HOWARD — The East Knox Bulldogs were opportunistic in taking advantage of numerous Utica mistakes as they handed the Redskins a 34-29 loss in the Mid-Buckeye Conference opener for both teams Friday evening in Howard.
Playing without the services of quarterback Jason Hoar who was on the sidelines with an injury, the Redskins began the game with a dominant first quarter, going up 12-0 on touchdown runs of 29 yards and 2 yards by Scott Cline. The second score was set up when Ben Hayes picked off a Cody Totten pass and returned the ball to the EK 23-yard line. A pass interference call in the end zone also aided the Redskins on this drive.
Colton Nichols then got the Bulldogs on the scoreboard on a 20-yard TD jaunt, capping off a 67-yard drive for EK for a 12-6 score.
Utica then began a wild finish to the second quarter, taking over an EK punt at the 50-yard line with 5:38 left before halftime. After a Utica holding penalty, Artie Douglas then hauled in a 51-yard reception from Cline down to the 9-yard line, and Cline ran it in for an 18-6 Utica lead.
After the ensuing kickoff, Totten hooked up with Drew Faucett for 34 yards down to the 25-yard line of Utica. Totten then scored on a 25-yard keeper, and after the two plays the ‘Dogs pulled to within 18-12 with 2:58 before intermission.
But Utica then topped that two-play drive when quarterback Clay Rowley hit Cline on a 58-yard pass play for another touchdown. Rowley then ran the ball in for a two-point conversion and a 26-12 Utica lead.
But the Bulldogs weren’t done either. After a three-and-out and a punt which was downed at the goal line, Devin Faucett then stepped in front of a Utica receiver and snared an interception. Totten hooked with Haralson once again, this time for a 31-yard TD, and after an extra-point kick by Tyler Berger, the ‘Dogs trailed 26-19 at halftime.
East Knox came out in the second half playing inspired defense, shutting down the Redskins and making some more big plays to grab the momentum. After Cline kicked a 31-yard field goal for Utica at the 8:48 mark in the third quarter, it was all Bulldogs from that point on.
Later in the third, Colton Nichols scored from 7 yards out to pull EK to within 29-26. Just before the fourth quarter began, Dakota Anderson hauled in a 54-yard TD pass from Totten to put the ‘Dogs up on top, 32-29.
As time was running out on Utica, a snap from center went past the quarterback and into the endzone for a two-point safety, and the ‘Dogs were now up 34-29 and were able to run the clock out to preserve the MBC win.
East Knox had just 122 yards rushing compared to 209 for Utica. Nichols led East Knox with 53 yards on 11 carries. Totten had 45 yards on nine carries and Berger 22 yards on 11 totes. Totten was 13 of 24 passing for 195 yards with one interception. Haralson caught six passes for 53 yards. Anderson had four receptions for 97 yards.
For Utica, Cline rushed for 92 yards on 15 attempts. Justin Newsome and Travis Baldwin each had 40 yards on four carries, and Rowley had 21 yards on 10 tries.
Cline was two of 10 passing for 113 yards, with two interceptions. Rowley was good on three of six passes for 22 yards.
Utica held the ball fo 27:49 compared to 21:11 for EK, but they committed three costly fumbles and threw two interceptions. They were penalized 13 times for 76 yards, and the ‘Dogs were flagged seven times for 43 yards.
“We gave up too many big plays,” said Utica head coach Randy Felumlee. “We turned it over on opportunistic times. The big plays and turnovers have killed us this year.”