Eastern wins second straight sectional title
FARMERSBURG – The Eastern Thunderbirds proved they are the “real thunder” Friday night as they defeated host North Central the second time this season, the 33-14 victory giving them their second straight sectional title.
With at least one fan chanting “Who's the real thunder?” in the first half, Eastern (8-3) stopped the Farmersburg Thunderbirds (10-2) twice deep in Eastern territory to take a 12-0 halftime lead. They scored twice in the third quarter to up the margin to 26-0, and two late North Central TD's would not prevent Eastern from winning the Sectional 48 championship and earning a pizza party Saturday night in Bloomington.
Eastern will host Fountain Central (11-1) at 7:00 p.m. Friday for the regional. The Mustangs mauled Attica (9-3) 43-0 to win Sectional 47.
“We set out on a journey a long, long time ago after we lost in the regional to Linton (a reference to last year's defeat in the regional). We're taking the hardware back, but we ain't done yet,” Eastern coach Joey Paridaen told his team immediately after the victory. “We know this journey is going to take us where we want to go.”
Paridaen and several of his players said the Thunderbirds played a more physical game than Farmersburg.
“We just manned up and out-physicaled a good team,” Paridaen told his team.
Later, he said: “It's exciting. It's a good way for us to come out and … play physical on both sides of the ball. Now we'll celebrate and hopefully keep playing.”
Lineman Garrett Vest said the Thunderbirds practiced aggressively and they played aggressively. “I think we practiced how they played,” he reflected.
“I'm pretty happy with the way our line played,” he added.
“The linemen did great,” said senior quarterback Caleb Hamilton, who carried 32 times for 255 yards and four touchdowns.
“We kind of executed. We knew what we were doing,” lineman Gage Baker said. “We changed a little bit of stuff (a reference to Eastern's first win over North Central, 22-14 in the final week of the season). We weren't getting to the linebackers. You can tell by the scoreboard how well we were doing.”
North Central coach Travis Nolting said his group of Thunderbirds made too many mistakes, including three lost fumbles. He said those helped Eastern take control of the game in the first half.
“We just didn't execute very well offensively,” Nolting said.”The team that showed up in Week 9 didn't show up tonight. We fumbled it way too many times.”
Paridaen said he was pleased by Eastern's defense.
“They played like they've played the last several weeks,” he said. “They just keep taking care of business, playing with a chip on their shoulders. If they keep playing like this, we're going to be playing for a while.”
A 30-yard kickoff return and a penalty for facemasking gave North Central a first down on the Eastern 40 to start the contest. Farmersburg quarterback Ty Thompson and running backs Blake Chapman and Dawson Basinger steadily crunched out the yards as North Central picked up two first downs, moving the pigskin for a first and 10 on the Eastern 17. However, a call for illegal procedure and a 4-yard sack stalled the drive, and the Farmersburg Thunderbirds couldn't move past the 17.
The visitors picked up one first down when Hamilton hit Joel Weimer with an 11-yard completion, but the Farmersburg D held and forced Eastern to punt, the ball rolling dead on the North Central 37. Farmersburg coughed the ball up on a botched handoff, and Logan Lloyd recovered on the 38.
A pass interference penalty advanced the ball 15 yards, and Hamilton rushed three times for 11 more. Hamilton hit Ethan Helton on the 6, and he spun away from the defender to dash into the end zone for Eastern's first score. The Thunderbirds blocked the point-after attempt, and Eastern led 6-0.
North Central picked up one first down, Cody Curtis carrying for 7, but the Thunderbirds held, three plays gaining 1 yard, and Farmersburg punted to the Eastern 22.
Hamilton legged it some on the ensuing drive, but did more damage through the air. He drilled a 15-yarder to J.W. Howard, flipped a short pass to Joel Weimer who used his hand to stay on his feet and then dragged a defender with him on an 18-yard gain, and hit Weimer for a 16-yard gain to the 11. Hamilton then rushed for 8 and 3 yards to give Eastern a 12-0 lead as the two-point conversion failed.
A 42-yard kickoff return and a penalty for a late hit enabled North Central to start operations on the Thunderbird 24. After two plays netted zilch, Nick Fox ensured the Farmersburg T-Birds wouldn't score. He dropped Thompson for losses of 10 and 14 yards and Eastern took over on its 48.
