CRAWFORDSVILLE — Under the Friday night lights in November, when only one team can keep its season alive, the better teams begin to separate themselves from the pack.

In Friday night’s regional championship in Crawfordsville, the title of the “better team” could have gone either way, and it took all 48 minutes to decide who would move on to next week’s semi-state.

With a final-minute touchdown, Southmont (8-5) knocked off Eastern Hancock (8-5) 41-34. The eight wins are the Royals most since 2019, and the game was their first regional appearance since 2014.

“I couldn’t be prouder of these guys. Win, lose, or draw I’m going to go to war with this group. They’re going to go to war with each other too, and they’ve proved that all year long,” Eastern Hancock head coach Pat Echeverria said. “I’m just proud to be a Royal.”

Two touchdowns in the final 1:37 by Southmont capped off the back-and-forth contest and gave them the late lead, and victory.

After a Mark Kube 12-yard touchdown run put the Royals ahead by six with 8:38 remaining, the ground-and-pound offense of the Mounties went to work.

Southmont drove 58 yards on 10 rushing plays and ran off nearly seven minutes of game time for the game-tying score. A missed extra point by the Mounties kept things tied at 34.

A few plays into the Royals potential game-winning drive, a low snap led to a Royals fumble and Southmont recovery. The turnover was Eastern’s first of the postseason.

“You can’t look back at one play and say that’s the difference in the game,” Echeverria said. “It was just an unfortunate play at the time and their kids were there to take advantage of it.”

The Mounties drove 34 yards on four Wyatt Woodall runs for the game-winning score with 37 seconds remaining.

A good kick return gave the Eastern Hancock offense a chance, but quarterback Elijah Edon’s ‘Hail-Mary’ attempt in the closing seconds came up empty.

“They’ve [Southmont] done a nice job all year and they’re really physical,” Echeverria said. “We just didn’t play well in the first half and ran out of time in the second half.”

The Royals trailed at the break 20-7, but it wasn’t because of a lack of scoring chances.

Eastern Hancock’s first drive of the game stalled at the Southmont 21, and later in the half, Kube was stuffed on fourth and goal from the one.

While the Royals missed their chances in the first half, the Mounties took advantage.

Quarterback Nolan Boyer scored the first touchdown of the game on a 62-yard option run, and Woodall ran in two short touchdowns.

The Royals lone first-half score came on an Edon 50-yard quarterback keeper.

“We missed some opportunities in the first half. I think our kids knew that they couldn’t stop us on offense, but that’s a really, really good football team,” Echeverria said. “It’s tough when you’re playing a good team and they’re that physical. They just made some good plays and we missed some opportunities.”

Out of the break, the Royals made up for those missed opportunities on both sides of the ball.

After a fourth down stop of their own to open the half, the Royals offense began their comeback.

They drove 48 yards on six plays capped off by Kube’s first of four second-half touchdowns to cut into the Mounties lead, 20-14.

On the next Southmont possession, pressure on third down by Ethan Sipes forced an incomplete pass, and a tipped punt by Caiden Willis gave the offense the ball back at the Mounties’ 24-yard line.

An 8-yard Kube run and an Aaron Redmon extra point gave the Royals their first lead of the night.

A 23-yard rushing touchdown by Kyler McCandless gave the Mounties the lead back near the end of the third quarter, but again, the Royals fought back.

Kube punched in his third score of the night to answer, and after the Royals defense forced a fumble, he ran in his fourth and final touchdown to put Eastern Hancock ahead with 8:38 remaining.

In the battle of star running backs, though, it was the senior, Woodall, who got the last say with his two late touchdown runs.

He ran for 244 yards and four touchdowns on 35 attempts.

“He’s [Woodall] a heck of a player,” Echeverria said. “Hats off to him.”

For the Royals, Kube had 126 yards and four touchdowns, and Edon added 111 yards rushing and one touchdown.

Through the air, Edon threw for 235 yards.

Senior Dylan Bowman caught seven passes for 58 yards, senior Brayden Sullivan hauled in four passes for 51 yards, senior Cameron Volz caught three passes for 32 yards, and another senior, Redmon, pulled down one deep pass for 41 yards.

Sophomore Eli Manship caught four passes for 40 yards.

Southmont 41, Eastern Hancock 34

Eastern Hancock (8-5);7;0;14;13;—;34

Southmont (8-5);14;6;8;13;—;41

Scoring Summary

1st Quarter

S – Nolan Boyer 62 run (Tyler Petroski kick), 6:48

EH – Elijah Edon 50 run (Aaron Redmon kick), 3:52

S – Wyatt Woodall 3 run (Petroski kick), :19

2nd Quarter

S – Woodall 2 run (conversion failed), 4:51

3rd Quarter

EH – Mark Kube 10 run (Redmon kick), 7:56

EH – Kube 8 run (Redmon kick), 5:47

S – Kyler McCandless 23 run (Aaron McMasters pass from Boyer), 1:47

4th Quarter

EH – Kube 8 run (Redmon kick), 10:43

EH – Kube 12 run (kick failed), 8:38

S – Woodall 7 run (kick failed), 1:46

S – Woodall 2 run (Petroski kick), :37