By TRIBUNE SPORTS STAFF
---- — It was a game they could’ve — perhaps should’ve — won. But the simple truth of the matter was coach George Gilbert’s Tri-Central Trojans got caught on the short end of far too many Eastern Hancock big plays when it hurt the most. And the Royals took good advantage of opportunity to walk away with a 47-35 victory Friday night at Sharpsville.
The Royals fell behind early in the contest, 8-0, on a 10-yard Cody Howell pass to Jade Pickett. But they caught up at 8-8 after recovering a fumble; saw Class A No. 9-ranked TC regain control, 15-8, when Howell and Pickett hooked up for a 25-yard payoff, but went in front at halftime, 16-15, when Austin Lacy hit Cooper Henderson for a 34-yard pass and Austin Smith ran for a two-point conversion.
The Royals put it out of the reach by outscoring the Trojans in the final two segments, 31-20, thanks to the herculean effort of 205-pound running back Spencer Gilbert and his bullish running mate, Henderson.
Gilbert and Henderson should’ve slept well last night. Gilbert shredded the TC defense for 217 yards and two touchdowns, and Henderson added 109 yards and two TDs.
The Trojans had ample chances to catch up and take over late in the game when, trailing by 40-29, with 8:13 to play, Howell hit Set Blunck for an 18-yard payaoff and Howellthan hit Pickett for a five-yard score.
But the Royals came back to put it away when Henderson got loose for a 47-yard scamper down the sideline to end it, 47-35.
Gilbert was less than happy afterward saying: “We just got beat by a better team. There was a wonderful opportunity to win, but we couldn’t stop Gilbert and Henderson. Gilbert might be the best back we’ll see all year.
“Those two runners had 299 yards of Eastern Hancock’s 342 yards of offense. But we had a lot of mistakes, both offensively and defensively. They were better than us [Friday], not a lot but just enough.”
The Royals hooked up for huge plays on crucial fourth and long plays after the Trojan defense had stiffened and apparently had possession.
But the Trojan secondary simply didn’t make the plays when they had to. And as Gilbert and defensive coach Nemo Perez said, “They beat us on things we worked on all week.
The Trojans will try to rebound at Taylor next week.
— Gene F. Conard
MACONAQUAH 48, NORTH MIAMI 12
Cody Hicks scored four touchdowns to lead Maconaquah’s 48-12 beatdown of visiting North Miami, the Braves’ first Week 1 victory since 2006.
Also for Maconaquah, K.J. Walton scored two touchdowns. Quarterback Kyle Dinn passed for one score and ran for another.
The Braves took control early and built a 42-0 lead in the first half.
CARROLL 37, TRI-COUNTY 0
The Cougars kicked off their season with a 37-0 rout of visiting Tri-County.
The teams have met in Week 1 since 2003. Carroll has won the last two meetings to take a 6-5 lead in the Week 1 series.