CHARLOTTESVILLE — The Knightstown Panthers came out revved up Friday night, striking first with a big momentum play early, but Eastern Hancock withstood the pressure en route to a 28-14 victory.
With less then 30 seconds off the clock in the first quarter, visiting Knightstown went up 7-0 behind a blazing 75-yard run by Victor Olivo. From there, the Royals (4-1), who won their fourth straight, went to work at Ed Knarr Field
“We just didn’t panic,” Eastern Hancock senior quarterback Jarett Lewis said. “Once they scored, we knew it was our time to score. We just went in there and did what we do best. We stuck to our game plan. We knew we could play our game, take the lead and win.”
Lewis did his part, rushing for a 62-yard touchdown nearly a minute after Olivo’s highlight play, and passing for a pair of strikes before halftime.
Lewis, who now owns every single passing record in school history, finished with 138 yards on 11 of 25 completions. He tossed one inconsequential interception and added 115 yards rushing.
While Lewis kept the offense composed, the Royals backfield belonged to their Olivo —Victor — who had 108 yards on 20 carries and the final touchdown of the night with 9:38 left in the fourth quarter.
Olivo, who is cousins with Jose, was thrust into the spotlight after the Royals recently lost senior Spencer Maxwell to a season-ending knee injury.
“He had very little time last year. He was strictly kicking, but this year, he worked hard all offseason,” Lewis remarked on Olivo. “He’s quick, we like having him back there, and he’s a good guy to be around. It’s huge having him to step in to fill the shoes left by Maxwell.”
Olivo helped setup the Royals second and go-ahead score with an 18-yard run on second-and-10 from Knightstown’s 39. A sack and a penalty halted the second-quarter drive momentarily until Lewis connected with Luke Splater with a 28-yard strike.
Lewis and Splater reunited again before halftime to cap a nine-play drive covering 83 yards in 2:19 seconds. A 10-yard pass from Lewis put Eastern Hancock up 20-7. Splater finished with five receptions and 76 yards.
“We’re starting to practice better, and it all starts with practice,” Eastern Hancock head coach Jim O’Hara said. “We just need to stop these penalties. We keep shooting ourselves in the foot. You can’t be a championship team if you keep making mistakes.”
The defense bent twice, allowing the Panthers’ initial big play and another in the third quarter as Tyler Burton heaved a 57-yard touchdown pass to Lane Parker to cut the deficit 20-14.
After a missed 31-yard field goal attempt, the Royals found the end zone again on an eight-play drive, highlighted by Olivo’s score and 2-point conversion reception.
“This give us confidence moving forward,” Lewis said. “This is a huge win. I’m glad we got it. This is their Super Bowl. We knew they were going to throw everything at us.”
The win marks Eastern Hancock’s fifth consecutive against rival Knightstown (2-3). They travel to North Decatur next Friday.