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Eastside’s next man up mentality leads to Melik Brown’s first win at helm

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

Julius Dominguez, pictured, reeled in five receptions for 56 yards and a game-tying touchdown, and secured an interception to help seal Eastside's 14-12 win over Willingboro on Friday, September 30, 2022. Kevin Emmons D2 Sports Network

WILLINGBORO (N.J.) - Melik Brown has been around the sport of football long enough to know each game garners a different outcome.

There will be humbling setbacks. And there will be defining victories.

The first-year Eastside High School coach was grateful to experience the latter of the two as the Tigers salvaged their season with a 14-12 victory over Willingboro at Carl Lewis Stadium on Friday night.

Brown earned his first win at the helm and Eastside improved its record to 1-3.

"First one's over, now we gotta go get the next one," Brown said. "I'm excited to get my first win as head coach and I'm just looking forward to next week. The celebration at the end is all about the hard work we've been putting in each week."

Julius Dominguez secured an interception on a deflected pass with 4:21 left in regulation to help seal the victory. The play terminated a lengthy Willingboro drive that chewed nearly eight minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter.

"My cousin was at safety, they had put me at corner to match up with No. 4," Dominguez said. "He was having a good little first half. I ain't gonna lie, I thought he caught it. But our defender got a hand in there, I saw the ball, I caught it and made sure I had my feet in. It felt good."

The junior also reeled in the game-tying touchdown on a four-yard pass from Makhi Brunson with 2:07 left in the third stanza.

On the ensuing two-point conversion attempt, Brunson scooped a low snap and powered his way into the end zone to solidify a 14-12 advantage.

"It was a pass play and my center threw it at my ankles," Brunson said. "So I picked it up and just made a play. I knew we needed it. I couldn't pass the ball because I didn't have enough time. I picked it up and made a play for my guys."

Willingboro initially jumped out to a 12-0 lead in the opening period on a rushing score by Derek Fryer and a five-yard touchdown strike from freshman Lamar Best to Khamaad Rice.

The Tigers orchestrated a 12-play, 66-yard drive, capped by a two-yard rushing score by Brunson, to cut the deficit to six points with 9:56 left in the second quarter. The touchdown was set up by a 36-yard completion along the right sideline from the sophomore to Patrick Awo.

"It was a big play," Brunson said. "It was a money down because we just punted the ball. They was in Cover 3, I saw the safety flipped the sift, soon as he flipped the sift I threw the ball."

Eastside was also without Florida commit Will Norman, 2021 South Jersey Sports Zone All-South Jersey First Team selection Shamir Boyd, four-star recruit Will Love, and starters Judah Anthony, Yasir Matthews and Marshall Washington, among others.

The three-time defending sectional champions also committed 18 penalties and showed flashes of inexperience with new faces being thrusted into the action.

Nonetheless, the Tigers prevailed to snap a three-game losing skid and keep their playoff hopes alive.

"It just shows how resilient these kids can be," Brown said. "We preach next man up. Even when guys are not available or not there, we always got to prepare because you never know when it's gonna be your time to step up. I just congratulate these kids on just a hell of a week of preparation and they got the results."

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