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Panthers fall to Royals in rivalry game

By RON GREESON - For The Courier-Times

CHARLOTTESVILLE – Knightstown ran the ball effectively in the first half of Friday’s varsity football game at Eastern Hancock.

The host Royals threw the ball effectively during the same period of time, but did it just a little more effectively.

This high-scoring first half ended with EH ahead 40-21, and the Royals went on to win 46-27 in the Battle for the Anvil between the two neighborhood rivals just seven miles apart on U.S. 40 The result moved the Royals to 4-1 on the season, while the Panthers fell to 3-2.

Coming into the game, senior running back Nick Walsh had been dominant running the ball for KHS, and sophomore quarterback Houston Swan had been much the same throwing the ball for EH.

Each team showed its prowess on this steamy Friday night, but the Eastern Hancock range of offensive weapons were more than the Panther defense could deal with in the first half, as the hosts scored five touchdowns, and with five straight successful two-point conversion plays, put 40 points on the scoreboard in the first half alone.

Walsh had two long scoring runs in the first half, and ended the night with over 200 rushing yards.

But Knightstown just didn’t have enough to deal with the very speedy Royals offense, and EH avenged last year’s 21-8 loss to the Panthers at Don Willard Field.

KHS head coach Chad Montgomery was not downcast after the team’s loss to Eastern Hancock.

“I want to specifically mention the fine play, on both offense and defense, of seniors Max Muncy and Nick Walsh,” said Montgomery after talking to his downcast team on the field. “Next week’s game (at Lincoln in a Tri-Eastern Conference game) is more important than this one.”

He explained further about his team’s chances for the remainder of the season.

“I believe our team can compete well with all of the remaining teams on our schedule, in conference play and going into the sectional,” the upbeat Montgomery said.

Friday’s game featured some key turnovers early by Knightstown, and some defensive mistakes like coverage errors and missed tackles.

Here’s how Eastern Hancock took control of Friday’s game.

On the first possession of the game, Knightstown gained a first down on a 14-yard run by Walsh, but the senior standout fumbled the ball moments later on a four-yard carry.

EH recovered the ball on the Knightstown 45-yard line, with a short field to get ahead early.

Victor Olivo fumbled on the first carry for the Royals, but a teammate jumped on the pigskin to retain possession. With a later 29-yard pass play from Swan to Cayden Sotelo, the Royals moved down to the Panther 11-yard line.

Three plays later, Swan passed to J. P. Fuchs for a nine-yard touchdown and EH took the lead for good. Senior Garrett Friesen ran for the two-point conversion and an 8-0 lead.

Knightstown came right back to score a touchdown of its own.

On the fifth play of the ensuing drive, Walsh broke free and sprinted down the field for a 56-yard touchdown with 5:45 left on the first quarter clock. Brett Montgomery booted the extra point kick, leaving the Royals ahead 8-7.

Now it was EH’s turn to score, and quickly.

On the first play after a short kickoff to the Royals 45-yard line, Swan passed to Sotelo, and he ran 55 yards to paydirt to stretch the lead. Swan passed to Fuchs for the two-point conversion and EH was up by two scores, nine points, with a 16-7 first quarter advantage.

Knightstown could not move the ball, or score a touchdown, and Walsh punted the ball back to Eastern Hancock.

On the third play of the next drive, the Royals turned the ball over when Swan fumbled the ball, and KHS standout lineman Sam Thomas covered the ball on the EH 27-yard line.

Ben Newby then came in at running back for the offense and broke a 26-yard run to the EH one-yard line. On the second play, Walsh ran for the touchdown, but his extra point kick was blocked, leaving the score at 16-13, EH.

Eastern Hancock then possessed the ball, and put together a nine-play drive that continued into the early seconds of the second quarter. Olivo ran for a three-yard touchdown to again stretch the lead, and then Swan passed to Zach Arnold for the conversion, and a 24-13 lead.

Lightning struck again for Walsh and the visiting Panthers.

After receiving the kickoff, Walsh ran 73 yards for another Knightstown score, and when Newby ran in for the two-point conversion, KHS trailed just 24-21, with 11:18 still to play before intermission.

But Eastern Hancock would add two more touchdowns, and 16 points, before the halftime break had finally arrived.

