Eastern makes school history with 35-12 win over Linton
LITTLE CINCINNATI --- Turnovers proved the difference Friday night as Eastern posted its first-ever win over Linton in football, 35-12.
The Thunderbirds (8-0, ranked third in the Associated Press Class 1A weekly poll) led only 14-12 at the half. Both teams scored two touchdowns, but the difference came down to a foot: Andy Drummond booted two kicks for PATs while Linton failed on two two-point conversions.
Eastern forced five turnovers, three interceptions and two fumbles, in the second half and put three touchdowns on the scoreboard to make school history. Eastern coach Joey Paridaen said the T-Bird defenders played their best defensive half of the season to pull out the W.
“Our boys just came out and played a solid second half,” Paridaen said. “They took it upon themselves to win that ball game.”
The win made Eastern's history books, but he said it means more to him as a victory.
“We expect to win the game. We go into every game expecting to win,” Paridaen said. “I don't care what history shows. This game is no different.”
When asked if the win got a monkey off Eastern's back, he laughed and said: “No monkey off my back, but it's a great victory for our community. It's a great victory for us. Our season isn't going to end here.”
Linton coach Brian Oliver said the Miners (5-3, ranked ninth in the 2A poll) didn't play with the consistent intensity they displayed in the wins over Monrovia and Sullivan. At times they shot off sparks, he said, but at times they were flat. He noted a fumble and an interception occurred in the Red Zone and said Linton cannot afford mistakes like that.
“It was not typical of the way we have played,” Oliver said. “You have to give credit to Eastern.”
Both teams cranked out the yards, Eastern outgaining Linton 385-321. Miner quarterback Keaton Cox, back in action after missing some games with a shoulder injury, carried 15 times for 109 yards and a touchdown and completed 9-13 passes for 79 more.
“We just got outplayed,” Oliver said. “We had our moments and we just didn't capitalize on them.”
Blayne Campbell hauled the pigskin eight times for Eastern, gaining 104 yards and scoring a TD. Senior quarterback Caleb Hamilton led all rushers with 137 yards on 28 totes. He also completed 8-13 passes for 145 yards, two touchdowns making up for an interception.
One 4-yard gain in the second quarter showed Hamilton's intensity. He dropped back to pass, but two Miners broke through his blockers. He dodged one, stiff-armed another, and turned a potential sack into a short gain.
“It's just a great victory, a team victory. It's all the same thing,” Hamilton said. “It was our time. We just keep pushing each other. We want to win each week and we know we can do it.”
He played the game with a sore knee, an injury that made him miss the Edinburgh game last week. Hamilton said the knee still aches, but is holding up; he expects to play next week against North Central.
“It's just a little sore,” he said, “but I should be good to go. I was playing the game no matter what.”
The Eastern players relished making a little bit of history.
“Incredible. There are no words to describe it,” senior receiver Joel Weimer said. “It was a goal in the summer. I told you earlier in the year we were going to take it one game at a time and it came down to Linton.”
Senior safety Jackson Rogers agreed. “It feels wonderful. It has been a long time coming. We've worked hard to get here.”
Linton drew first blood with an 11-play, 76-yard touchdown drive capped by Lance Dyer's 4-yard touchdown run.
The Miners just ground out yardage for the most part: Avery Puckett for 4, Cash Howard for 2 and 7 yards, the other Howard, Chance, for 3, and Cox for 4. However, Dyer slashed for 12 yards, and Cox put his shoulder into a defender on a 10-yard gain. The Thunderbirds hurt themselves with two penalties, offsides for 5 on third and 6 at the Linton 28 and 15 yards for facemasking that gave the Miners a first down on the Thunderbird 14.
The visitors forced Eastern to punt from its 21 after Hamilton overthrew Ethan Helton, who had beaten his man, on third down.
The punt rolled dead on Linton's 48. The Miners moved to a first down on the Eastern 42 as Cox completed a 9-yard pass to Dreyden Ward.
Eastern's defense then arose to the occasion. Three carries gained 7 yards and, on fourth down, Josh Vincent led a flock of Thunderbirds to stop the running back for no gain.
The Thunderbirds took over on their 35. Joel Weimer caught a 9-yard pass, but a penalty moved the ball back to the 37. Hamilton lofted a 42-yard bomb to Jaden Evans and then used his feet. He carried three times for 18 yards, racing around right end for the final 6 yards to give Eastern a 7-6 lead.
The visitors struck back in the second quarter. A 21-yard kickoff return allowed the Miners to begin operations on their 42. A 5-yard penalty for facemasking and Cox's 6-yard pass to Dyer on fourth and 4 moved the Miners to the Eastern 46. One play later, Cox veered left, cut across the grain and rambled 45 yards to the end zone.
