BY MARK SALUKE
---- — GREENTOWN — A 21-20 halftime lead went south in a hurry for the Eastern football team as Lewis Cass literally ran away in the second half Friday night.
The visiting Kings ran for 325 yards and outscored the Comets 41-8 over the final 24 minutes to take a 61-29 Mid-Indiana Conference win.
Cass’ ground attack amassed 544 yards for the game. Nearly half of that came from senior running back Gabe Welch, who ran for 262 yards, with 173 of those coming in the second half.
“I knew he had a bunch, but I didn’t know he had that many,” Cass coach Scott Mannering said. “Everything he gets, he works for. He’s not the biggest, he’s not the fastest … he’s just really tough.”
Welch scored four touchdowns, all of them coming on big runs. Welch broke off scoring runs from 50, 59, 22 and 39 yards out as Cass evened its overall record at 3-3 as well as its Mid-Indiana Conference mark at 2-2.
“We got ourselves to .500 on the season,” Mannering said. “That’s a big step. Right now, every game is huge. I’m pleased that we seemed to get a little stronger as the game went on.”
Staring at a one-point deficit out of the lockerroom at the half, Cass outscored Eastern (1-5, 0-4 MIC) 20-8 in the third quarter on two Welch touchdowns and a 28-yard Jake Wilburn TD run to go up 40-29 heading into the final twelve minutes.
Welch and Brendan McGehee added TD runs in the fourth quarter while junior keeper Owen Ohman hooked up with John Hartley on a 28-yard strike as the Comets’ sails were deflated down the stretch.
“We knew we’d have a hard time stopping them,” Eastern coach Josh Edwards said. “I’m very pleased with our first half. The kids played really hard. I think we just wore down mentally down the stretch. We’ve got to get to the point where we’re battle tested and we don’t fold. We’ve got to learn to put a band-aid on that bullet hole and keep pushing on.”
The first quarter seemed to set the stage for a quiet scoring night as the Kings were nursing a 7-0 lead 12 minutes in, but the second quarter told quite a different story, as Cass and Eastern traded big plays and scores back and forth through the stanza.
The Comets tied it at 7 following Caleb Aaron’s three-yard scamper. Cass responded with a two-play drive culminating with Welch’s 50-yard run.
Eastern came up big on its next possession when junior signal caller Austin Bates hooked up with Cree Johnston on a third-and-eight from the Cass 25 for a score. The Kings answered 1:14 later with Wilburn’s first TD run of the game, a 24-yard scamper, but Cass missed the PAT, settling for a 20-14 lead.
Just :20 later, Bates and Johnston hooked up on a 64-touchdown bomb, the point after giving the Comets their first and only lead of the contest.
“I thought Austin did a great job,” Edwards said. “He controlled our offense, managed the clock well and executed our passing game very well.”
Bates finished 18-32-2 for 261 yards. He also led the Comets ground game with 101 yards on 22 carries.
Johnston finished with 133 yards and two touchdowns on seven grabs. Braden Gibson had five catches for 43 yards, while Will Porter had 50 yards on four grabs.
Payton Young finished with 90 yards on nine carries for Cass. Wilburn finished with 76 yards on the ground while McGehee ran for 71.