TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — There’s a reason they say it’s a game of inches.
The Eastern football team never led after the first quarter and produced only 15 fewer yards of total offense than visiting Caldwell on Friday night during a heartbreaking 29-27 setback in a Week 5 non-conference matchup at East Shade River Stadium.
The host Eagles (1-3) dropped their third straight decision, while the Redskins (3-2) notched their third consecutive win with a narrow 2-point triumph.
EHS claimed a 16-15 edge in first downs and finished the night plus-1 in turnover differential, plus controlled the airways with a 179-47 advantage in passing yards by night’s end.
CHS, however, amassed 306 of their 353 yards of total offense on the ground, and a potent 1-2 punch of Marshal Sayre and Cale Bender helped get the Red and Black to the right side of the scoreboard by night’s end.
The Eagles — who accumulated 338 total yards of offense that included 159 rushing yards — struck first as Jayden Evans scored on a 15-yard run at the 3:35 mark of the first, giving the hosts a 7-0 lead.
CHS needed just 22 seconds to answer as Sayre broke a 49-yard run to the house, tying the game at 7-all as both teams headed into the second quarter.
Sayre tacked on a 32-yard touchdown scamper with 4:42 left in the half, allowing Caldwell to secure what proved to be a permanent lead of 13-7 entering the break. The extra point attempt was blocked.
Bender broke a 75-yard scoring run within the first minute of the third frame, giving the guests a 19-7 edge at the 11:08 mark. Bender found Dylan Wheeler with a successful 2-point conversion pass for a 21-7 contest.
Bryce Newland scored from six yards out with 7:33 left in the third canto for a 21-14 deficit, then Evans picked off a pass on the ensuing CHS drive that gave Eastern possession at the Caldwell 41.
Three plays later, Brady Yonker plunged in from a yard out to close the gap down to 21-20 with 3:45 left in the third. The score, however, remained that way as the PAT kick was missed wide.
Sayre added his third and final TD run on a 37-yard jaunt with 11:06 left in regulation, making it a 29-20 contest.
Evans ran over three different defenders while hauling in a 42-yard TD pass from Yonker with 6:49 left in regulation, and a successful Collin Wilcoxen PAT boot whittled the deficit back down to two points at 29-27.
Brandon Oldaker recovered a fumble on the ensuing Redskin possession, giving the hosts the ball at the CHS 42 with 6:42 to play.
The Eagles’ drive, however, stalled out on a 4th-and-23 when Yonker was sacked at the EHS 44 with 4:45 remaining.
Caldwell ran 10 plays and picked up three first downs along the way, which ultimately ran the clock down to triple zeroes and wrapped up the 2-point outcome.
Josh Sobieski also recovered a fumble for Eastern in the first quarter. The Green and White was flagged seven times for 82 yards, while Caldwell was penalized three times for 30 yards.
Newland led the hosts with 103 rushing yards on 18 carries, while Evans added 67 yards on 11 touches. Yonker completed 9-of-12 passes for 179 yards, with Brayden Smith leading the wideouts with four catches for 107 yards.
Sayre paced CHS with 199 rushing yards on 23 totes and Bender added 108 rushing yards on 13 attempts. Bender was also 6-of-10 passing for 47 yards, with Dylan Wheeler hauling in three passes for 15 yards.
Waylon Clark and Jeffrey Guiler each recovered a fumble for the Redskins.
Eastern opens Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division play on Friday when it hosts Waterford at 7 p.m.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.