NEWARK, Ohio — Not the result the wanted, but a great experience either way.
The Eastern football team had its 2019 season come to a close in the opening round of the Region 27 playoffs, with the seventh-seeded Eagles falling to second-seeded host Newark Catholic by a 35-7 count on Saturday night at White Field in Licking County.
The Eagles (8-3) — playing in Week 11 for the first time since 2001 — went 56 yards in 11 plays on the game’s opening drive, but fell a yard short of a first down at the hosts’ eight-yard line.
Newark Catholic (8-3) covered the 92 yards in eight plays, with a nine-yard touchdown pass from Matt Carlisle to Brandon Buchanan and Ryan Auer’s first of five point-after makes giving the hosts a 7-0 edge with 3:12 left in the first.
The game’s next three possessions were three-and-outs, but the Green Wave took a 14-0 lead on their first offensive snap of the second quarter, with Derek Hawk scoring on a 14-yard run with 9:28 left in the half.
Newark Catholic got the ball back on the Eagle 28 after Slater Evans intercepted a tipped pass on the second play of the ensuing EHS drive. Five plays later, Evans caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Carlisle, making the margin 21-0 with 6:35 left in the half.
The Green Wave forced EHS into a three-and-out once more time, and two plays later went up 28-0, as Hawk caught a 55-yard scoring pass from Carlisle at the 4:01 mark of the second.
Chance Brooks picked off an Eagle pass three plays into the next drive, but Mason Dishong got the ball back for the guests with an interception behind the line of scrimmage.
Eastern made it to the NCHS side of the field, but was picked off again, as Brendan Sheehan got the ball back for the hosts.
Newark Catholic couldn’t add to its lead on either side of the break, running out of time and then missing a 38-yard field goal on its first drive of the second half.
Eastern’s first possession after the break took over nine minutes off the clock, and consisted of 17 straight run plays — each of which gained positive yardage. EHS junior Steve Fitzgerald put the Eagles on the board with a one-yard touchdown run at the 11:24 mark of the fourth quarter. Dishong followed with an extra-point kick and trimmed the margin to 28-7.
The Green Wave, however, answered with a 10-play, 68-yard drive, capped off by a 10-yard touchdown run by Carlisle.
The Eagles converted on fourth down once on their final drive, but couldn’t repeat the feat, and Newark Catholic sealed the spot in Week 12 with a 35-7 win.
Following the Eagles’ third-ever postseason contest, sixth-year EHS head coach praised his team’s effort against the Green Wave, and talked about the playoff experience.
“I told them, that’s the most proud I’ve ever been of a team,” said Coach Newland. “You have a hard-hitting team like Newark Catholic, and I’m just so proud that they came out and we played the second half. This team has done that all-year, they’re just a great group of young men.
“It was a great experience just to be in the playoffs. It wasn’t what we wanted, but I’m just so happy for these seniors (Mason Dishong, Michael Letson and Nick Little), that they got a chance to experience the playoffs.”
Newark Catholic earned a 16-to-12 advantage in first downs for the game, after having a 9-to-5 edge in the category at halftime. The Eagles gained 181 of their 216 total yards on the ground, with 90 rushing yards in the first half and 91 after the break. NCHS had 417 total yards, gaining just 123 after halftime. Both teams were penalized for 15 yards, EHS on three flags and Newark Catholic on one.
Coach Newland talked about the Eagles’ slow start, as well as the changes they made in the second half.
“When you play a team like Newark Catholic, they’re so fast at every position, you don’t want to admit it, but we were a little shell-shocked at first,” Coach Newland said. “We made a few mistakes, some blown coverage, just some things you can’t do and win these games. We went into halftime and regrouped. It’s like, let’s settle down, let’s just play football the way we know how to play football, and you know, we came back out and did pretty well.”
Leading the Eagle offense, Blake Newland posted 83 yards on 23 carries and 14 yards on two receptions, while Fitzgerald recorded 81 yards and a touchdown on 21 totes.
Conner Ridenour — who was 3-of-12 passing for 35 yards — ran twice for a total of 13 yards. Dishong caught one 21-yard pass, while Brayden Smith ran once for three yards.
Will Oldaker led the Eagle defense with seven tackles, including two tackles for a loss and one sack.
Hawk led the hosts with 203 total yards and two touchdowns, rushing 15 times for 148 and catching a 55-yard pass. Carlisle — who ran six times for a total of 39 yards and one touchdown — was 6-of-15 passing for 140 yards and three scores.
Drew Hess picked up 69 yards on six carries for Newark Catholic, Sam Muetzel had one rush for eight yards, while Tristan Gorious finished with four yards over three carries.
Evans led all-receivers with three grabs for 62 yards and a score. Tanner Elwell caught a 14-yard pass, while Buchanan had a nine-yard touchdown reception in the win.
The loss ends Eastern’s six-game win-streak, its longest since 2000 when the the Eagles won eight in a row before falling to the Green Wave in the playoffs.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.