KNIGHTSTOWN — Eastern Hancock will have to wait another year to get its hands on the Plow Share & Anvil trophy after falling to rival Knightstown 38-20 Friday night.
The Panthers (4-1) have kept the trophy safe in Knightstown since 2008, and will do so again this year after a dominating second-half performance that saw them outscore the visiting Royals (2-3) 26-7.
The current EH seniors will have gone all four years without beating their counterparts from six miles away, a difficult truth not lost on EH coach Pat Echeverria.
“Anytime there’s a traveling trophy at stake with the rivalry, it’s something you want to be a part of and have a chance to hold,” said Echeverria, whose team fell for the third straight week. “The thing is, when we do get this thing, those seniors are going to be just as much a part of it even if they’re not on the team because they’re helping lay the foundation.
“Hopefully we’ll start to see more success in the ‘W’ column.”
The Royals led 13-12 at half on the strength of quarterback Logan Splater and hard running by Spencer Gilbert.
On 4th-and-4 from the Knightstown 35 late in the first quarter, Splater found wide receiver Cooper Henderson open in the flats. Henderson shook off his defender and not only garnered the first down, but outran the Panther defense for a touchdown to put the visitors up 7-0.
After Jared Souder returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a Knightstown touchdown, Gilbert (22 carries, 178 yards) broke free for a 76-yard score two plays later.
The Panthers occupied most of the second quarter with an 18-play, 83-yard drive, but were stonewalled late in the period by the Royal defense on 4th-and-1 from the EH 1 on a tackle for loss by Henderson.
That momentum was quickly stunted as Knightstown physically overwhelmed Eastern Hancock in the second half.
To begin the third quarter, the hosts embarked on a 10-play, 73-yard scoring drive. The Panthers wound up scoring four times on the ground in the final two frames, three of which came on the legs up senior running back Jordan Jessup.
Meanwhile, Eastern Hancock went interception, interception, three-and-out and lost fumble in its first four possessions after intermission, as the blue-and-white’s hopes of attaining its coveted rivalry trophy were vanquished behind a cloud of missed tackles and turnovers.
“I feel like a broken record sometimes talking about the mistakes. The first half we played pretty well,” said Echeverria, whose team turned the ball over four times Friday night. “That’s a physical football team, I think we just got worn out at the end. They’ve got a senior-laden group that’s got a lot of battles under their belt.”
Knightstown finished with 343 yards on 53 carries, with Jessup (21 rushes, 169 yards, four touchdowns) and Brennain Harper (24 carries, 144 yards, touchdown) relentlessly pounding the interior of the EH defense.
Following Jessup’s 29-yard scamper with 3:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Panthers, who entered the night averaging 52.8 points per game, had racked up 32 consecutive points.
EH’s last score came on a 1-yard dive by Splater. The Royals will host North Decatur (4-1) next Friday, which upset Class A No. 9 Milan 17-7 Friday night.
“We’ve just got to continue to fight and stay together. I think that’s the most important thing,” Echeverria said. “We can’t hang our heads because of losses. We’ve played three exceptional football teams the last three weeks and that’s going to pay off in the end because we’ll be battle-tested.”
Notes: Splater passed for 132 yards as EH finished with 334 yards of total offense. … Knightstown wasn’t whistled for a penalty until the fourth quarter. ... Gilbert crossed the 100-yard mark for the third time in 2012.
Knightstown 38, Eastern Hancock 20
EH (2-3) 13 0 0 7 — 20
KT (4-1) 6 6 12 14 — 38
EH — Henderson, 35-yard pass from Splater (Henderson kick), 2:13
KT — Souder, 99-yard kickoff return, (run failed), 1:57
EH — Gilbert, 76-yard run (kick failed), 0:56
KT — Jessup, 1-yard run (kick failed), 11:16
KT — Jessup, 10-yard run (run failed), 7:10
KT — Jessup, 8-yard run (run failed), 0:19
KT — Harper, 2-yard run (Souder kick), 4:01
KT — Jessup, 29-yard run (Souder kick), 3:30
EH — Splater, 1-yard run (conversion good), 0:45
First downs 13 17
Rushes-yards 32-203 53-343
Passing yards 132 16
Comp-Att-Int 9-19-2 2-4-1
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 3-1
Penalties 3-35 1-10
Rushing: Gilbert 22-178, Splater 7-23, Henderson 1-3, Spegal 2-(-1) (EH); Cleek 4-17, Jessup 21-169, Harper 24-144, Souder 4-13 (KT)
Passing: Splater 9-19-132 (EH); Cleek 2-4-16 (KT)
Receiving: Gilbert 2-26, A. Smith 2-27, Henderson 4-53, Korlowicz 1-26 (EH); Souder 1-6, Harper 1-10 (KT)