The Miners forced Eastern to punt and they took over on their 35. Drake Cunningham slashed for 11, Dyer ran for 12 and hurdled Levi Southern on a 6-yard gain, Cox picked up 4 yards on fourth down, and the Miners were first and 10 on the Eastern 30. Three plays gained 5 yards, and Vincent dropped the ball carrier for no gain on fourth down.
Hamilton gained one first down with two 7-yard rushes, Campbell picked up 5 on the ground and 12 on a screen pass, Hamilton gained more ground on short rushes, and then he dodged a tackler, ran up near the line of scrimmage, and hit Weimer with a 35-yard touchdown pass, only 1:01 remaining in the second quarter.
Linton couldn't manage anything the rest of the half as Drummond's kickoff appeared to be heading out of bounds, but skittered back in and a 4-yard return meant the Miners had to start from their 6. They ran only two plays before the horn sounded.
The second half began with an exchange of turnovers. Freshman Gavin House intercepted Hamilton on the Linton 47. However, on the next play, the Miners coughed up the pigskin on a fumble, and the Thunderbirds recovered on their 48.
The Thunderbirds took control of the game with an eight-play, 52-yard scoring drive. Hamilton kicked it off with a 14-yard run, Weimer hauled in a 13-yard pass, Campbell darted for 9, and Hamilton gained the final 9 yards with three carries, the last a 3-yard scoring run.
The hosts had contained Cash Howard most of the night, but on the ensuing drive, he took a pitch on third and 5 at the Miner 28 and rambled 34 yards around right end to the Eastern 38. Cox ran for 9 and Dyer for 8 as the Miners marched to a first down on the Eastern 7. One run gained nothing and a muffed pitch on second down was scooped up by Brady Anderson on the Eastern 16.
Hamilton scrambled for 16, but a flag for illegal procedure moved the ball back 5 yards. It didn't matter as Campbell darted to his left and outran the defenders, Noah Ricketts missing a shoestring tackle around the 10 as he desperately tried to prevent the score and a 28-12 Eastern lead.
Aerial defense prevented any Miner scores in the final stanza. Jackson Rogers picked off two Cox passes and Jaysce Skinner grabbed one as the hosts stopped three Linton drives. All three of the interceptions occurred in Eastern territory, Rogers picking off one pass near the goal line
Oliver said Cox's shoulder wasn't bothering him in the fourth period. “He was just trying to make something happen.”
“We ran man coverage the entire time,” Rogers said. “The entire defense knew our assignments. It all worked out.”
Evans ended the scoring when he caught a long pass around the Miner 2 and lunged into the end zone with 5:56 on the clock.
Linton closes out its regular season at 7:00 p.m. Friday as it hosts Providence for Senior Night.
“It's a football game,” Oliver said. “We've still got more to play. The season's not over.”
Eastern hosts unbeaten North Central at 7:00 p.m. Friday in a game that will decide the championship of the Southwest Football Conference. Paridaen said the players and coaches will savor the taste of victory this weekend and then get ready for North Central.
“I'm super-excited for the community,” he said. “I'm super-excited for our boys. We'll look to get ready for next week.
Linton 6 6 0 0 – 12
Eastern 7 7 14 7 – 35
L – Dyer 4 run (pass failed), 7:14.
E – Hamilton 6 run (Drummond kick), 1:05.
L – Cox 45 run (run failed), 10:50.
E – Weimer 38 pass from Hamilton (Drummond kick), 1:01.
E --- Hamilton 3 run (Drummond kick), 7:25.
E – Campbell 74 run, (Drummond kick), 1:25.
E – Evans 23 pass from Hamilton (Drummond kick), 5:56.
First Downs 17 16
Comp-Att-Int 9-16-3 8-13-1
Passing Yds. 79 145
Rushes-Yds. 43-242 40-240
Total Yds. 321 385
Return Yds. 78 40
Penalties 1-5 10-72
Punts 0-0.0 4-30.0
Fumbles 2-2 0-0
Time of Poss. 24:30 23:30
Rushing: Linton: Keaton Cox 15-109, Lance Dyer 13-66, Drake Cunningham, 4-13, Chance Howard 1-3, Cash Howard 9-45, Braiden Irish 1-1. Eastern: Blayne Campbell 8-104, Levi Southern 1-5, Nick Fox 2-(-3), Caleb Hamilton 28-137
Passing: Linton: Dreyden Ward 0-3-0-0, Keaton Cox 9-13-3-79. Eastern: Caleb Hamilton 8-13-1-145.
Receiving: Linton: Dreyden Ward 2-16, Lance Dyer, 3-16, Damien Giles 1-33, Gavin House 1-5, Braden Jackson 1-8, Cash Howard 1-1. Eastern: J.W. Howard 1-6, Campbell 1-12, Weimer 4-63, Jaden Evans 2-64.