CHARLOTTESVILLE — A sack transformed into a touchdown. Then an interception from senior Jayson Bowers ended in the same fashion. After that came fumble and onside kick recoveries. Before North Decatur even got off the bus, Eastern Hancock was in control.
The Royals used a dominant first quarter performance from their defense Friday to storm out to a 21-0 lead on way to their fourth consecutive win. Bowers finished with 1.5 sacks, as well, as Eastern Hancock won 41-8.
In two losses to begin its season, the Royals’ defense allowed 72 points. In three straight wins dating back to Sept 9, Eastern Hancock has allowed just 12.3 points per game.
Junior outside linebacker Clayton Cochard was credited with the onside kick recovery and also came up with two sacks in the victory.
“I think our defense started out amazing,” Cochard said, who also plays tight end. “We have to work on not letting up after being tough the first three or four drives.
“We played really well, though. A lot of it is what the coaches call and had a gameplan for. We just wanted to adjust to what they were doing.”
Senior running back Devin Denny led Eastern Hancock (4-2) with 196 rushing yards and three total touchdowns. Junior quarterback Jarett Lewis finished 6 of 17 passing for 115 yards and three scores to three different receivers.
He gave the Royals a 28-8 lead early in the second half with a 2-yard touchdown pass to junior Payton Wilkinson. Denny then broke the game open with two minutes remaining in the third quarter after a 72-yard rush to give Eastern Hancock a 34-8 advantage.
In the first quarter, Denny scored on Eastern Hancock’s second play of scrimmage after a solid start and four-and-out from its defense. He took a hand off from Lewis 14 yards for his sixth rushing score of the season.
“He is good at getting out of tackles,” Cochard said of Denny. “You have to hit him low and really focus on it.”
Lewis then found Denny through the air approximately four minutes later — thanks to Bowers aforementioned pick of North Decatur quarterback Evan Smith.
Then came Lewis’ second touchdown toss of the half. He scrambled right at the Chargers’ (2-4) 8-yard line and found a sliding A.J. Muegge at the edge of the end zone for another Royals’ touchdown.
Eastern Hancock would finish the first half with six first downs (13 total) to North Decatur’s three. Lewis struggled to his standards and was 4 of 15 passing at halftime for 81 yards. Denny picked up 69 yards on 13 carries in the first half.
The Royals lone hiccup on defense in the first half came in the second quarter after senior running back Cory Fasbinder charged 72 yards for the team’s first score with just under two minutes on the clock.
Senior linebacker Craig Rifner (1.5) and lineman Jacob Miller (one) also recorded sacks in the win. Rifner, senior outside linebacker Brandon Francis, Cochard and Bowers were seen all over the field on Friday.
Freshman Garrett Friesen added an interception in the final minute of the fourth quarter, as well.
The Royals beat the Chargers 42-18 last season and are now tied in the series at seven wins each (last 30 years).
Eastern Hancock will be at Monroe Central next week.