ST. LEON — East Central lived up to the hype.
The Class 4A No. 1 Trojans built a 42-0 lead after three quarters en route to a 42-14 win over visiting Silver Creek in a Sectional 23 first-round game Friday night.
“They’re a really good team — big, athletic, fast — pretty much everything you want in a team. You could definitely see why they’re ranked No. 1,” Dragons senior lineman Taylor Betts said.
Junior quarterback Ryan Bond completed 10 of 11 passes for 173 yards and a trio of touchdowns, while senior running back Jake Fike rushed for 75 yards and three more scores for East Central (10-0), which will face Greenwood (4-6) next Friday in the sectional semifinals.
“They’re complete, they’ve got everything,” Silver Creek coach Dave Papenhaus said.
The Trojans looked the part early. They took the opening kickoff and went 52 yards in six plays, going up 7-0 on Fike’s 4-yard TD run. The biggest play on the quick march was a 33-yard completion from Bond to 6-foot-4 senior wide receiver Trevor Becker. It was a sign of things to come as East Central's bigger, taller, more physical receivers made several key catches in the game.
Silver Creek (8-2) fumbled on its third play of the game, on a botched exchange under center, but the Trojans gave it back fourth plays later with a fumble of their own. Jonah Scott returned the latter to the East Central 45 to give the Dragons good field position.
Creek couldn’t capitalize though. The Dragons drove to the Trojans’ 20 before a sack pushed them back. They turned the ball over on downs moments later.
Still, it was only 7-0 midway through the second quarter before East Central finished with a flourish, tallying 21 points in the final 5 minutes, 21 seconds of the half.
First Bond and Becker hooked up for a 25-yard TD to make it 14-0.
Silver Creek then went three-and-out on its next possession before the Trojans took only four plays to go 55 yards for another score. This time a 28-yard completion from Bond to 6-4 receiver Mac Studer, paired with a personal-foul penalty on the Dragons, set up Pike’s 6-yard TD run.
Silver Creek fumbled the ball away on the third play of its next possession and the Trojans took advantage again. Bond completed three consecutive passes, the final one a 26-yard jump ball in the end zone to Studer to make it 28-0 with 13.6 seconds left in the half.
“We did some uncharacteristic things,” Papenhaus said. “Normally that extra 14 points right before the half, I would’ve told you that you were crazy if you told me that was going to happen. I thought we were going into the locker room down 14 and getting the ball [to start the second half].”
The Trojans scored on their first possession of the second half, on a 10-yard TD pass from Bond to David Badescu, to make it 35-0 and start a running clock. Fike added another touchdown run later in the quarter.
The Dragons tallied two fourth-quarter TDs — Ben Landers ran for a 76-yard score and Heath Knight a 1-yard dive — against East Central’s reserves to account for the final margin. Landers finished the game with 121 rushing yards and Knight 86.
“I thought we matched their physicality, I think they just wore us out. Their depth, obviously, is a lot better than ours. They just leaned on us a lot and wore us out,” Papenhaus said. “Now we know where we’re at with the powers of 4A. The long and the short of it is we’ve got to get in the weight room and we’ve got to get bigger, faster and stronger.”
The loss ended a season that began with seven straight wins for Silver Creek.
“It was an amazing season,” Betts said. "I’d love to get a win and keep on playing, but hats off to them, they’re a great team. We had a great group, a great coaching staff — I think the best coaching staff around here. The players are absolutely amazing, really one true family. I think the younger kids, us seniors really set that example, this is the foundation that you need to have — this is the type of family, this is the type of brotherhood that you need to have. We’re going to have this forever. I look back on it and there’s not many teams that have been like this. It’s just a blessing to have that for my senior year.”
“I couldn’t be more proud to be associated with this group of guys,” Papenhaus added. “This senior class, we’ve got some warriors that are leaving us. It’s disappointing for those kids. They’ve worked hard and done everything that we’ve asked. ... I’m heartbroken for the seniors, but we’ve got to move onward. We’ll get in the weight room and start chopping away at it.”