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In a normal year, it’d be hard to call a Week 3 matchup must-win, but this abbreviated season is different.

With their backs already against the wall, Laurens (1-2) held on to a 24-16 victory over Eastside (0-3) to notch its first win of the season.

The game started ugly for both teams. Going into the half, Eastside led 7-3.

Nine combined penalties, two failed 4th-down attempts by the Eagles, turnovers by the Raiders and an inefficient passing game by both sides led to a defensive battle.

The second half was entirely different.

Opening up the third quarter, the Raiders forced a quick 3-and-out. The Raiders got to work quickly and rattled off an 8-play, 64-yard drive ending in a Jayden McGowen 26-yard touchdown reception from James Rawl. Laurens led 10-7.

On the Eagles’ next possession, running back Kalvin Banks coughed up the football on the first play, leading to excellent field position for the Raiders.

On the next play, Rawl completed a pass to Cayson Elledge for a 31-yard score. Only four minutes into the third quarter, Laurens led 17-7.

Raider head coach Daryl Smith said some key adjustments at the half led to a rejuvenated passing game.

They kept overplaying our trips (3 receivers on one side) a lot so we tried to come back to the 1-receiver side and that was going to be our focus early,” he said.

Both teams traded punts for the remainder of the third quarter, but Eastside opened up the fourth with a 35-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Brown, narrowing the Laurens advantage to 3 points.

A few possessions later, a direct snap to running back Jayden McGowen resulted in an 80-yard touchdown. Smith said the team had worked on the play the previous week, but cramps from McGowan led to it being called this week instead.

Later in the fourth, Eastside caused a safety by the Raider offense and made the game interesting at 24-16, in other words, a 1-score game.

The Raiders defense prevented a comeback from the Eagles and the game ended with James Rawl taking a knee to run out the clock.

Overall, Smith was happy with his team’s performance.

I’ve been bragging on our defense, even when they’ve given up some stuff, and all year they’ve been producing even when they’ve had their backs against the wall and they did it tonight,” Smith said. “Just much better results.

Even seeing us score some more points tonight, getting some touchdowns, finishing some drives and getting some big plays in the running game, which was something we really worked hard on with Jayden McGowen running that long run. So it was good to see that we were able to do some of the things we emphasized at practice.”

E – M. Skolof 4 run (D. Cagle kick) 1:17 1st

L – Brian Diaz 21 FG 0:27 2nd

L – Jayden McGowen 26 pass from James Rawl (Diaz kick) 8:31 3rd

L – Cayson Elledge 31 pass from Rawl (Diaz kick) 8:06 3rd

E – T. Brown 35 pass from Skolof (Cagle kick) 11:42 4th

L – McGowen 80 run (Diaz kick) 6:46 4th

E – Team safety 4:46 4th

Individual Leaders

Rushing: Eastside, Skolof, 13-61; Laurens, McGowen 3-84, Jeremiah Fuller 27-54, James Rawl 4-14.

Passing: Eastside, Skolof 22-46-1 294; Laurens, Rawl 11-19-1 147.

Receiving: Eastside, C. Cosby 8-65, T. Brown 7-144, D. Cagle 4-70, M. Drye 2-13; Laurens, C. Elledge 3-75, Fuller 3-11, Ryan Elledge 2-28, McGowen 2-27.