CHARLOTTESVILLE — A promising beginning to Eastern Hancock’s football season has gone the other direction over the last four weeks.
After the Royals’ latest setback, 41-21 Saturday night to North Decatur on a delayed homecoming, coach Pat Echeverria assessed responsibility for his team’s skid, this after EH began 2-0. And it’s not necessarily on the players.
“Obviously, we, the coaching staff, need to do a better job trying to put our kids to be in a position to be successful,” he said. “I need to figure out what we need to do best and stick to that.”
A slow start, an inability to contain several potent Charger weapons and four turnovers — three leading to ND scores — contributed to the Royals’ defeat.
The Chargers jumped to a 21-0 lead before EH’s offense really began to get going. Two of the touchdowns were runs by Jason Kirchhoff, who ended with 174 yards and four TDs.
ND outgained the Royals 376-215 and also got a TD run and pass each by Brock Ricke as well as 100 receiving yards by John Hammersmith, 70 coming on one play.
The Royals, though, picked themselves up just before halftime and went in the locker room down only seven.
Sophomore quarterback Logan Splater directed both of EH’s late-half drives from midfield, first taking it in from the Chargers’ 9-yard line, then finding freshman Austin Smith on a 6-yard pass into traffic with four seconds left.
“The kids really started executing then,” Echeverria said. “We found a couple of things that were working and stuck to it.”
EH’s momentum didn’t last long after the lengthy homecoming ceremony. Ricke scored on the Chargers’ first drive of the second half, then Kirchhoff twice seized upon interceptions of Splater to put it out of the Royals’ reach.
“(ND) played great,” Echeverria said. “We didn’t play up to our potential.”
Splater scored again on a 2-yard run with 3:56 to go in the game. He was 7-for-11 for 52 yards and three picks.
Junior Spencer Gilbert rushed for 111 yards on 23 carries, his third triple-digit game this year.
The Royals wrapped up their Mid-Indiana Football Conference slate 1-3 and they’ll finish no better than tied for third in the five-team league.
“We need to start getting back to fundamentals,” Echeverria said. “I think the kids need to start believing in each other and trusting that their teammates are going to do the right thing, and making football fun again.”
It was the second time in three weeks EH had at least part of a game pushed back to Saturday because of weather. The Royals lost to Milan two weeks ago. The North Decatur game never got underway Friday.
North Decatur 41, Eastern Hancock 21
ND (5-1, 2-0 MIFC) 7 14 7 13 — 41
EH (2-4, 1-3 MIFC) 0 14 0 7 — 21
ND — Bagel, 24-yard pass from Ricke (Crowe kick), 4:28
ND — Kirchhoff, 29-yard run (Crowe kick), 10:56
ND — Kirchhoff, 1-yard run (Crowe kick), 7:19
EH — Splater, 9-yard run (Henderson kick), 4:05
EH — Smith, 6-yard pass from Splater (Henderson kick), :04
ND — Ricke, 1-yard run (Crowe kick), 9:00
ND — Kirchhoff, 7-yard run (kick failed), 7:12
ND — Kirchhoff, 55-yard run (Crowe kick), 6:26
EH — Splater, 2-yard run (Henderson kick), 3:56
First downs 14 7
Rushes-yards 45-252 35-163
Passing yards 124 52
Comp-Att-Int 3-7-0 7-11-3
Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 2-20 0-0
Rushing: Kirchhoff 28-174, Ricke 14-57, White 2-18, Hammersmith 1-3 (ND); Gilbert 23-111, Henderson 3-40, Splater 8-8, Noel 1-4 (EH).
Passing: Ricke 4-7-0-124 (ND); Splater 7-11-3-52 (EH)
Receiving: Hammersmith 3-100, Bagel 1-24 (ND); Henderson 3-16, Noel 1-16, Gilbert 2-14, Smith 1-6 (EH)