GRIDIRON FRIDAY NIGHT: HOWARD COUNTY WEEK FOUR ROUND-UP HAS EASTERN UNBEATEN

Northwestern’s Tanner Pipenger and Mitchell Hahn stop a Hamilton Heights runner. (SJ photo/Randy Messner)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – Four weeks into the 2018 high school football season, only one Howard County squad remains unbeaten – and it is not one of the usual culprits. For the second consecutive season, the Eastern Comets are 4-0 to start the season after crushing Taylor 62-6. Meanwhile, the Titans fell to 2-2, Western improved to 3-1, and Kokomo and Northwestern are both winless going into week five.

“It was one of those games where everything was clicking, and that was the end result,” said Eastern assistant coach Craig Standish. “I thought the kids played very well last night. It was just one of those games where the kids played like we drew it up, and that doesn’t always happen. Our kids executed well and they are playing with cohesiveness, which is important.”

On Eastern’s second offensive play of the game, Dakota Spencer found a hole, broke a tackle and raced 35-yards for a touchdown at Taylor Memorial Field. For the host Titans, it only got worse from there as the Comets scored eight times before halftime. Spencer finished with more than 150 yards on eight carries, scoring three times. Zane Downing added another two rushing touchdowns on 113 yards on the ground. Tytus Morrisett also had a rushing touchdown

The Comets also found pay-dirt through the air as Garrett Hetzner had a pair of touchdown passes while throwing for more than 150 yards and rushing for another 63. Greg Black caught a 32-yard touchdown and Eli Elkins caught two 41-yard scoring passes – the second from Nolan Grubb.

The Comets defense held Taylor to 175 total yards; Anthony Townsend had a fourth quarter 22-yard touchdown run and finished just shy of 100-yards rushing.

In four contests, Eastern has outscored its competition 158-19. Eastern has started the season 4-0 four times (2010, 2011, 2017 and 2018) under 12th-year head coach Josh Edwards, but have never reached 5-0. The Comets hope to change that when they travel to Carroll (2-2) this Friday night at 7 p.m.

“Carroll put it to us pretty good last year at Lucas Oil Stadium,” added Standish. “We played near flawless last night, but we have to focus one game and one opponent at a time.”

Northwestern (7) vs Hamilton Heights (30)

The Northwestern Tigers continue to struggle under interim coach Austen Robison as Hamilton Heights secured its first win of the season against the winless Tigers, 30-7.

Jaelin Fowler scored the Tigers only touchdown on a 12-yard run midway through the third quarter. Fowler finished with 34 yards and Mitchell Hahn added 35 rushing yards. The Tigers defense did account for three turnovers.

Western (56) vs Benton Central (6)

The Western Panthers continue to make waves in the Hoosier Conference following a convincing 56-6 home field victory over Benton Central one week after downing perineal powerhouse Rensselaer Central on the road.

Western jumped to a 49-0 halftime lead before cruising to the victory. The Panthers were so dominant they held the Bison to under five yards of offense in the first half while putting up more than 300 yards of their own in the first 24 minutes of action.

After one quarter, Western led 35-0 as Kitchel Gifford led the offense with touchdown runs of one and 55 yards. Jett Engle found Parker Shelton with touchdown passes of five and six yards. And the defense joined the scoring action when Andrew Ault scooped up a quarterback fumble and raced 15 yards for the score.

In the second stanza, Evan Shaw scored from one-yard out and Engle hit Shelton for a third touchdown – this one for 18 yards. The final score of the game came on a third quarter 21-yard run by Romey Collins.

Kokomo (13) vs McCutcheon (24)

Six turnovers were too much for Kokomo to overcome at Walter Cross Field as McCutcheon avenged last year’s sectional loss by defeating Kokomo 24-13 in North Central Conference action. The Kats fall to 0-4 for the first time since the Wayne Lance era in 2004, when Kokomo finished 1-9.

Kokomo’s offense showed signs of improvement, outgaining the Mavericks 287-271. But the turnovers were critical; the Kats suffered an end-zone turnover on its first possession and fumbled away the ball on the one-yard line.

DeShawn Winston gave Kokomo a 7-3 lead in the second quarter on a three-yard run. McCutcheon regained the lead for good on its next possession for a 10-7 halftime lead, and they extended it to 17-7 early in the third quarter. A 93-yard Peyton Williams to Garrett Maish touchdown pass put the game away in the fourth quarter.

Kokomo quarterback Levi Hrabos had his second consecutive 200-yard passing game, going 16-31-3 for 219 yards as the Wildkats continue to utilize a spread offense. Winston added a second rushing touchdown late and Noa Wainscott caught two passes for 83 yards.

Quotes courtesy of Chris Lowry and the WIOU Saturday Morning Coaches Show

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TAYLOR LOSES FOOTBALL HEARTBREAKER; WESTERN AND EASTERN EARN VICTORIES

The Taylor Titans take the field. (SJ photo/Randy Messner)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – It may be hard to believe, but the high school football season is already one-third complete, and week three proved to be heartbreaking for the Taylor Titans while the Eastern Comets improved to 3-0 for the second consecutive season.

