Bulldogs lose heartbreaker to Royals in sectional quarterfinals


By Brady Extin | The Times-Post

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Lapel and Eastern Hancock are no strangers to one another, and no strangers to back-and-forth shootouts when they meet.

Last season, the two split the regular season and postseason matchups, with the Royals winning the regular season finale and the Bulldogs winning in the sectional semifinals.

This year, those outcomes were flipped, but the high-scoring shootout remained. Lapel won the regular season finale 36-31, but in the IHSAA Sectional 38 quarterfinals on Friday, the Royals got their revenge, defeating the Bulldogs at home on a last-second field goal 45-43.

On the night there were eleven lead changes, 88 total points scored, six scores in the fourth quarter, and three scores in the game’s final three minutes.

With 27 seconds remaining, quarterback Devin Craig hit Nick Witte on an 18-yard touchdown pass to put the Bulldogs back ahead, but a failed conversion and a key penalty gave the Royals life.

A personal foul on Lapel after the touchdown, along with a big return by the Royals on the ensuing kickoff allowed Eastern Hanock to begin the final drive near field goal range.

After another Lapel penalty — pass interference — helped push the Royals even closer, Aaron Redmon drilled a 29-yard field goal as time expired to give the Royals the win.

Mark Kube, who torched the Bulldogs for 253 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season finale, gave the Lapel defense trouble once again. On the night he ran for 228 yards and five touchdowns.

A Kube touchdown run to open the game gave the Royals an early lead, but the Bulldogs answered with the next two scores.

Jack Miller broke off a 39-yard touchdown run, and later in the first quarter, Devin Craig connected with Nick Witte on a 27-yard touchdown pass to put the Bulldogs ahead 14-7.

Both teams added a second quarter touchdown, and the Royals tacked on a field goal to enter the half trailing 21-16.

Kube punched in a one-yard run for his second score of the night, and Miller added his second touchdown on a 24-yard run.

In the second half, Witte caught two more touchdowns, while Kube ran in three more for the Royals.

Eastern Hancock’s first score of the second half came through the air, though.

Quarterback Elijah Edon hit Dylan Bowman on a 27-yard touchdown pass for the first of nine second half lead-changes.

A 34-yard touchdown strike from Craig to Logan White gave the Bulldogs the lead right back, but Kube’s third score of the night made things 28-27 Eastern Hanock entering the fourth quarter.

A Cole Miller field goal put the Bulldogs back ahead, 30-28 before Kube broke off a 51-yard touchdown run, and Edon added a conversion to give the Royals a 36-30 lead with just under eight minutes to go.

Witte’s first of two fourth-quarter touchdown catches came on the next possession and put the Bulldogs ahead 37-36, but Kube answered right back.

He punched in a 1-yard touchdown with just over two minutes remaining to put the Royals back ahead, before Witte’s eventual go-ahead score with 27 seconds left.

A senior, Witte caught 15 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns. Rylie Hudson caught nine passes for 48 yards.

Craig completed 28 passes for 330 yards and four touchdowns, and on the ground, Jack Miller ran for 109 yards and two scores.

Defensively, Isaiah Young led the Bulldogs with 14 tackles, while Braken Little added 11. Chandler Lowes added two tackles for loss, and Brayden Pruitt had the Bulldogs lone sack.

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