BLANCHESTER — After building a 21-0 lead, East Clinton had to hold off a hard-charging Blanchester squad for a 21-20 win Saturday afternoon in a non-league football game at Barbour Memorial Field here on the BHS campus.
The win puts East Clinton at 2-0 while Blanchester drops to 0-2.
“We didn’t come ready to play,” said BHS coach Jack O’Rourke. “Mentally we made mistake after mistake. The first two scores were all mental. Now, who’s job is it to get them ready mentally? Mine. I didn’t do it.
“I was proud they came back but we just dug ourselves a hole we couldn’t completely get out of. The seniors have to step forward with leadership. We have to get better each week. I know we have the talent and the kids that want to get it done.”
Astros’ head coach Jeremy Yankey was even-keeled after the game. He had several players on his mind, including an injured Anthony Osburn, that wouldn’t allow him to completely celebrate the fast start.
“We’ve played eight quarters this year and we’ve played well in two of them, the first two in this game,” he said. “Two weeks in a row, I feel we were lucky to win again.”
Luck was only part of the winning formula Saturday against the Wildcats. The game started Friday night with East Clinton hitting on all cylinders. A mis-hit on East Clinton’s game-opening kickoff resulted in the first of two special teams gaffes by Blanchester. Both ended in touchdowns by the Astros.
“The first 6:00 of the game (Friday night) everything went our way,” said Yankey. “We got what appeared to be an onside kick, which wasn’t even planned. Our kicker just mis-kicked it and luckily it hit off one of their guys and we recovered it.”
On the ensuing EC drive, Erik Moore hit Cameron Conner with a touchdown pass. Conner added the extra point and the Astros were off and running 7-0.
“We had all the momentum then the lightning and we had to go home and start all over again,” said Yankey.
Fast forward nearly 12 hours, and the game took on the same hue for both teams. Blanchester special teams mishandled a punt and Wyatt Floyd recovered for EC. After a Moore to Brian Barnes 25-yard pass put the ball at the 3, Moore raced into the end zone on second down to make it 13-0. Conner’s PAT moved the difference to 14-0 with 2:23 to play in the opening period.
As the end of the first quarter neared, EC’s Osburn shook off no fewer than four BHS tacklers and raced 80 yards to paydirt. Conner’s third PAT made it 21-0.
But later in the second quarter, Osburn limped off the field and was taken to the lockerroom. He returned in the second half in street clothes and on crutches.
The Astros offense was never the same.
“It was terrible,” Yankey admitted.
And Blanchester slowly battled back. Nick Hopkins, the fifth BHS quarterback this season, gave way to Jared Monhollen and the offense started clicking.
Another move for the ’Cats paid off as Nick Grogg began running the ball, a first for his high school careeer, O’Rourke said. He had several big runs and eventually put Blanchester on the board in the third period on a 10-yard jaunt at the 9:19 mark. Hopkins took in the two-point conversion and it was 21-8.
“Nick is a multi-talented kid,” said O’Rourke. “He can do just about anything I ask him to do. He’d never played quarterback until last week and did an admirable job.”
Branson Campbell batted down an EC pass to force a punt on the next drive and Blanchester cashed in. This time, Monhollen bulled his way across the goal line from the one. Despite the failed conversion, the EC lead was down to 21-14.
Hopkins made it 21-20 when he bolted up the middle and into the end zone with 10:59 to play in the fourth quarter. East Clinton’s line surge was able to block the would-be tying point so the difference remained one.
EC’s Moore battled cramps down the stretch and Wyatt Floyd, who had a strong game in the secondary, took over at QB. The two engineered an offensive drive when the Astros needed it most. A long Moore to Dylan Wilson pass on third down in front of the East Clinton sideline was one of the key plays in that series.
“We finally hit the smash play that had been open all day, on a miraculous catch by Dylan Wilson,” Yankey said. “He didn’t run his route 100 percent. I don’t know if he thought Erik was going to go the other way. If we don’t catch that, we may have lost. They had all the momentum.”
Austin Hanners, normally a fullback but moved to tailback in this one with Osburn out, also picked up a key first down run late in the game.
“Somehow they just found heart,” said Yankey. “I don’t know where it came from because we didn’t have it the entire second half.”
Sept 5, 2015
@Barbour Memorial Field
East Clinton 21 Blanchester 20
EC: Cameron Conner pass from Erik Moore (Conner PAT)
EC: Erik Moore 1 yard rush (Conner PAT) 2:23
EC: Anthony Osburn 80 yard run (Conner PAT) 19.8 sec
BL: Nick Grogg 10 yard run (Hopkins run) 9:19
BL: Jared Monhollen 1 yard run (PAT failed) 6:21
BL: Nick Hopkins 15 yard run (PAT blocked) 10:59