In the best game of the weekend, Taylor came within one minute of a perfect start to the season. But a late Carroll touchdown in Hoosier Heartland Conference action gave the Cougars a 28-27 win. The difference in the game was a missed second quarter extra point and the inexperience of the Titans squad – something offensive coordinator AJ Grezenko did not want to use as an excuse.

“We had to rely on a lot of young kids as injuries have bit us,” he said. “We had a lot of freshmen and sophomores in the game. We had half of a JV line and a freshman quarterback in there, and still held our own. But our kids didn’t quit – I can’t tell you how proud I am of them right now. Our kids are growing and they took this one to heart, despite being young.”

The Titans started the game strong, leading 13-0 at the half. Anthony Townsend scored both of Taylor’s first-half touchdowns on a four-yard score on the Titans first possession and then an eight-yard scamper in the second stanza. With the score 13-7, Townsend added a third touchdown when he shed multiple Carroll defenders for a 19-yard touchdown run.

Taylor quarterback Trower Davis struck pay dirt early in the fourth quarter when he found Jayden Davis for a 25-yard touchdown and a 27-14 lead.

But they could not hold the lead as Quinton Veach scored three plays later and Trevon Lambert landed in the end zone to tie the game with one-minute left. Veach capped a huge game by hitting the go-ahead extra point; he finished with two receiving touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and four extra points.

Eastern 58, Wes-Del 6

The Eastern Comets remembered how they slipped by Wes-Del one year ago – and they vowed to take the game into their own hands this time around. The result was a dominating 58-6 win in the final game of the two-year series.

“Our kids came out excited and fired up,” said head coach Josh Edwards. “Last year was a 6-0 ball game and they had a chance to win it before they fumbled on the three-inch line and we recovered. So this time, we wanted to make sure it wasn’t close in the fourth quarter.”

Bryce Buckley got the scoring started by blocking a punt, which Ethan Jones returned for a 6-0 lead.

“We wanted to come out and establish our selves early, and our defense set the tone. We blocked a punt and scooped it up and took it in for a touchdown,” said Edwards “To be quite honest, our kids then rolled.”

The Comets lead 28-0 after the first 12 minutes thanks to a pair of Zane Downing touchdown runs and a Dakota Spencer score. Eastern went to the air in the second stanza as quarterback Nolan Grubb found Eli Elkins and Downing with scoring passes for a 41-0 lead at the break.

The lead was 51-0 to start the fourth quarter after Garrett Hetzner hit Greg Black with a touchdown pass and Lance VanMatre connected on a 22-yard field goal. The final score came on a 45-yard pick-six by Cam Smith.

Western 42 at 2A No. 6 Rensselaer Central 14

It may have taken two long bus rides to Jasper County, but Western head coach Alex Stewart celebrated his 31st birthday with an upset 42-14 win over Class 2A No. 6 Rensselaer Central in Hoosier Conference play. On Friday night, the Panthers traveled away from Eastern Standard Time to the Central time zone, only to see lightning linger enough to postpone the game to 10 a.m. on Saturday. After the delay, the team returned to Russiaville around midnight and were back on the road at 6:30 a.m.

But the lightning remained at Rensselaer Central – only this time in the form of the Panthers offense. Kitchel Gifford took Western’s first offensive play 69-yards for a touchdown to start the blowout. Rensselaer took a 7-6 lead before the Panthers took a 27-7 lead at halftime.

Gifford finished with four touchdowns, adding a four-yard run and two receiving scores of 52 and 85-yards. Freshman quarterback Jett Engle and Josh Coleman also added rushing touchdowns in the victory.

Kokomo 7 vs Class 4A No. 16 Marion 46

For the first time since 2013, the Kokomo Wildkats are 0-3 to start the season. And for the first time since 2006, the Kats lost a football game to the Marion Giants. Down 13-7 at the half, the Giants dominated the final 24 minutes of action for an easy 46-7 victory at Walter Cross Field.

“It is never fun to lose to Marion, but I give them credit,” said Kokomo head coach Richard Benberry. “I believe we held our own in the first half. But we have to put together a complete game.”

The Giants not only dominated the scoreboard, they dominated the line of scrimmage by holding Kokomo to negative 24 yards rushing on 25 attempts. It marked the first time the Kats had negative rushing yards since a negative 36 outing against Muncie Central in August 2001.

On a positive note, Kokomo quarterback Levi Hrabos connected on 17 of 32 attempts for 254 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The 32 attempts are tied second-most in school history, the 17 completions are tied for fourth-most, and the 254-yards through the air ranks fifth-best.

Steven Edwards caught eight passes for 131 yards and Julian Wallace had four reception for 74 yards, including an unbelievable 50-yard, behind-the-back catch in the second quarter for the Kats only score of the night.

Northwestern 0 at 1A No. 14 Lafayette Central Catholic 55

Northwestern’s season continues to unravel after a 55-0 loss to Lafayette Central Catholic. The Knights scored on its second play from scrimmage and never looked back, leading 21-0 after one quarter and 41-0 at the half. The Tigers are 0-3 for the first time since starting the season 0-7 in 2002.

