Future bright for Royals


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Eastern Hancock

FINAL RECORD: 6-6

+/- FROM 2011: +3 wins

JV RECORD: 6-3

WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Royals went 4-2 down the stretch, including a 42-14 blowout of then-undefeated and Class A No. 5-ranked Hagerstown in the sectional quarterfinals.

“I thought at the end of the season the kids kind of learned how to win,” EH second-year coach Pat Echeverria said. “They won some games they maybe wouldn’t have won in the past.

“The goal is not just to compete, but to be able to beat the good teams. And the kids really believe we’re heading in the right direction. They’ve seen it now.”

Junior running back Spencer Gilbert recorded his second straight 1,000-yard season, gaining 1,618 yards on the ground.

Sophomore quarterback Logan Splater, in his first season starting under center, completed 90-of-164 attempts for 1,248 yards, 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

WHAT WENT WRONG: A four-game, midseason losing streak (all by double digits) helped put a winning record out of the Royals’ reach.

Junior starters Brenden Box (knee), a nose tackle, and linebacker Kenny Delph (leg) missed most of the season with injuries, but they should be at full health for the start of 2013.

The Royals’ fell behind 14-0 in the sectional championship to Scecina and lost 35-19.

2013: The Royals will lose only four senior starters — totaling six positions — to graduation. The ability and leadership of Jake Hicks (OT/DT), Mitchell Kramer (NT/OG), Dalton Korlowicz (S) and Sam Novick (LB) will be missed, but the return of Box and Delph from injuries will help fill the holes.

The only thing keeping Gilbert from a 2,000-yard rushing season next fall could be the Royals’ balanced offense. With a full season under his belt, Splater should be able to pick apart opposing secondaries. And EH’s top four receivers — Cooper Henderson, Derrick Noel, Gilbert and Austin Smith — are returning next year, along with the offensive and defensive lines.

“We’re going to be a bigger team, a faster team,” Echeverria said. “As long as we continue to work hard and hit the weight room, just like we did last year, we’re only going to get better.”

With an eye on improvement, Echeverria said a repeat of this season’s 2-4 start would be considered a disappointment in 2013.

“Absolutely,” Echeverria remarked. “The more you win, the more standards go up. Everybody was pleased when we won three games last year (up from one 2010 victory). Everybody was excited to get six wins this season.

“Next year, expectations will just increase that much more. And I think the kids are excited to have high expectations, because they haven’t really had that around here for a while.”

OF NOTE: If Scecina wins the semistate title Friday against Linton-Stockton, the Crusaders will be bumped to Class 2A next season under the IHSAA’s tradition factor protocol. Class A No. 1 Lafayette Central Catholic, which is playing in the other semistate against Sheridan, is already assured of moving to 2A next year.

With two of the major private-school Class A programs possibly out of the Royals’ way next season, Eastern Hancock could be in line for more than just a sectional championship.

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