CHARLOTTESVILLE — The line of thunderstorms that consumed much of the greater Indianapolis area Friday night forced a postponement of the Eastern Hancock-Milan tilt until 6 p.m. today.
The game will resume at the start of the second quarter with Milan ahead 7-6 and facing and second-and-nine on the EH 30.
Play was halted at 7:30 p.m. Friday after lightning was spotted in the area. After an hour and 10-minute delay in which lightning was sighted intermittently, Milan athletic director John Prifogle and Eastern Hancock AD Aaron Spaulding conferred with their respective head coaches — Ryan Langferman of Milan and Pat Echeverria of EH — and determined that postponement was the best course of action.
Eastern Hancock — which was set to dedicate its new Royal Pride Bell at halftime — received the ball to begin the game and embarked on a seven-play, 74-yard scoring drive.
EH’s lone third down conversion came on an eight-yard pass from quarterback Logan Splater — questionable entering the contest with a knee injury — to Dalton Korlowicz.
After that, the Royals earned three straight first downs on a 19-yard run by Spencer Gilbert, a 10-yard scramble by Splater and a 12-yard scamper by Gilbert.
Derrik Noel then tallied his sixth touchdown on the season by taking an end-around in from nine yards out, which put EH (2-1, 1-1 Mid-Indiana Football Conference) up 6-0 after the extra point failed.
“The opening drive for them was pretty impressive,” said Langferman, whose team won last season’s meeting 13-10. “They took it right to our defense.”
Milan (2-1, 0-0 MIFC) would pick up a pair of first downs on its first drive before being forced into fourth-and-13 from the EH 41. But instead of punting, running back Scott Pennington took the long snap and fired a pass downfield to an open Milan wideout, but the intended receiver could not secure the throw.
The lost field position on the Indians’ gamble-gone-awry didn’t last long, as Willie Mays intercepted Splater’s pass on the next play and returned it to the EH 25.
After six plays and one fourth down conversion, Pennington scored from two yards out. The senior then booted a low line drive through the uprights to put the visitors up one.
Following a three-and-out, EH lined up to punt. The Royals couldn’t get an 11th player on the field in time, and Indians wound up partially blocking the kick.
The game was brought to a standstill after Milan’s Sam Thompson rushed for a one-yard gain on the last play of the first quarter.
“We had a few silly mistakes in the game that hurt us,” Echeverria said, “but the first drive was definitely promising and showed the kids that we can move the football.”
The delay presented a less than ideal situation for both teams’ coaching staffs, who were faced with the uncertainty of whether or not the game would be resumed Friday night.
“All day long we kind of wondered how the storm was going to pop out,” Echeverria offered. “We got the quarter in, then kids got a little restless. You try to keep them calm and get them to understand that they may have a game to play.”
Because of the postponement, both teams will have received the unusual opportunity to look at game film overnight and formulate the proper modifications to their strategy.
The visitors will likely want to find a way to slow Gilbert, who had rushed for 37 yards on four carries, whereas the Royals will seek to eliminate their self-induced errors.
“That’s the tricky part about these situations, everybody gets to go home, look at things and make adjustments,” explained Langferman, whose team must make the 72-mile trek to Charlottesville for the second day in a row. “It’ll be interesting when we come back. I hope our kids can adjust after another long bus ride.”
Echeverria believes the decision to postpone the action to today was the right one.
“I’m glad that we’re going home because we would’ve been on and off the field all night,” he offered. “Go home, get a fresh start and play the last three quarters.”