The Eastern Eagles welcomed the Berne Union Rockets in a game that saw two similar styles as both teams liked to rely heavily on the run game.
Despite winning the turnover battle 4-3 the Rockets defeated the Eagles in a closely contested game 28-22 on the Piketon High School turf.
“We’ve told them all week, ‘If you win the turnover battle, we win the game.’ We’re two to three touchdowns better than that team. That’s a tough one to come down to the end of the game,” said Eastern coach Scott Tomilson.
After receiving the opening kick off Berne Union fumbled on the first play of the game as the Eagles recovered, taking over at the 33. Two plays later Dillon Mattox scampered for a 33-yard score while Logan Clemmons completed the 2-point conversion to give the Eagles an 8-0 lead with 11:39 to go in the first.
The Eagles then forced Berne Union to go three-and-out on the next Berne Union possession, before the Rockets came up with an interception in the next Eagle possession. Eastern then came away with another fumble recovery in Berne Union territory, but the drive stalled.
The Rockets then got on the board with 2:02 to go in the first on a 15-yard touchdown run to cut the Eagles lead 8-6. Eastern answered quickly when Wyatt Hines found Logan Clemmons for a 65-yard score to make it 15-6 Eastern.
Berne Union cut the Eastern lead to 15-12 early in the second quarter before a safety made it 15-14 with 8:54 to go in the second. A 45-yard touchdown run after the free kick put the Rockets up 20-15 with 7:52 to go in the first. Berne Union scored with 1:08 left in the half making it a 28-15 game and that was the score heading into the half.
“It took the air out of us, and it felt like we kind of laid down for a minute. We did not match their (Berne Union) intensity and energy and enthusiasm. The second quarter got us and cost us the ball game,” said Tomlison when asked about the second quarter safety.
Eastern pieced together a nice drive getting all the way down to the Berne Union 5-yard line to start the second half but couldn’t convert on 4th down as the Rockets took over with 8:18 left in the third. The Eagles then forced a Berne Union punt, but the next drive would stall. Eastern then forced another Rocket punt and Dillon Mattox gave the Eagles good field position as he returned it to the 15. The Rockets then came away with an interception on the next play. Neither team would score in the quarter as Berne Union would lead 28-15 going into the fourth.
With 2:08 left to go in the game Hines found Gage Denny for a 30-yard score cutting the Berne Union lead to 28-22. Eastern couldn’t get the onside kick but a play later Berne Union fumbled for the fourth time in the game as the Eagles recovered, gaining possession. The Eagles would have a chance to win it as they would get inside the Rocket 10 yard line. Unfortunately for the Eagles they couldn’t quite punch it in, as they fell 28-22 in a hard fought battle.
“Hopefully our young guys can use this playoff experience and the fact that we didn’t quit in the second half. We kept fighting all the way back and gave ourselves a chance to win the game at the end. It stinks that it didn’t go our way,” said Tomlison.
“We have a lot of sophomores, juniors, and 19 freshmen. This is a good experience for those kids to come out next year and turn the tables and get our first playoff win.”
Dillon Mattox led the Eagles with 163 rushing yards on 22 carries. Wyatt Hines ran for 48 yards and threw for 132, completing 10 passes. Logan Clemmons caught 3 passes for 67 yards and a touchdown, while Gage Denny hauled in a 30-yard touchdown. Eastern ended the night with 17 first downs, while Berne Union finished with 12. Eastern was penalized 5 times for 37 yards, while the Rockets were penalized 7 for 63 yards. The Eagles were 1-for-1 on 2-point attempts while Berne Union was 1-2.
Eastern will now look into scheduling a few more regular season contests.
“We’ll get with our AD (athletic director) and see if we can get a couple more games scheduled,” said Tomlison.