GREENTOWN — Eastern’s football team spent a little extra time celebrating with fans and classmates following Friday night’s victory over Clinton Prairie.
And with good reason.
The Class 2A No. 8-ranked Comets’ 55-6 blowout over the visiting Gophers wasn’t just any win; it capped the program’s second straight undefeated regular season and back-to-back outright Hoosier Heartland Conference championships, Eastern’s first back-to-back conference championships since the 1967-68 seasons.
The win was the 19th straight regular season win and 14th straight HHC win for Eastern (9-0, 7-0 HHC) in a streak that goes back to 2018.
For the seniors on this year’s squad, they’ve experienced a 34-7 four-year run, going 28-3 over the past three seasons.
“It’s been an amazing run,” senior linebacker Tallan Morrisett said. “I’m happy I’ve been able to witness it, to be with these guys. I love every single one of them. It’s just been great.”
Morrisett’s classmate A.J. Wiles said this year’s senior class had high expectations from the time they hit the field as freshmen.
“We came in wanting to win games, wanting to win our conference, wanting to win sectionals, never wanting to lose a game,” Wiles said. “We just put that on the field and just try to come out and win.”
Wiles, a three-year starter on the Comets’ stout offensive line who also lines up on the defensive front, has played a big role in a prolific Comets offense that once again hit on all cylinders Friday with senior Zane Downing leading the rushing attack with 187 yards including a 6-yard touchdown on 25 carries
“The past several years, playing on the offensive line has just been the greatest thing,” Wiles said. “It’s a joy opening up a hole and seeing Zane run 30, 40, 50, 60 yards down the field and scoring a touchdown.”
Junior quarterback Austin Roberts had a terrific night through the air for Eastern on Friday as well, completing 8 of 10 passes to eight different targets for 126 yards.
Roberts threw three touchdown bombs — from 32 yards to T.J. Weeks on Eastern’s second possession to put the Comets on the board, a 39-yarder to Evan Monize on the following drive, and a 26-yard toss to Makhai Reed just before halftime to put Eastern up 28-0.
Roberts added a 12-yard run, Jaeden Eagle ripped off a 93-yard TD, Josh Fike took a kickoff return 70 yards to paydirt and Eli Edwards punched a score in from a yard out.
On both sides of the ball, the Comets looked out of sync early with Downing fumbling on the Comets’ opening drive and Clinton Prairie (2-7, 1-4) mounting an attack that found the Gophers looking at 1st-and-goal at the Comet 2. But a Comets’ defense that entered the game tied for No. 6 in the state showed up to halt that drive as well as the Gophers next one when Prairie was looking at 1st-and-goal at the Comet 2.
“We came out a little rough but we knew what we had to do,” Wiles said. “We had to come out and play physical. We came back out and adjusted.”
Added Morrisett: “We just weren’t being physical. We were missing our assignments, trying to do other people’s jobs.
“There’s so many things I could say about our defense. I love every single person on our defense. It’s a trust system. You have to be able to trust the person on your right and your left. And we have that trust. We know if we do our job, the other person will do his.”
Eastern coach Josh Edwards knew he had a special group on the horizon when this year’s seniors went undefeated as eighth graders.
“We had high expectations,” Edwards said. “We knew we had outstanding kids. These kids had an undefeated eighth grade season and we talked about putting in the hard work and eventually being blessed. These guys have blessed themselves, the school and the program. The past three years have been pretty special as far as our performance goes. But we’ve got bigger goals.”
How far the Comets can ride their wave of momentum remains to be seen. Eastern opens Class 2A Sectional 36 playing host to Alexandria next Friday.
“Really, not much is going to change,” Morrisett said of the mindset heading into sectionals. “We’ve just got to stay focused on our goal and our goal is to win a sectional championship. We’re going to go hard this week.”
Wiles was in agreement.
“For me, it doesn’t really change much. You play every week and you don’t think of it as your last game and just play for each week. Obviously, practice may be a little more fun because there’s a chance it may be your last game but you just come out and play and practice the same way.”