CHARLOTTESVILLE — From Charlottesville, you can see almost see Downtown Indianapolis and the Lucas Oil Stadium. Unfortunately, that is as close as Linton got to the Class A state championship game.
The goal of winning 15 games and a state championship ended Friday night in the semistate for the third year in a row. Eastern Hancock eliminated the Miners 37-16 at Eastern Hancock High School.
“Our kids came out and played a great season. They weren’t expected to be here and they stepped up and they performed all year. Unfortunately we fell short of our goal,” first-year Linton coach Brian Oliver speaking to the media for the first time after a loss.
The Royals did to the Miners what the Miners did to so many opponents this season – dominate the line of scrimmage.
Eastern rolled up 451 yards of total offense, rushing for 326 yards while running 72 offensive plays, compared to Linton’s 56 plays. On the defensive side, the Royals limited the Miners to just 146 rushing yards and 252 yards of total offense.
Eastern’s Spencer Gilbert, a force Linton could not block consistently on defense, rushed for a game high 141 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Royals.
Linton was led by quarterback Beau Eaton, rushing for 61 yards while completing 10-22 passes with one interception for 106 yards and one touchdown.
“We were struggling. You could tell, Eastern Hancock is a great team. They gave us fits all night. We couldn’t [run] a lot of plays that we’ve been able to do because they were controlling the line. But our kids kept fighting hard just like they did all year,” Oliver said.
Linton made some uncharacteristic mistakes and the ball never bounded the Miners way. The Miners were flagged for six penalties for 45 yards in the first half and finished the night with 70 penalty yards. One penalty was for 12 men on the field and later the Miners burned a timeout due to a substitution problem.
In the fourth quarter, Eastern finish touchdown came on a recovered fumble. Logan Splater, who was 11-16 for 125 yards, threw a 34 pass to Derrick Noel, who made the catch, then fumbled the ball in the end zone and teammate Sam Carlton recovered it.
If it could go wrong for Linton it did. Trailing 15-8 in the third quarter, the Miners had the ball at mid-field after Eaton found Jacob Clothier on back-to-back plays for 15 yards. On first down, the high center snap to Eaton appeared to be touched by the Linton back in motion running and the ball was fumbled. Eastern Hancock recovered the ball and scored.
Gilbert, a quick, fast and strong 6-0, 205-pound back and linebacker, ran 42 yards up the sideline. Two plays later Gilbert scored to put the Royals up 23-8.
Eastern Hancock led 37-8 before the Miners scored their final touchdown of the season.
Linton put together a 10-play, started by Eaton’s 20-yard run. Just as Linton penalties helped Eastern score, the Royals helped the Miners on the drive with a late hit and an off-side flag.
Mitchell Eberhardt scored the touchdown on a three-yard run with 4:13 left in the game. Zane Hayden scored the two-point conversion.
Despite the offensive troubles of the first half, the Miners trailed only 15-8 at halftime.
After Eastern Hancock built a 15-0 lead and controlled most of the half, the Miners got on the scoreboard with 1:35 left in the second quarter.
Eaton completed a 45-yard pass over the middle to a wide open Zane Hayden for the touchdown. Eberhart ran for the two-point conversion.
“It was just mistakes, but give a lot of credit to Eastern Hancock they were causing a lot of [our] mistakes the way they were playing. We played a great first half, just unfortunately mistakes there in the second half really hurt us,” Oliver said.
Linton 0 8 0 8 -- 16
Eastern Hancock 8 7 8 14 -- 37
EH – Cooper Henderson 8 run (Henderson run) 8:40 1Q.
EH – Logan Splater 23 run (Henderson kick) 2:45 2Q.
L – Zane Hayden 45 pass from Beau Eaton (Mitchell Eberhardt run) 1:35 2Q.
EH – Spencer Gilbert 1 run (Gilbert pass from Splater) 5:23 3Q.
EH -- Gilbert 6 run (Henderson kick), 7:25 4Q.
EH –- Sam Carlton recovered fumble in end zone (Henderson kick) 6:26 4Q.
L – Eberhardt 3 run (Hayden run) 4:13 4Q.
First downs 12 19
Rushes-yards 34-146 56-326
Passing yards 106 125
Comp-Att-Int 10-22-1 11-16-0
Total offense 56-252 72-451
Return yards 99 55
Punts-Avg 2-37.5 0
Fumbles-lost 3-1 3-1
Penalties-yards 9-70 8-63
Rushing – Linton: Eaton 10-61, Eberhardt 10-50, Hayden 6-30, Hale 8-5. Eastern Hancock: Gilbert 29-141, Henderson 13-82, Splater 13-89, Noel 1-14.
Passing – Linton: Eaton 10-22-1--106. Eastern Hancock: Splater 11-16-0--125.
Receiving – Linton: Clothier 6-47, Hayden 2-53, Hale 1-3, Eberhardt 1-3. Eastern Hancock: Noel 6-71, Smith 1-24, Henderson 2-18, Gilbert 2-12.
Next – Eastern Hancock (13-0) will play the winner of Tri-Central on Nov. 28 at Lucas Oil Stadium. Linton finished the season 13-1.