HANNIBAL, Ohio — No answer for the Pilots’ passing.
The 11th-seeded Eastern football team had its postseason come to an end on Friday night at Martin Flannery Field, falling to third-seeded River 49-13 in the Region 27 quarterfinals, with the hosts completing 16-of-24 pass attempts for 278 yards and four touchdowns.
Eastern (5-3) — which had won five straight decisions headed into play — came up with a takeaway on the first drive of the game, as Steve Fitzgerald intercepted a pass inside the 10-yard line, and returning it to the Eagle 11.
River (6-2) — which will host Shadyside in the regional semifinal next Friday — got the ball back after a three-and-out and needed six plays to put points on the board. Carter Dennis scored the touchdown on a one-yard run, and Zac Hocutt made his first of seven point-after kicks, giving the hosts a 7-0 edge with 6:20 left in the opening period.
The Eagles’ next possession started with its most successful play of the first half, with Colton Combs breaking a 26-yard run. Eastern picked up just one more yard before punting, however, and River took over on its own 34.
The Pilots navigated the 66 yards in eight plays, and went up 14-0 with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Brody Lollathin to Michael Johnson at the 2:17 mark of the first quarter.
The Eagles were picked off on their next possession, and RHS went up 21-0 on the first play of the second quarter, a 32-yard touchdown pass from Lollathin to Johnson.
The duo connected for another score with 1:46 left in the half, this time from 26 yards out.
River added seven more points and went into halftime with a 35-0 lead, thanks to a 55-yard pick-six from Chase Lawerence.
RHS went up 42-0 on its first drive of the second half, as Dennis caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Lollathin.
Eastern answered with a 12-play, 76-yard drive, capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by Fitzgerald with 10:08 to play.
Next, the Eagle defense forced a three-and-out, and the guests took over at their own 46 after the punt. On the very next play, Brady Yonker found Preston Thorla for a 54-yard touchdown pass. Brad Hawk made the point-after kick, trimming the River lead to 42-13 with 6:46 left.
The Pilots capped off the 49-13 win on the ensuing kickoff, with Johnson fielding the kick on the RHS 17 and winding up in the end zone 14 seconds later.
River earned a 17-to-14 edge in first downs in the contest, including 15-to-5 in the first half. The Red and Gray outgained the Eagles 383-to-279 for the game, after a 305-to-96 advantage in the first half. Both teams had two turnovers and four penalties in the contest, with EHS losing 30 yards on flags, and River backing up 15 yards.
Leading the Eagles, Combs had 105 yards on 15 carries, and Fitzgerald posted 104 yards and a touchdown on 19 totes. Anthony Reed earned 12 yards on a pair of rushes, Brayden Smith added three yards on three carries, while Yonker ran three times for a net gain of one yard.
Yonker’s lone complete pass in nine attempts was the 54-yard touchdown to Thorla.
For the hosts, Lollathin completed 15-of-23 passes for 261 yards and four touchdowns, while rushing three times for 19 yards. Dennis had a team-best 71 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, to go with one 22-yard touchdown. Johnson ran twice for 16 yards, and caught five passes for 135 yards and three touchdowns. Jake Rose hauled in a game-best six passes for 88 yards in the win.
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Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.