A strong Eastern Hancock team invaded Seibel Field Friday at South Decatur and handed the Cougars a 37-6 loss.
Despite an opening-season loss, the visiting Royals showed solid remnants of a program that advanced to the IHSAA Class A title game last season. Their balanced attack proved to be too much for South Decatur, which fell to 1-1 and 0-1 in Mid-Indiana Football Conference play.
“Eastern Hancock is a very good football team,” said Cougars coach Rod Martin. “They’re not physically that big, but they are aggressive, fast and completely took us out of our game plan.”
The Cougars did hold their own against the Royals early on, executing a goal-line stand on Eastern Hancock’s first offensive series and then forcing a fumble the next time out. South Decatur’s defensive nucleus of Nick Schwering, Damen Martin and Randall Canady came up with key stops along the way.
Unfortunately for the hosts, the Royals eventually broke through as they went over the top of the Cougars when senior quarterback Austin Lacy connected with Devin Denny from 16 yards out with less than a minute remaining in the first period.
It only got tougher for South Decatur from there as Eastern Hancock got rolling on both sides of the line, including ramping up its defense to hold the Cougars to just 53 yards of offense in the first half.
Lacy dissected the Cougars throughout the evening, including going a perfect 6-for-6 passing with 156 yards and a pair of touchdowns before intermission. His second scoring toss, a 65-yard catch-and-run to fellow senior Cooper Henderson, pushed the Royals’ lead to 23-0.
Henderson, who finished with a trio of receptions for 100 yards, was just as deadly carrying the football as he sliced through the South Decatur defense for another 80 yards on 10 carries. Bryce Spegal added to a strong rushing attack for Eastern Hancock, closing out the evening with 116 yards.
Any ideas South Decatur may have had of a wild comeback after halftime were all but destroyed after the Royals punched in two more scores within the first three minutes of the third quarter.
Eastern linebacker Logan Splater stepped in front of a Tristan Ralph pitch and rambled 19 yards into the end zone just 11 seconds after intermission. Ralph was then intercepted during the next Cougars series and the Royals again made them pay, this time with Spegal running in from 25 yards out.
“I was real happy with our defense in the first quarter, and I thought we played a little better overall in the second half,” Martin said. “But we just had a tough time being consistent against a tough team.”
South Decatur avoided the shutout with 6:15 remaining in the fourth quarter when Ralph tossed a 6-yard touchdown pass to Brayden Helms.
Interestingly, the contest was called with 2:18 left on the clock after the field went dark. By the time the lights came back on, both teams had exchanged handshakes and were in their post-game huddles.
“One loss does not (define) our season, especially this early,” Martin said. “We’ve got a stretch of games we can win as long as we learn from this one and be ready to go next week.”