The East High Thunderbirds advanced to the semifinal round of the 2021 Division I high school playoffs with a 48-14 victory over the Service Cougars in the quarterfinals on Saturday night.
Seniors Damarion Delaney and Deuce Zimmerman led the charge with big plays on both sides of the ball.
“I feel like we played good on both sides of the ball today as a team and we got the job done,” said Delaney.
Delaney scored four touchdowns including three in the first half and hauled in an interception. He was named the CIC Utility Player of the Year earlier in the week and showed why he was deserving of the mantle by making plays as a runner and receiver.
“I was glad to see Damarion go off,” said East coach Jeff Trotter. “He’s one of the hardest workers on the team so it was good to see him get his accolades too.”
He scored the first points of the game on an end-around handoff that he ran in for a 4-yard touchdown and was back in the end zone again four plays later on a 20-yard reception after Service turned the ball over on special teams three plays later.
His third touchdown was the most impressive of the quartet and it gave East a 27-14 lead heading into halftime. Senior quarterback Kyler Johnson rolled to his right and Delaney was able to go up and haul in the 19-yard strike over a pair of Service defenders.
“Kyler put it right over the top in a perfect spot so I just had to go up and get it at its highest point and make the play,” said Delaney.
His fourth score came early in the quarter and effectively put the game out of reach after he was able to get behind the Cougars’ defense for a 23-yard touchdown to put the Thunderbirds up 35-14 after a successful two-point conversion attempt.
“I love seeing another person shine as much as me and even more today,” Zimmerman said. “It runs in the family.”
Delaney was also named to the All-Conference First Team and finished the game with 100 all-purpose yards on 10 touches. He recorded five receptions for 81 yards and carried the ball five times for 19 yards.
Zimmerman would not be completely outdone by his teammate and cousin with a strong showing of his own. He was able to reach the end zone twice, once on offense and once on defense.
“He’s always so greedy and looks angry when he doesn’t get more than a touchdown which I appreciate and you want that,” said Trotter of his other First Team All-Conference receiver who finished with a team-leading 112 receiving yards on six catches.
He scored on a 65-yard catch and run where Johnson eluded pressure on third-and-17 before finding him deep downfield. He also scored on his second interception of the game and he returned it 5 yards for the score late in the third quarter.
“I don’t think I played as good so I had to make up on defense and score some way,” Zimmerman said. “I read the quarterback right, picked it off, and scored.”
The pick-six extended East’s advantage on the scoreboard to 41-14 and was the highlight of a dominant second-half performance by the defense. East finished with five interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
“We were playing to their potential in the first half,” said Zimmerman. “In the second half, we picked up, started playing like we usually play, and blew it out the water.”
Service fought from start to finish and made it a competitive game in the first half before East was able to pull away in the second.
“I thought Service schemed us well, I thought their players played awesome,” said Trotter. “They were actually playing more aggressive football than we were. … They wanted it a little bit more than we did, especially in that first half, and kept it close.