CENTERVILLE — It’s been a season of streaks for the Eastern Hancock football team.
Following an 0-2 record to begin its season, the Royals rolled off four consecutive wins — only to lose their last three games of the season.
With a sectional-opening win against Centerville on Friday, however, Eastern Hancock put its foot in the right direction towards another positive run. Senior running back Devin Denny was a force with the ball and helped the Royals secure a 27-0 win on the road.
Denny finished with 188 yards (33 carries) and three total touchdowns after nearly gaining 100 yards on the ground in the first half.
The Centerville offense had not been shutout all season and failed to register a first down in the first half Friday. It finished the game with three total. It is also the first time Eastern Hancock has held a team to zero points this year.
“First of all, (Centerville) is a good team,” Royals head coach Jim O’Hara said. “They made our kids play hard. Our defense did play well. Clayton Shultz (defensive coordinator) did a good job with the game plan, and the kids almost executed it flawlessly.”
Eastern Hancock (5-5) moves on in Sectional 38 action and will play Triton Central (6-4) next Friday. The Tigers held a 42-0 lead over Switzerland County at halftime in their opening-round game.
Denny and junior quarterback Jarett Lewis gave the Royals a commanding 20-0 lead with 5:07 to play in the third quarter to all but seal the win. Lewis, who finished the game 7 of 16 passing for 109 yards, found the dual-threat back down the left sideline for his 18th touchdown toss this season.
Denny added a 54-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
“We were trying to mix it up a little bit,” Lewis said of the game plan. “Our offensive line got off the ball and pushed guys back. We realized we can run on them. The line showed up tonight.”
Despite an interception from Lewis early in the first quarter, Eastern Hancock’s defense held firm and the Royals’ offense used long drives to secure a 14-0 lead at halftime.
Denny capped a successful drive early in the second quarter (9:45) for the first score of the game. He trucked in the end zone from four yards away for an early lead, which would hold until there was just seconds left in the half.
Senior Brandon Francis recovered a fumble in Centerville (3-7) territory on the ensuing possession but Eastern Hancock was forced to punt — thanks in large to a penalty on first down.
Francis, senior Jacob Toth and junior Clayton Cochard wrecked havoc at the line of scrimmage all evening.
“We are still trying to build the trust and play for one another,” O’Hara said. “But it’s getting better.”
Lewis added the second score of the game with under 30 second left in the second quarter. He faked a hand off to Denny and scored on a 3-yard scamper. The drive burnt over four minutes off the clock.
Lewis finished 5-for-10 passing in the opening half for 79 yards, while Denny carried a bulk of the offense with 23 rushes for 93 yards. The Royals were 7 of 11 on third down conversions through two quarters of play. They finished the game with 13 first downs.
Cochard had the biggest play of the game in the first half as Lewis connected with the big tight end for a 35-yard gain in the second quarter.