The Thunderbirds were forced to punt after a penalty for holding negated Hamilton's 11-yard run on fourth and 7. The ball rolled dead on the North Central 8, but back-to-back flags for illegal procedure and a botched handoff moved Farmersburg back to the 4.
The hosts punted to their 31, but Eastern would not score for the remainder of the half. Thompson picked off a Hamilton pass and returned it to the North Central 41. Farmersburg marched down the field as Basinger churned out the yardage, carrying five times for 28 yards. Chatman rushed 9 to give the hosts a first down on the Eastern 18, causing one T-Bird reserve to yell: “They've figured out our defense.”
Eastern stiffened, holding Chatman to 1 yard and forcing Thompson to throw three straight incompletions. A penalty for roughing the passer on the last pass gave new life to Farmersburg, but Eli Britton recovered a botched handoff, and the Thunderbirds were content to kill the clock.
Helton said the Thunderbirds made adjustments during the game and those paid off against Farmersburg.
The Thunderbirds put the game away with two quick scores in the third quarter. Hamilton carried four times for 46 yards as the Thunderbirds moved to a first down on the North Central 10. Illegal procedure moved the ball back 5 yards, but two plays later, Hamilton's blockers enabled him to waltz 11 yards untouched into the end zone for a 19-0 lead.
Blayne Campbell recovered another botched handoff on the 50. Hamilton rambled 25 yards to the 18. Three 4-yard gains, two by Hamilton and one by Campbell, gave Eastern a first down on the 6, and Hamilton scored again, giving Eastern a 26-0 lead with 3:06 left in the third quarter.
The T-Birds forced North Central to punt, but Chase Wiseley picked off a pass and returned it 44 yards for a score early in the fourth quarter, the first touchdown to be scored against Eastern in this sectional.
North Central tried an onside kick, but Josh Vincent covered it on the North Central 49. Four plays later, Hamilton's blockers guided him through the Farmersburg defense, and he lunged into the end zone for an 18-yard scoring run and a 33-6 lead. Paridaen told lineman Wyatt Scott: “That's how you answer the bell!”
To echo Bob “Slick” Leonard, the former Pacers coach, it was time to sing: “Turn out the lights, the party's over.” Thompson scored on a 2-yard run with 3:46 to go and added a run for the two-point conversion, but Eastern killed the clock as the full moon shone on the Thunderbirds' jumping up and down and screeching “Champions! Champions! Champions!”
“We want to keep moving forward,” Hamilton said. “Keep improving, keep lifting hard, keep studying film.”
Eastern 6 6 14 7 – 33
N. Central 0 0 0 14 – 14
E – Helton 11 pass from Hamilton (kick blocked), 2:41.
E – Hamilton 3 run (run failed), 9:40
E – Hamilton 11 run (Drummond kick), 7:16.
E – Hamilton 6 run (Drummond kick), 3:06.
NC – Wiseley 44 interception return (pass failed), 11:52.
E –Hamilton 18 run (Drummond kick), 9:52.
NC – Thompson 2 run (Thompson run), 3:46.
First Downs 19 9
Comp-Att-Int 7-12-2 1-4-0
Passing Yds. 71 (-3)
Rushes-Yds. 43-268 45-121
Total Yds. 339 118
Return Yds. 0 193
Penalties 6-63 4-26
Punts 3-36.3 4-29.5
Fumbles 0-0 3-3
Sacks 3-(-28) 0-0
Time of Poss. 26:27 21:55
Rushing: Eastern: Blayne Campbell 2-4, Levi Southern 1-3, Nick Fox 6-12, Caleb Hamilton 32-255. North Central: Dawson Basinger 18-76, Ty Thompson 7-(-13), Luke Turner 2-5, Blake Chatman 12-35, Cody Curtis 6-18.
Passing: Eastern: Hamilton 7-12-2-71. North Central: Thompson 1-3-0-(-3), Chatman 0-1-0-0.
Receiving: Eastern: J.W. Howard 1-15, Joel Weimer 3-45, Ethan Helton 2-11, Jade Evans 1-0. North Central: Team 1-(-3).