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HOWARD — After surrendering the first score of the game, the East Knox Bulldogs scored 68 unanswered points to rattle off their third win of the year, 68-6, over the Strasburg-Franklin Tigers.
“They came off and they punched us right in the mouth,” East Knox head coach Cody Reese said. “We talk to the boys about how are we going to respond. … We talked to the boys about mentality. We were getting there, we just weren’t making the plays so we had to finish. After that drive, the boys settled down and we were able to finish.”
Strasburg-Franklin came out firing on all cylinders after receiving the opening kickoff. The visitors put together an 11-play opening drive, capped off by a 22-yard touchdown pass from Kape Schupbach to Wade Hostetler. After a missed extra point, the Bulldogs found themselves in a hole midway through the first quarter.
“We have a long history of trying to feel them out before we start going,” East Knox senior Kasson Krownapple said. “That’s what we did and we’ve got to try and fix that. We will fix that in practice this week.
“The first week at our place, for a team to come in and just take it down the field on us, it definitely lit a fire under us to go get it,” he added.
Two completions after giving up the first touchdown of the game and East Knox tied it up. Kadden Lester had two completions on the opening drive for 47 yards, capped by a 10-yard pass to Caleb Gallwitz for the score. A three-and-out and a poor punt by the Tigers set up the Bulldogs with great field position, and Krownapple scored on a 25-yard run on the first play of the drive, giving East Knox the 13-6 lead still in the first quarter.
Krownapple was certainly not done for the night, taking a 2-yard dash to the house on the first play of the second quarter to push the lead to 20-6, with a 57-yard pass to Braden Kannady setting up the score. Another quick drive by Strasburg allowed East Knox to string together some plays, with Krownapple again scoring on a 14-yard run to end an 8-play drive.
Up 27-6, Lester and Dawson Moreland made magic happen twice. The first connection for a score came from 19 yards out with 2:39 to go before intermission. With 30 ticks left on the clock, the two linked up again for a 30-yard score, giving East Knox a 40-6 lead at the break.
“We all want to see each other succeed,” Lester said. “The line was giving great blocks and the wide receivers were doing their thing. They made my job way easier tonight. … It all starts with our hogs up front. I love those guys to death. They’re some of my best friends. They set that pace for us and we just followed right off them. They carried us.”
East Knox scored six times in the first half, with three passing and three rushing touchdowns.
“What we like to do is mix it up and not be predictable with what we are going to do,” Reese said. “That tends to play in our favor so if we can continue doing that, that’s what we need to do.”
Because of the 36-point advantage coming out of the break, there was a running clock for the remainder of the game. Gallwitz got in on the scoring again to open the second half, finding the end zone on a weaving 30-yard scamper down the field on the opening possession of the third. Later in the quarter, Krownapple added one more touchdown to his stat sheet, this one a 5-yard run to the outside, set up by a 72-yard completion from Lester to Kannady, putting the Bulldogs on the 5 for Krownapple to score with 4:01 to go in the third to give the home team a 54-6 lead.
East Knox got the ball back with 11:53 to go in the fourth and Reese opted to put his reserve players in to get them some Friday night experience and they did not disappoint. Chase Darr made the most of his opportunity on the field, scoring on a 47-yard dash with just under 10 minutes to go. Sam Printz tacked on another six with less than two minutes to go to give East Knox the final score of 68-6.
“This is definitely a lot of motivation and even a lot of confidence for our young guys,” Krownapple said. “I’ll be gone, but they’ll still be here and they’ll remember this night and they will have that much more confidence when they get back in there.”
When the dust settled, East Knox finished with 537 total yards. Lester racked up 306 yards through the air on 10 of 14 passing. Kannady had 129 receiving yards on two receptions, while Melick and Moreland both had three receptions, with 86 and 63 yards, respectively.
Krownapple toted the rock 10 times for the Bulldogs, finishing with 79 yards and four touchdowns. Darr has 66 yards on two carries, while Gallwitz and Printz combined for six carries and 57 yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, Dawson David had one solo tackle but was in on 11 assisted tackles. Melick finished the night with two solo and eight assisted tackles. Moreland and Peyton Lester tied for the team lead with four solo tackles apiece. Kannady and Shane Knepp both had an interception on the night.
East Knox rose to 3-0 on the year heading into the conference schedule. The Bulldogs return to their home field next Friday against Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference foe Mount Gilead (0-3) with a 7 p.m. kickoff.
“We need to go 1-0 for the week and we need to treat every single week like it’s a Super Bowl game, like it’s the next biggest game we have on our schedule,” Lester said. “Nothing past it or nothing behind it. It’s Mount Gilead now.”