Royals beat rival Raiders to keep pace in Mid-Eastern Conference race


By Phil Beebe/For Daily Reporter

MIDDLETOWN — Phil Morris was all smiles Friday night standing on the football field at Shenandoah High School.

He had just finished telling his players that they won every part of the game against the Raiders: offense, defense, special teams. And he was facing the scoreboard that said visitors 20, home 14.

“Big plays, no mistakes, finishing drives, and not only offensively making big plays, but defensively stopping the run, controlling the line of scrimmage better, just a great team win,” the Eastern Hancock coach said.

The victory improved Eastern to 5-3 overall and 3-1 in Mid-Eastern Conference play. And now the Royals need a little help next week from the Raiders that they handled this week. That’s because Shenandoah plays Monroe Central next week, and the Class A No. 2 Golden Bears have not lost an MEC game this season.

“We’re still in it,” Morris said. “I told every (Shenandoah) coach, I said, ‘Beat Monroe.’ We got a shot. We took care of business.”

Eastern Hancock scored first, and scored twice before Shenandoah found the end zone, forcing the hosts to play from behind all night long.

The Royals got a big game from Cole Rainbolt, who caught and ran his way to 120 yards from the line of scrimmage. And EH quarterback Houston Swan effectively found receivers when he needed them most, converting on third-and-goal, fourth-and-three, and fourth-and-11.

Swan seemed to have all night to stand in the pocket or dance behind the line of scrimmage waiting for an open receiver, as his line protected him well.

“The offensive line really came together,” Morris said, noting the leadership of seniors Carter Dishman and Reed Hedrick. “They stepped up and controlled the line of scrimmage, and that’s where it’s won.”

Shenandoah had opportunities to take the lead late, but the Raiders could not get anything going against the Eastern defense. Shenandoah had three possessions in the fourth quarter, and a touchdown on any of those possessions would have given the Raiders the lead and, potentially, the victory.

Unfortunately, the Raiders couldn’t even get a single first down in that pivotal quarter.

“They made big plays when they needed to, congrats to them,” Shenandoah coach Jake Stilwell said. “It just didn’t fall our way tonight. We’ll learn from it and we’ll get better.”

Eastern Hancock scored touchdowns in each of the first two quarters.

In the first, Swan found Landon O’Neal in the end zone for a 7-yard score. In the second, the Royals were inside the Raider 30-yard line looking at a fourth-and-three, and Swan connected with Rainbolt for a 24-yard scoring play.

The Royals’ final score of the night perhaps best illustrated the toughness, determination, and ability to make key plays. Staring at a fourth-and-11, Swan stepped back and fired across the middle to a streaking Zach Arnold, who went 37 yards for a touchdown. That capped a 68-yard, 13-play drive to open the second half.

Shenandoah responded with its own touchdown, but the Royals held their ground for the final 14 minutes.

Eastern Hancock 20, Shenandoah 14

EASTERN HANCOCK (4-3, 2-1 MEC);7;6;7;0;—;20

SHENANDOAH(4-2, 2-0 MEC);0;7;7;0;—;14

EH—O’Neal 7 pass from Swan (Redmon kick), 8:10

EH—Rainbolt 24 pass from Swan (kick failed), 6:09

S—Stevens 3 pass from Brookbank (Redick kick), 2:42

EH—Arnold 37 pass from Swan (Redmon kick), 6:57

S—Ayers 2 run (Redick kick), 2:20