BUTLER – The quip came from the center of a group of Eastside football players as they settled in for a team photo: “Man, I loving winning.”
The Class 2A No. 4 Blazers have done a lot of that this season, the best campaign in program history. They did it again Friday, beating No. 1 Eastbrook 21-14 behind 213 rushing yards and three touchdowns from quarterback Laban Davis, who led host Eastside to its first regional championship.
“It's a big accomplishment,” Davis said of the title, during an interview in which he paused repeatedly to greet well-wishers from the capacity Eastside crowd that had spilled onto the field after the game. “We've been (to the regional championship) before, two years ago and we got smacked by (Eastbrook). We wanted revenge and we got it.”
The Blazers (13-0) have beaten the top two teams in Class 2A in the last two weeks and will play No. 8 Andrean (10-3) in Eastside's first semistate game, which it will host.
Eastside got off to a flying start Friday, marching 71 yards on 11 plays on its opening drive. The Blazers in went in front 7-0 when Davis wiggled untouched through the middle for an 8-yard score.
Just before halftime, Davis faked a handoff to running back Dax Holman then went through the right side before cutting back to daylight on the far hash for a 30-yard touchdown to make it 13-0.
The Panthers, who beat Eastside 42-9 in the regional in 2019, struck back with a quick touchdown drive after a tipped punt in the third quarter gave them a short field.
But Davis put the game away in the final minutes on a 51-yard sprint straight through the middle.
“Laban Davis is a fantastic football player,” coach Todd Mason said. “Gutty son of a gun, and I am certainly glad he's on our team.”
Mason made sure his team celebrated with the throng of fans after the game, but then brought them back down to earth.
“Two more,” the fifth-year coach said. “But they can't take this one away from you.”