GULFPORT - East Lake (1-4) used a ball-control running game and a big-play pass attack to defeat Gibbs 42-25.
"The first four games we were up at the half in three of them, and we just couldn't finish it," said East Lake coach Bob Hudson, alluding to his team's earlier meltdowns.
"I can't explain the feeling. I'm just so happy for the guys. We got back to our style of offense."
Gibbs (2-3) is accustomed to making game-breaking plays, but the Eagles were determined not to give the Gladiators many opportunities.
It looked as if the momentum was about to switch with 3:01 left in the second quarter when East Lake fumbled in its territory leading 14-3. Gibbs recovered on the 30 but could only move the ball 5 yards. The Gladiators then missed a 35-yard field goal. The Eagles then drove 80 yards in 2:36 to make it 21-3 at halftime.
"The defense gives away too many points every week," Gibbs coach Alvin Davis said. "The defense has to step up."
It didn't happen in the second half.
"You see how athletically talented they are," Hudson said of Gibbs. "Our best defense is keeping our offense on the field, keeping the ball out of their hands."
The Eagles held the ball for all but two minutes of the third quarter, opening the half with a 68-yard drive that took almost ten minutes. It was twice extended by the Gladiators jumping offsides.
Quarterback Derek Tate hooked up with receiver Phillip Caralla with 5:07 left in the third for a 17-yard touchdown pass that put the game out of reach. He registered his second touchdown pass in the fourth when he connected with Caralla again, this time on a 58-yard run and catch over the middle.
"He's something else," Hudson said of Tate. "There isn't a more fierce competitor."