CENTERBURG — Centerburg may have dominated the statistics, but East Knox was able to come up with more big plays Friday, escaping with a 26-20 overtime victory at Centerburg.
The Trojans rolled up 406 yards of offense compared to just 185 for the Bulldogs, but it was several big plays that helped the Bulldogs get the Mid-Buckeye Conference win.
“This was a close one. It probably took a couple of years off my life, but it’s a win,” said East Knox coach Calvin Hatfield. “Obviously, there are some things we need to clean up, but we’re 2-0 in the conference. I’m proud of the kids.”
The first came on a partially blocked punt by the Bulldog defense. Colton Nichols got a piece of Jacob Sutton’s punt on Centerburg’s first possession of the game, giving East Knox good field position at the 50. Three pass plays gave the Bulldogs (2-3 overall, 2-0 MBC) the ball at the 25-yard line where quarterback Cody Totten used his legs to race in for the score.
“We did not come out mentally ready to play. That’s on me. I’ve got to do a better job preparing them,” said Centerburg coach Jim Stoyle.
A squib kick was recovered by the Bulldogs, setting up another chance. But, they missed on two straight passes inside the 25-yard line, giving the ball up on downs.
That’s when the defense took over.
Centerburg coughed up the ball on their fourth play of the drive, which was kicked around by both teams before Aric Durbin finally grabbed hold of the ball and ran it in from about 20 yards out. The extra-point kick by Tyler Berger was good and East Knox looked like it might run away with the game.
“We coach the guys that if there’s a fumble in the backfield, scoop it up and score,” Hatfield said. “I was hoping someone would just dive on it. There were a lot of touches.”
The Trojans (1-4, 0-2) weren’t ready to go home, though. Following the running of Steven Keihl and Drew Osborne, the Trojans drove 59 yards for the score. Keihl capped off the drive with a 2-yard TD plunge.
However, East Knox had another big play up its sleeve.
Chase Cottrell took the Trojan kick on his own 9-yard line and raced 91 yards for the score. The kick failed, but East Knox was still up 20-7.
“We made some big plays in the first half. I think we got into their heads a little bit by jumping out early,” said Hatfield. “But, they did a great job coming back.”
Centerburg mounted three more good drives in the first half, but came up empty on all of them. The Trojans finally got it going for good early in the third quarter.
Osborne, the team’s quarterback, used his legs to march the Trojans down the field, breaking off three runs of more than 10 yards, including the 12-yard touchdown run.
With time winding down in the fourth, the Trojans went on a final drive to send the game to overtime. Osborne did most of the damage, rushing for 37 yards of the 59-yard drive, but it was Justin Keys who got the tying score on a 9-yard jaunt. The PAT kick was wide, sending the game to overtime.
“In the first half, we made some mistakes and did some things that weren’t on our game plan and gave them the lead,” said Stoyle. “But, I’m proud of our kids. We talked at halftime and challenged them. We did not feel like East Knox could stop us. We came out and dominated the second half. Our whole offense played tremendous in the second half and our defense shut them out.
“This just hurts so bad for the kids. ... These are great kids who wanted to win. I feel bad that we did not get this one.”
In overtime, East Knox got the ball first, needing just four plays to score from the 20. The touchdown came on a 9-yard pass from Totten to Khai Haralson in the back corner of the end zone. The PAT was blocked, though, giving Centerburg a chance to win it.
“First off, Cody Totten may not have put up the stats he usually does, but I thought he played very well. And, Khai is very talented. We had a one-on-one matchup there and trusted them to make the play,” Hatfield said.
Facing a fourth down on the 4, the Trojans pass fell incomplete and East Knox was finally able to celebrate.
“Our defense faced two fourth down situations. We thought we had them stopped the first one, but they converted. We could bow our heads, but we sucked it up and played great for four snaps in a row,” Hatfield said.
“When you lose a game in overtime or by one point, you can go back and come up with 50 plays that could have went differently. It wasn’t just one play that cost us. That’s why this is a unique game,” Stoyle said. “That’s life. We didn’t quit tonight. We can learn from this and try to move on.”
Totten led the Bulldogs with 50 yards rushing and another 79 passing. Dylan Wears added 31 yards rushing, while Haralson caught four passes for 42 yards and Dakota Anderson caught four for 37.
Osborne led the Trojans with 139 yards rushing and another 119 passing. Keihl added 81 yards rushing, while Logan McGovern caught 10 passes for 69 yards.
Both teams return to MBC action next Friday at 7 p.m. Centerburg hosts Danville and East Knox entertains Northridge.