ADDING TO THE LIST: Royals’ offense rewriting record books

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CHARLOTTESVILLE — Eastern Hancock’s high-powered offense is leaving quite a legacy.

You can expect those assets to grow.

Quarterback Houston Swan is already setting career marks for passing and he’s only a junior. Wide receiver Cole Rainbolt is climbing up the receiving charts, too, and he’s a classmate.

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J.P. Fuchs is a senior, but he’s only been in the program a little over a year. You can expect him to be close behind Rainbolt on the all-time reception list. For the meantime, he’s been setting single-game marks (setting the record last year with 10 receptions in one game).

“It affirms what we’re doing,” Eastern Hancock offensive coordinator Michael Galyan said.

They’re setting marks and they’re winning games.

The 2019 team went 8-3 and won the Mid-Eastern Conference title. This year’s club is off to a 2-1 start, with the lone loss coming to Class 5A New Albany, 50-43. The Royals are ranked No. 10 in Class 2A.

Swan set the single-game passing yardage mark in the season opener against Class 2A Alexandria, throwing for 386 yards in a 45-21 win.

In last week’s 49-16 victory over Class 1A Wes-Del in the conference opener, Swan became the school’s all-time leader in completions and now has 361 three games into his junior season.

Swan is catching up to Jarett Lewis (2014-17) on the all-time career passing yards list. Lewis finished with 5,417. Swan goes into tonight’s game at Class 2A No. 5 Heritage Christian with 4,590.

He is also just two touchdown passes away from Lewis’s career leading mark of 58. Swan has had four touchdown passes in each of the team’s first three games this year.

Rainbolt is closing in on Austin Smith’s all-time receiving yards record of 1,825, set from 2012-15. Cooper Henderson is second with 1,564 (2011-14) and Rainbolt has 1,384.

Head coach Doug Armstrong is in his third year with the Royals and his 19th overall. He’s a veteran of Hancock County football having successful coaching stints at both Mt. Vernon and New Palestine.

“I coach my offenses based on what I have,” Armstrong said. “At Mt. Vernon we had really good runners and we didn’t have prolific passers, so we ran the ball, double-wing, and all that, because that’s what we were going to be good at.

Here, we, obviously, have a quarterback that excels at throwing the football. We have receivers that can get open and our backs can get out in routes and catch balls.”

In 2019, the Royals averaged 232 passing yards per game for a school single-season record of 2,553 yards. The 203 completions were also a school mark.

Swan and his talented group of receivers are on pace to knock some of those records out, too.

After three games of a nine-game regular-season schedule, the junior signal-caller has 918 passing yards, an average of 306 per game.

Rainbolt and Fuchs have been his top targets, but four receivers have over 100 yards receiving on the year. Five different players have TD catches and nine different players have receptions.

Rainbolt, Fuchs, Landon O’Neal, running back Zach Arnold and Cayden Sotelo are all already among the school’s top 25 in receptions. O’Neal and Arnold are also juniors.

“I have always felt that pass defense is the weakness of most high school football teams. If you can exploit it, it gives you an advantage,” Armstrong said. “Since we now have the weapons, that’s what we are trying to do.

“It’s a pleasure to watch them. I love seeing them be successful because they work hard at what they do. All of them are representing the team and their school very well.”

Rainbolt went over the 100-career reception mark this season. He is just 12 away from leader Henderson who wrapped up his Eastern Hancock career with 126 grabs.

“I’ve lived here since I was in kindergarten and remember watching the team in 2013 that went to the state finals,” Rainbolt said. “It’s pretty cool to see how many records they broke and now we’re breaking some of their records.”

It’s no secret how this group has had so much success.

It boils down to hard work on and off the field.

Galyan said his receiving group has the highest grade-point average on the team.

“Part of it is, they are smart,” the ninth-year assistant coach said. “They’re smart, dedicated and they like each other. They showed up the first week of July and looked as good as they did at the end of October last year. We hadn’t done anything in nine months and they looked like they were right in rhythm.”

Rainbolt (58) and Fuchs (47) are first and third, respectively, on the team’s single-season reception list, set last season. Rainbolt leads this year with 18 catches for 265 yards and four touchdowns. Fuchs has 14 receptions for 261 and four scores.

“We’re really fortunate,” Swan said. “I know a lot of teams at the Class 2A level don’t have the kind of athleticism and speed we have. We have a lot of smarts, too. Guys know what we’re doing and we have one of the bigger offensive lines in 2A.”

Swan said he considers all of his marks team records, giving praise to his receivers and offensive line for the accomplishments.

“It’s always a goal of ours coming in. It’s something to work for,” Swan said of the records, but he adds the record he is most focused on is the Royals’ win-loss record. “Now that we have some, we’ve got to keep striving to increase them. We want to get wins and get farther in the post season.”

The more wins equals more games which will equal more records and increasing the ones they already own.

“We have had our most success when our focus is on moving the football and moving the chains,” Galyan added. “A lot of it depends on what kind of run we make in the tournament or if we have any games cancelled because of COVID.”

The schedule is getting tougher, too, though the offense has shown it can move the ball against all of its opponents. The Royals, beginning with tonight’s game against Heritage Christian have a strong schedule ahead including games with Shenandoah, Monroe Central, Lapel and rival Knightstown.

The school record for wins is 14, accomplished by the 2013 team.

That’s one they’d all like a part of.

“I’m really wanting to get the team wins record,” Swan said. “This year, we can’t break it, but I’d like to tie it. That would mean we were in the state title game and winning it that would mean a lot to me and the rest of the guys here.”