BY GENE F. CONARD KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — It was a showdown between two neighborhood rivals who had no place to go but up. Both were battling for some semblance of Mid-ndiana Conference respectability, not to mention hopes of shaking off late-season downslides.
But on this Taylor Titan senior night, none of that mattered, and the Titans of coach Eric Davis and the Eastern Comets of coach Josh Edwards more than proved the matter with 48 solid minutes of unforgiving, unrelenting football. Both clubs came out wearing their hearts on their sleeves, their guts on their pads and their attitudes on their helmets. Eastern deservedly won the contest 57-26, but Taylor came away with more than respectable runner-up honors.
It took the Comets some 27 rushes for 312 yards and three touchdowns and 10 pass hookups in 16 flings good for 185 more yards and four scores to convince the Titans. Granted, the Titans came up a tad short with just 139 yards and four scores on 24 totes with an additional 113 yards on 7-of-19 aerial attempts plus two interceptions.
But the Titans apparently lost track of the scoreboard because they were still gunning for the end zone when the clock finally fizzled out, leaving them with a winless overall record (0-8) and 0-6 in the MIC as they eye a trip to Maconaquah next Friday. The Comets gained a notch in their overall credentials in improving to 2-6 and finaly broke the ice in the conference (1-5 MIC).
“We came out throwing because we thought that was our best opportunity,” Edwards said. “I was especially proud of the squad because we were missing some starters. [Quarterback Austin] Bates had a great game but he’s an extremely hard worker, and it was great to have [Papee] Byers back. We used that opening reverse because we wanted to get the jump on them.
“But a lot of credit goes to Taylor because they didn’t quit and played right down to the last minute.”
The tone was set early when Eastern’s Will Porter went the double reverse route for 63 yards for a TD on the opening play from scrimmage, and Cole Walker’s PAT boot had the Comets up after a mere 19 seconds had elapsed. Taylor didn’t flinch and Titan quarterback Jordon Lazaro and running back Dayne Tomlinson took Taylor 74 yards in 12 plays for a score. The kick failed, but it was a 7-6 Eastern lead with more fireworks to come.
Eastern quarterback Bates had perhaps his best game of the year four touchdown passes totaling 135 yards and he was also good on his feet with 93 yards and a TD in 11 trips.
He hit Porter with a 50-yard fling to make it 13-6; ran seven yards for a score to make it 21-13; hit Noah Aaron for a seven-yard payoff to make it 28-13; found Porter again for a 49-yard strike to up the lead to 35-13 and then hooked up with Braden Gibson for a 24-yard TD to make the score 49-23.
“I think the big difference was Eastern had more athletes than we did,” Davis said. “But our kids stuck with it, didn’t wilt and that says a lot for the kind of kids we have. It’s been that way all year, our guys play hard for four quarters.
“We wanted to get the ball in the hands of Tomlinson and Lazaro because they are our best athletes. But it was a big-play game, and that was the difference. We have to grind it out, and I think as the game wore on fatigue became a factor.”
Other Comet scores came late in the contest when Byers bolted two yards for a score and promising freshman Corbin Hetzner capped a six-carry, 74-yard night with a 55-yard scamper. Byers had six carries for 68 yards in a part-time role.
Taylor’s Tomlinson had an equally impressive night with a touchdown bolts of five, 19, five and again five yards as part of a 24-carry, 139-yard effort. The gutsy Lazaro carried 15 times for 53 tough yards, and his 7-of-19 passing performance for 113 yards could’ve been much richer if not for a few dropped throws.