When last Friday night rolled around, so did the day that the Paris Eagles had circled on their calendar, a date against local rival and number 2 ranked Charleston.
Paris was a heavy underdog and after loses to Hector and common opponent Dardanelle, most expected the evening to be a short discussion.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the Paris Eagles came very close to a landmark win as Charleston escaped with a three-point, 29-26 win.
Paris opened the scoring by controlling the time of possession roughly eight minutes on their opening drive before Kris Graham punched it in from a yard out to take a 7-0 lead. With many now wondering if the Eagles could continue their momentum, Paris worked to show that they not only belonged but were to be taken seriously. Paris kept the pressure on defensively, with a blitz and cover scheme that held the Tigers at bay. Graham would add another score, and the Eagles held an unexpected 13-0 lead and had Charleston on the ropes.
From there, Paris caught the Tigers in a panic and J.P. Potts intercepted a third down pass and returned it for a score, and the Eagles had the crowd in awe, leading 20-7 going into the locker room at the half.
Expecting an all-out assault from Charleston in the second half, Paris came out calm and prepared.
The Tigers put up another score, but the Eagles answered and led 26-14 after three-quarters. It looked like Paris had the victory at hand and needed just to maintain another of their long clock controlling drives to secure a win.
Charleston would score again, and then on the ensuing kickoff, they went for the onside kick and recovered, making the short field to their advantage and scoring another time and adding a two-point conversion for a three-point lead, 29-26.
Paris had time on the clock and took control. Facing a fourth and long, Paris converted and kept the drive alive. Then, Kris Graham scampered down the home sideline, going out inside the 10-yard line only to have the play called back on a holding penalty. From there, the Eagles struggled to convert, and on fourth and long failed to convert, handing the ball over to Charleston with under a minute remaining, allowing them to run out the clock.
The near-win was bittersweet for an Eagles team hungry for a defining win. On the evening, they held Charleston in check, allowing only 100 total yards on the ground and 123 through the air, but the short field was enough to allow the Tigers to escape. Paris was led by DaKovan Wise with 182 yards on the ground, running time off the clock and wearing down the Charleston defense. Travis Bryant led defensively with six tackles and J.P. Potts added five, including the pick-six that gave Paris it’s largest lead.
Paris must now rebound for another home game against Atkins this Friday night. The game will have huge playoff implications with both teams now battling for positioning. Expect another hard fight.