For The Daily Reporter
INDIANAPOLIS — On the night before Halloween, the Eastern Hancock Royals lost their first and last game of the season to the Howe Hornets 34-13.
Having not seen an offense this fast, the second-ranked Royals played catch up during the Class 2A Sectional 38 semifinals, making tackles after running backs had cleared through the hole.
“It’s just so fast,” Eastern Hancock head coach Jim O’Hara said of Howe’s offense. “That quarterback rides the read option, you don’t know where the ball is and then he pops out.”
“He can throw it deep, he can throw it short; there’s just a lot to defend.”
Yet, it was the Royals (10-1) who came out clicking on offense early on. Two crucial fourth-down conversions led to a 33-yard screen pass from Jarett Lewis to Devin Denny to give the Royals an early 7-0 lead after only five minutes.
It didn’t take long for the Hornets (8-3) to respond, however, coming out of the gate with two halfback passes to set up a 1-yard quarterback sneak and a score.
Two Royals interceptions gave Howe excellent field position deep in Royal territory. They scored on both attempts giving the Hornets a two-touchdown advantage late in the first quarter.
Kicking up the defensive intensity, the Royals would not surrender another score and would melt nearly eight and half minutes of the game clock behind their strong rushing attack. Lewis would punch in a score from 1 yard out to dig into the Hornet lead.
They would get another crack at a score but failed to score from 5 yards out in the final seconds of the first half.
The defense stepped up in the second half, forcing another fumble in the red zone and holding their own on a fourth-and-2 from their own goal line.
Yet, despite the much improved defensive effort early in the second half, the Royals weren’t able to turn their opportunities into touchdowns. They had six chances in the second half but were unable to get the offense moving.
They came close to changing the momentum of the game early in the fourth off a Lewis pass to Austin Smith, but it was fumbled into the end zone and recovered by Howe for a touchback.
It was a hard way for the Royals to go out, and with so much success during the past four years it was tough for this year’s senior class to say goodbye to football.
“The last four years they’ve been 9-3, 14-1, 10-3 and 10-1,” O’Hara stated. “That’s a pretty good legacy, they’re hurting right now, but we’ve had a good time.”