Austin Bates said ‘this is ours to win,’” Edwards said.
Four plays later, Bates found a streaking Will Porter down the right sideline for a 42-yard bomb that put the Comets into Argyll territory. The next play was a 39-yard strike to a wide-open Cree Johnston who was corralled at the M-G 3 with 2:08 left. The Comets went to their 6-foot-3, 220-pound quarterback on the next three plays and on the last he rode the scrum into the end-zone for a three-yard TD to put Eastern ahead for the first time.
“I felt confident that we could move the ball down the field,” Porter said. “It was just big big pass after big pass. Bates hit me for a long streak on this side right over here and then ... he hit Cree on the other side. That’s when our whole style shifted from airing it out and then we put everybody togther and we out-hearted them at the end.”
Not quite the end. Eastern scored with 1:12 and had to stop M-G one final time. Madison-Grant was out of its comfort zone. The Argylls ran for 315 yards but connected on just two passes. Forced to pass, M-G’s first big pass play was batted down by Porter, playing at the cornerback spot. On the next play, M-G quarterback Austin Purkey was hit as he threw and his pass sailed to Porter without an offensive player close. Porter snagged an interception and all that remained was for the Comets to take a knee and end the game.
That sealed an improbable victory for Eastern, which toiled most of the game without its best player, Papee Byers. Byers went down with an injury in Eastern’s very first offensive series and didn’t return.
Eastern stayed close through the air. The Comets connected on 14 of 23 passes for 295 yards. All but one of those passes was by Bates, but a key strike was on a trick play when Bates threw a lateral to Johnston, who passed to a wide-open Braden Gibson for a 67-yard TD play. That narrowed the gap to 22-20 with 10:11 left in the third quarter.
Bates also connected on a five-yard TD pass to Sam Rocchio in the third quarter, and a 20-yard scoring throw to Porter in the second period.