Quotes courtesy of Chris Lowry and the WIOU Saturday Morning Coaches Show

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IU KOKOMO WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL OFF TO A STRONG START, WOMEN’S TENNIS IMPROVES AGAINST HUNTINGTON

KOKOMO, Ind. – The Indiana University Kokomo volleyball team may have a new look but picked up right where they left off, taking down Marian University to open the season in five. The IU Kokomo Cougars captured a thrilling five-set victory, defeating the Knights 25-18, 22-25, 25-19, 22-25, 15-7. 

“I am so very happy and proud of our team’s performance,” said IUK head coach Heather Hayes. “I knew we have some depth and talent this season but wasn’t sure how we would respond early in the year. We had a test right out of the gate and couldn’t be prouder of the grit and toughness the team demonstrated.”

In the first set, the Cougars got out to a late start falling to a 3-7 deficit. A pair of digs from Kristi Elson and a kill from Erinn Adams sparked a run of four points tying the game at 7-7. The two teams battled neck and neck until the Cougars finally broke ahead late in the match with a four-point rally to make the score 18-14. A Knight hitting error finished the set with a score of 25-18.

IU Kokomo used their momentum from set one to jump to an early 11-6 lead. A few hitting errors and a serve receive breakdown caused the Cougars to call a timeout with a score of 14 all. Unable to regain control in the back-court Marian grew their lead to 14-19. A late service run by Sarah Morin got the Cougars back in the game at 22-24. However, they were unable to finish the set falling to the Knights 22-25.

The third and fourth set was played very tight between both the Cougars and the Knights with no early leads. Molly Ottersbach was a spark for the Cougars in set three with six kills. Ottersbach helped her team win the third set comfortably with a score of 25-19. The Cougars started the fourth set flat allowing Marian to go on a long service run. However, IU Kokomo tried to regain a lead with a late service run and a kill from Morgan Weir forcing Marian to call a timeout. Yet the Knights came back with a kill to win set four with a score of 22-25.

IU Kokomo came out on fire in the decision-making set gaining an early lead of 8-2. From there on, there was no looking back. Nyssa Baker took charge of the set with five kills in addition to scoring the game point. As a team, the Cougars rallied to finish the match to defeat Marian with a score of 15-7

The Cougars had three players end the game with double-digit kills. Leading the pack was Baker with 19 kills hitting .326. Following was McKenna Lundy with 11 and Weir with 10. Not only was the Cougar’s offense effective tonight, but the Cougars finished the match with four players with double-digit digs.

Leading the defensive push was Macee Rudy with 22 digs. Lundy finished the night with her first career double-double adding 19 digs along with her 11 kills. Other key defensive players include Kendal Williams and Morin.

“I was also happy to see not just the players on the court be focused and engaged but our sideline was great about this too,” added Hayes. “That’s a nice team win.”

Cougars (4-1 following a 3-2 loss to the University of Northern Ohio in the finale of the Grace College tournament) returns to the Cougar Gym on Sept. 15 against Brescia University at 1 p.m. in the opener of River States Conference action.

WOMEN’S TENNIS FALLS TO HUNTINGTON

The IU Kokomo women’s tennis team opened up its second season with a 2-7 loss to Huntington University. The Cougars faced Huntington for the second time in two years and improved from last years finish. Taking points at three doubles and six singles. The second edition of the team includes four new faces and returning seven from the inaugural team.

“I was pleased with our season opener, even though we came up short,” said head coach Kristine Miller. “I was definitely proud of the effort and attitude of our team. There were many great rallies and points, but we just weren’t able to convert too many games.”

One doubles featured the tandem of Adrianna Ward and Katie McCoy, who dropped their match 1-8 to Meg Dolde and Morgan Fitzpatrick

Two doubles was a competitive match between the pair of Kelsey Kohlmorgen and Hannah Hudson eventually losing 5-8 to Lisa Colling and Anastaiia Evstifeeva

“It was a battle the entire time,” said Miller. “Hannah Hudson did a great job representing us at one singles in her first college match. It is nerve-wracking to go out and transition from the high school game to the college level, but I think Hannah handled herself well.”

Three doubles ended as a forfeit by Huntington due to injury.

In singles play, Huntington was dominant taking one through five and forfeiting at six singles due to an injury. At five singles Kelsey Kohlmorgen fought back and forth with Molly Burton of Huntington dropping the decisive third set 6-10.

The 2018-19 Cougars roster includes: Brianne Abrahamson (West Lafayette), Katie Hart (Lebanon), Hudson (Fountain Central), Kohlmorgen (Madison-Grant), Danielle McCord (Peru), McCoy (Marion), Betsy Powell (Maconaquah), Makenzie Quinn (Western), Mary Sayre (Alexandria), Ward (Peru) and Laura White (Eastern).

“We have work to do, but overall it was a great start to the season,” said Miller.

The Cougars (0-2 after a 9-0 loss to Bethel College) returns home to Foster Park on Sept. 8 against Anderson University at 10 a.m.

Courtesy of IU Kokomo athletics

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