CHARLOTTESVILLE — This meeting was long overdue. The excitement on the field and in the stands was evident.
Facing one another for the first time in school history, Greenfield-Central and Class 2A No. 8 Eastern Hancock, located just 12 miles apart, played like two teams with a heated gridiron past. Cougars senior running back Skylar Gary expected nothing less.
Behind a big first half of offense for Greenfield-Central, including an 85-yard run from Gary, the Cougars used a 28-0 halftime lead to top the state-ranked Royals at home, 42-28.
Gary, sharing backfield duties with fellow senior Michael Sosnowski, totaled 154 yards on 10 carries. Sosnowski was equally efficient, finishing with 168 rushing yards on 12 attempts.
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Both added touchdowns in the first half.
“We play as a family and work hard every day in practice,” Gary said of the Cougars. “It’s a completely different culture (this year).
“We have a great offensive line, and we (him and Sosnowski) are really fast and work hard. We are a good duo and come at you with fresh bodies. It was great.”
Greenfield-Central senior quarterback Spencer Hert added a touchdown pass and run in his first start. Royals’ quarterback Jarett Lewis also rushed and threw for a score.
Senior lineman Dalton Shaw was a force for the Cougars (1-0) defense and recorded a fumble recovery and two sacks.
He helped limit Eastern Hancock running back Devin Denny to 26 yards on 14 carries in the first half. Denny would finish with 116 yards on 23 carries including a 55-yard touchdown run in the second half.
He also scored once in the first half.
After no score in the third quarter, each team scored twice in the fourth to keep to margin at 14 for the Cougars.
Greenfield-Central led Eastern Hancock 14-0 after the first quarter and 28-14 at halftime.
“We came out and weren’t ready for their physicality,” Royals defensive coordinator Clayton Shultz said. “Really, we were just all over the place. We had seven new starters on defense, and we spotted them 28. They were big and strong, and that Gary kid is a heck of a runner.
“Overall, the atmosphere was great tonight.”
It wasn’t Gary that struck first, though.
On the second play of the game, Greenfield-Central’s Sosnowski would take the ball 70-yards for a score to give the Cougars a 7-0 lead with only 30 seconds off the clock. Less than a minute later, Hert found wide receiver Braden Brown in the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown pass.
The Royals simply struggled to gain any traction in the opening quarter and allowed another score early in the second, as well, after Gary ripped off the aforementioned 85-yard touchdown run to put the visitors up 21-0.
Hert would add another touchdown run for the Cougars, this one from the 31-yard line, to give the Greenfield-Central a commanding 28-0 lead with just over seven minutes left in the quarter.
Late in the first half, though, Eastern Hancock (0-1) found its mojo and scored two touchdowns in the final 1:42.
Royals’ Lewis would find junior receiver Payton Wilkinson for a 21-yard touchdown pass and the team’s first score of the season. After a fake punt attempt went wrong for Greenfield-Central, Eastern Hancock recovered the ball on downs at the Cougars’ 28-yard line with 25 seconds left until half.
Lewis connected with junior receiver A.J. Muegge for a 14-yard gain only to see Denny punch it in from the 1-yard line one play later to pull Eastern Hancock within two scores, 28-14, to end the half.
Greenfield-Central running backs Sosnowski and Gary combined for 202 yards and two scores in the first half.
Royals’ junior tight end Clayton Cochard pulled in a 39-yard pass in the first half as Lewis finished 7 of 15 for 118 yards and a touchdown in the first two quarters.
Eastern Hancock hits the road Friday for a contest with South Decatur. Greenfield-Central returns home to face Bloomington North.