CHARLOTTESVILLE — While Eastern Hancock has plenty of seniors on the offense line and at wide receiver, the Royals offense is young at nearly every top skill position.

The Royals leading running back is a sophomore, their leading wide receiver is a sophomore, and their starting tight end and second-leading receiver is a junior.

Holding that core of talented non-seniors together is a young player himself, sophomore Elijah Edon.

The second-year quarterback has the Royals playing some of their best offensive football over their postseason run.

“Throughout the second half of the season he’s been really poised, his decision-making has been great and he’s done a nice job,” Eastern Hancock head coach Pat Echeverria said.

Over the Royals three-game winning streak, the offense has put up 45, 44, and 47 points. The three totals are Eastern’s highest on the season since a 45-point performance against Knightstown in Week 5.

“I’m always going to take what the defense is giving us. Sometimes you have to run the ball, and sometimes you have to throw it,” Echeverria said. “When we’re clicking and rolling, it’s when we can keep defenses off balance and put everything on the attack whether it’s short passes, deep passes, inside or outside runs. We’re going to go to whatever we can find to attack.”

Allowing Echeverria and the Royals to go into full attack mode has been the growth from Edon this season.

As a freshman last year, Edon threw for 1,533 yards and 19 touchdowns, and while his passing touchdowns are down to 17 this season, in the areas that matter the most, Edon has improved across the board.

His interceptions are down from nine to seven, his completion percentage is up from 53.4 to 62.1 and his quarterback rating is up from 82.9 to 100.1.

“I’ve just been watching film and learning to trust my reads this year,” Edon said. “I’ve stopped second-guessing myself too.”

His ability to create in the pocket and use his legs has given the Royals offense another dynamic. Last season he ran for 172 yards and three scores, while this year he has rushed for 585 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Edon, who started playing flag football in kindergarten, and started playing quarterback in third grade, credits a full year of starting games as a freshman as a big reason for his improvements this season.

“It was definitely a big jump, and it was challenging, but I loved it, and I loved that challenge,” Edon said. “It helped me a lot. The game has slowed down a lot this year. It’s a lot easier to get through reads, and all of that stuff that you have to do at the position.”

Echeverria and the Royals coaching staff knew the growing pains that could come with starting a freshman at the most important offensive position, but that was all part of the plan that is paying dividends at the most opportune time.

“At that point, it was the best thing for the team. He was still mentally learning the game as a freshman, but you could see the talent was there,” Echeverria said. “It was one of those things where we were like, alright let’s let him learn and develop, and it’s paid off big time this year.”

Over the three-game postseason run, Edon has taken an even further leap forward.

He has thrown for 538 yards, and eight touchdowns on a 77.1 completion percentage, and has added 136 yards and three scores on the ground. Most importantly though, the sophomore signal-caller has zero turnovers in the postseason. His quarterback rating over the three-game stretch sits at 146.7.

All those marks are not only improvements from last season but improvements from the rest of this season.

“The game has just slowed down for him, and each opportunity that he gets to see a new defense or a new play has helped,” Echeverria said. “When he makes a mistake this year, he’s learning from it which is a big change from last year. Last year he’d get upset, and now this year he’s trying to process and learn from it which has helped make him better.”

Friday’s Class 2A Regional Games

7 p.m. – No. 5 LaVille (11-1) at No. 10 Lafayette Central Catholic (9-3)

7 p.m. – No. 8 Bluffton (10-2) at No. 7 Fort Wayne Luers (9-3)

7 p.m. – Eastern Hancock (8-4) at Southmont (7-5)

8 p.m. – No. 4 North Posey (11-1) at No. 1 Triton Central (11-1)

Game Capsule

Eastern Hancock (8-4) at Southmont (7-5)

Kickoff: 7 p.m.

Coaches: Pat Echeverria, 36-24 in 5th year at school, 68-80 in 13th year overall. Desson Hannum, 82-100 in 17th year at Southmont.

Recent history: No meetings.

Sagarin ratings: Eastern Hancock, 54.55, 125th overall, 14th in 2A. Southmont, 54.44, 126th overall, 15th in 2A.

Players to watch: Eastern Hancock — RB Mark Kube, DB Caiden Willis, LB Gabe Johnson, QB Elijah Edon, WR/S/KR Cam Volz, WR/DB Dylan Bowman, NG/T Logan Hoskins, TE Kayden Ruble, WR Eli Manship, OLB Evan Wheeler, K/WR Aaron Redmon, OLB Ayden Trueblood. Southmont — RB/MLB Wyatt Woodall, LB Marlin Williams, QB Nolan Boyer, WR/DB Kyler McCandless, WR/DB Aaron McMasters, OLB/RB Dylan Howell, LB Micah Kiger, OL/DL Waylon Gomez, OL/DT Will Cody.

What to look for: The Royals are coming off of their first sectional championship since 2014, and the offense seems to be clicking at the right time. Over each of the three sectional wins, Eastern’s offense put up 44 points or more led by the tandem of Edon at quarterback and Kube at running back. The defense has found its stride too, holding Ritter to 21 points in the semifinal and Winchester to 14 points in the championship. After a four-game losing streak leading into the postseason, Southmont has found its stride too, winning three straight including a sectional championship win over then 10-1 Linton-Stockton. The Mounties are another run-heavy team with Woodall leading the way rushing for 1,118 yards and 20 touchdowns on the season.