Right after the KHS short kickoff, a failed Swan pass play was followed by a nine-yard connection with Landon O’Neal, moving the ball to the KHS 43-yard line. Arnold then broke a 43-yard touchdown play to move the score to 30-21. Arnold ran for two more points and a 32-21 lead. The clock still read 10:29 left in the first half.

Again, on the next possession, the Panthers turned the ball over on downs. On the fourth down play, a bad snap to quarterback Chase Richmond of Knightstown resulted in EH taking over the ball.

With the ball on the Knightstown 17-yard line, the drive stalled, and EH turned the ball over on downs at the Panther 14-yard line.

Knightstown got one first down on the next drive, but Walsh punted the ball away.

Eastern achieved one first down, then fumbled, but recovered its own fumble again. But the Royals couldn’t sustain the offensive effort, turning the ball over on downs.

But in the waning minutes of the half, Richmond suffered an interception with just over two minutes to play before intermission.

This time, EH capitalized.

On the second play, Swan hit Cole Rainbolt for a 66-yard scoring play on a catch-and-run short pass with 1:13 left in the first half. Olivo ran in the two-point conversion for a 40-21 lead.

Knightstown had time for a scant few plays when the Panthers had the football at the end of the half.

First, Newby ran for 11 yards and a first down, and then Richmond passed the ball to Max Muncy for 16 yards, moving the ball into EH territory as the clock expired.

In the second half, EH had the choice, and was to receive the second half kickoff. Knightstown recovered an onside kick, and on the second play from scrimmage, Richmond passed to Max Muncy for a 34-yard touchdown. A pass play failed for a two-point conversion, and the score was 40-27, Royals.

EH then received the kickoff, and started possessing the ball. Eleven plays later, Olivo plunged one yard to score. Another run failed for the conversion, and the final score of 46-27 in favor of Eastern Hancock was established.

There was still 8:19 to play in the third quarter, but neither team could score for the rest of the game.

Mason Muncy intercepted one Swan pass to end a threat to score.

Later, EH had four first downs in moving down the field, but the same Mason Muncy picked up an interception on a play from the Knightstown 14-yard line.

In the final quarter, Swan was intercepted by Robert Porter, who returned the turnover after the return of the ball.

When Porter fumbled on the return, EH got the ball back and just ran out the clock to win.

Knightstown goes to Lincoln Friday night in a return to TEC play.

“I really believe last year’s game with EH meant more to the program than this year’s game did,” Montgomery concluded. “The kids will see that losing this match isn’t that big of a deal, and that the upcoming conference games are huge.”

Eastern Hancock 46, Knightstown 27

KNIGHTSTOWN`13`8`6`0`-27

EASTERN HANCOCK`16`24`6`0`-46

Eastern Hancock - Fuchs 9-yard pass from Swan (Friesen run)

Knightstown - Walsh 56-yard run (Montgomery kick)

Eastern Hancock - Sotelo 55-yard pass from Swan (Fuchs pass from Swan)

Knightstown - Walsh 1-yard run (kick blocked)

Eastern Hancock - Olivo 3-yard run (Arnold pass from Swan)

Knightstown - Walsh 73-yard run (Newby run)

Eastern Hancock - Arnold 43-yard run (Arnold run)

Eastern Hancock - Rainbolt 66-yard pass from Swan (Olivo run)

Knightstown - Max Muncy 34-yard pass from Richmond (pass failed)

Eastern Hancock - Olivo 1-yard run (run failed)

`K`EH

First downs`8`16

Rushes/yards`36-278`42-177

Yards passing`73`302

Passes`5-12-1`21-38-2

Punts`4`0

Fumbles lost`2`1

Penalties/yards`5-49`5-40

Individual Leaders

Rushing

Knightstown: Walsh 21-215, Newby 10-87; Eastern Hancock: Friesen 17-66, Arnold 2-43, Fuchs 4-42, Olivo 8-27.

Passing

Knightstown: Richmond 5-12-1, 73; Swan 21-38-2, 302.

Receiving

Knightstown: Lukens 1-6, Max Muncy 4-67; Eastern Hancock: Sotelo 4-95, O'Neal 3-23, Fuchs 4-39, Arnold 5-61, Rainbolt 4-82.

Records: Knightstown 3-2, Eastern Hancock 4-1.