By MARK SALUKE Kokomo Tribune
---- — GREENTOWN — What looked good early unraveled quickly as Eastern fell victim to Oak Hill, 27-6, in the squads’ annual football opener Friday night at Cogdell Field.
The Green and Gold took a 6-0 lead in the second quarter lead on quarterback Austin Bates’ 12-yard touchdown toss to Braden Gibson before watching the visiting Golden Eagles hang 27 unanswered points on the scoreboard to account for the lopsided final.
“Really, I thought in the first half especially, we executed pretty well,” Eastern coach Josh Edwards said. “Our defense played really strong for about three quarters. That was our worry coming in, our defense, because we’re so young.”
The young Comets, which list only three seniors on their roster, were trailing just 14-6 heading into the fourth quarter.
Oak Hill added two scores over the final 12 minutes, including an 84-yard scorching jolt from halfback Zach Daniels that made it a three-score game.
Most of the offensive damage the Eagles dished out came at the hands of Daniels as the junior rumbled for 199 yards and three scores on 13 carries.
“That’s what we were worried about, it’s definitely one of our weaknesses,” Edwards said. “We are young and not exactly fast on the edges. We worried about him getting outside and obviously that happened.”
Daniels added two interceptions for good measure.
“I think I’ll go ahead and let him play next week,” Oak Hill coach Bud Ozmun joked. “He’s obviously going to be a big part of things, a big workhorse for us on offense and defense.”
Aside from the two Daniels picks, Bates put up impressive Week 1 numbers for the Comets. While Oak Hill finished with 380 yards on the ground compared to 95 for Eastern, the Comet junior signal caller was getting it done in the air. Bates completed 15 of 30 attempts for 187 yards, spreading the wealth among a host of targets.
Cree Johnston led the receiving core with 54 yards on four catches. Sam Rocchio had three grabs for 49 yards, while Gibson had 36 yards on four receptions including the touchdown snag.
Will Porter picked up 35 yards, including a 25-yard grab as the Comets tried to battle back late in the game.
“You can’t simulate what they do in practice,” Ozmun said. “When you see it live, as well-drilled as they are, you’ve got to adjust on the run. I think our guys did that, but they were still moving the ball and executing well. In the long run, over four quarters, we kind of got into a groove eventually, and that really helped defensively.”
After hitting 8 of 12 targets in the first half, Bates cooled down some in the second half as the Eagles were able to slowly pull away.
“I think part of it was that we started to have some miscommunications, which led to some bad plays,” Edwards said. “The kids got rattled a little. They did some things a young team is going to do.
“I think there were lots of positives,” Edwards continued. “But we’ve got some work to do, no doubt. I think the things we need to work on were pretty glaring, like finishing drives.”
Aside from Eastern’s lone score, the Comets were forced to punt five times, while turning the ball over on four other drives.
Eastern visits Madison-Grant next week.