CORRY - The benchmark for the Knights all year has been to not just make the playoffs, but to defeat a Region 1 team when they got there.
They'll have to wait at least one more season to accomplish that goal.
Sharpsville was too strong for Eisenhower in Friday night's District 10 Class A quarterfinal playoff game, as the Blue Devils came away with a 31-7 defeat at snow-covered Sheen Field in Corry.
Times Observer photo by Jonathan McAfoos
Rob Wilston celebrates after scooping up a blocked punt and racing untouched into the end zone, giving Eisenhower a 7-0 lead in its District 10 Class-A quarterfinal playoff game against Sharpsville at Corry’s Sheen Field. The Knights couldn’t hang on to their lead, however, as the Blue Devils came away with a 31-7 victory. The Knights finish their Region 2 championship season with an overall record of 7-4.
Times Observer photo by Jonathan McAfoos
Nowhere to run
Alex Johnson tries to find a hole during Eisenhower’s District 10 Class A playoff game Friday against Sharpsville at Corry’s Sheen Field, but is tackled just beyond the line of scrimmage for a short gain. The Blue Devils’ defense made it hard on the Knights’ run game, as Ike recorded just 49 total rushing yards. Eisenhower scored first to take a 7-0 lead, but was unable to hang on, falling, 31-7.
The Devils relied on their defense all year, having allowed just 103 total points throughout the regular season, and Friday was no different, as they held the Knights to just 108 total yards and no offensive touchdowns.
Despite having little success moving the football, it was Ike which struck first at the very end of the opening quarter. Bryce Garris was able to break through the line to block a Ben Bucher punt, and Rob Wilston would scoop it up and race untouched into the end zone with 10 seconds left. The Eisenhower bench erupted, but the team was unable to keep the momentum going.
Sharpsville had an answer, and continually pounded the ball on the ground. After moving down the field, George Keck was able to rush into the end zone from three yards out with just under eight minutes remaining in the half. Greg Popatak added a second touchdown with just 53 seconds left, with a two-yard run. The point after was wide right, making the score 13-7.
Eisenhower finished the first half with just one first down, and 37 total yards, yet trailed by just six points.
The Devils received the kickoff to start the second half, and kept the ball on the ground, using up as much time as possible. After a long drive, Keck was able to score his second touchdown with a 12-yard run. Popatak would add his second with just 11 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Bucher would score the final touchdown of the game with 3:58 remaining, with a 16-yard run.
The Knights had their best drive of the game in the closing minutes, driving inside the Sharpsville 10-yard line, and nearly scoring on the game's final play.
"We came out here tonight and we scrapped with those guys," Eisenhower coach Jim Penley said. "We fought with them. They knew we were here, and we didn't lay down. These boys played their tails off. They played hard to the very end. We just got worn down in the second half."
Wilston finished 8-of-17 passing, with 59 yards and two interceptions. He also added 27 rushing yards, while Alex Johnson finished with 22.
Keck led the way for the Blue Devils, with 147 rushing yards to go along with his two touchdowns. Popatak, who also recorded two touchdowns, ran for 73 yards, and Bucher added 91. Quarterback Luke Henwood attempted just four passes, completing one for 11 yards.
Eisenhower finished the season with an overall record of 7-4, and will graduate 11 seniors.
"We're proud of winning (Region 2)," Penley said of the strides his team made throughout the season. "We're the third smallest team in (Class A) and we won our region back-to-back seasons. I think the goal of trying to defeat a Region 1 team is as big a goal as we can have. Just because we didn't beat them, doesn't diminish what we did this year. I'm really proud of these guys."
Ike-Rob Wilston 25 blocked punt return, :10.
Sharp-George Keck 3 run, Nathan Lutz PAT, 7:53.
Sharp-Greg Popatak 2 run, PAT no good, :53.
Sharp-Keck 12 run, 2-point run failed, 4:35.
Sharp-Popatak 10 run, PAT no good, :11.
Sharp-Ben Bucher 16 run, PAT no good, 3:58.
RUSHING-Ike-Wilston, 8-27, Alex Johnson, 12-22, Bryce Garris 1-0. Sharp-Keck, 20-147, 2 TD, Bucher, 15-91, TD, Popatak, 16-73, 2 TD, Luke Henwood, 2-21, Gage Priester, 1-5, Logan Eckles, 1-1.
PASSING-Ike-Wilston 8-17, 59. Sharp-Henwood, 1-4, 11.
RECEIVING-Ike-Garris, 3-14, Tre Frank, 3-11, Jarrett Johnson, 1-4, Alex Johnson, 1-9, Carter Farrell, 0-21. Sharp-Austan Szugye, 1-11.