Turnovers doom East Limestone in loss to Madison Academy

East Limestone defensive backs Jed Sutherland (28) and TJ Tyson (5) go up to knock down a pass intended for Madison Academy's Slate Rucker (22). Rucker had two touchdown receptions in the game as Madison Academy defeated East 42-20.

If you looked at most of the statistics from East Limestone's game against Madison Academy Friday night, you would think it would have been a very close game, perhaps with the Indians even coming out on top.

East had more total yards, more rushing yards and more first downs than the Mustangs, but none of those advantages could offset the huge deficit the Indians faced in the turnover battle. That is the statistic that doomed East to a 42-20 loss in a Class 5A, Region 8 clash.

East Limestone had six turnovers, including five interceptions, with two of those interceptions being returned for touchdowns. Madison Academy, on the other hand, had just one turnover.

“You can't beat anybody turning the ball over six times,” East Limestone coach Jeff Pugh said. “We've got to be able to throw the ball a little bit. We've got people running open, and we've got to be able to hit them. If we don't do a better job in the passing game, teams are just going to continue to load the box to stop the run.”

The first half was mostly a defensive struggle. It took Madison Academy nearly the entire first quarter to score, as Avery Seaton threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Slate Rucker with 32 seconds remaining in the quarter to give the Mustangs a 7-0 lead.

The score would remain the same until 1:43 left in the first half, as Seaton hooked up with Rucker again, this time on a 22-yard touchdown strike to put the Mustangs up 14-0 at halftime.

The first minute of the second half was a disaster for East Limestone, as Madison Academy scored two touchdowns to double its lead and basically put the game away.

Jackson Hirschler returned an interception 44 yards for a touchdown just 34 seconds into the second half, and after getting the ball right back after another Indians turnovers, scored again 20 seconds later on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Seaton to Clay Pitsinos.

“Not only did we have turnovers, we gave away turnovers that cost us points on the scoreboard,” Pugh said. That's a double-edged sword. We gave up points and gave our opponent an opportunity to score too. We shot ourselves in the foot, no doubt about it.”

East finally got on the scoreboard midway through the third quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by Isaiah Sutherland, but Madison Academy answered back with a 1-yard touchdown run by Josh Malone with 1:00 left in the quarter.

East would score twice in the fourth quarter, on a Kollin Swart 31-yard touchdown run and a Crimson Bivens 4-yard touchdown run, but Madison Academy would score on another interception return, this one an 18-yard return by Kai Watson.

DJ Davis and Swart were the bright spots for East Limestone. Davis rushed for 103 yards on 14 carries while Swart had 78 rushing yards and 52 receiving yards.

East Limestone (1-1, 0-1) will play at Madison County Friday night in another region contest.

“It doesn't get any easier,” Pugh said. “We've got work to do starting today to get ready for a strong Madison County team. When you run the ball the way we run it, people are going to start moving up to stop it, and we've got to make plays in the passing game and execute when we've got people open. That's on me, and we're going to start working on that today.”

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