Toronto trips at East Knox
HOWARD – East Knox’s relentless ground game and a few costly mistakes were too much for Toronto to overcome Friday night.
The Red Knights’ run in the Division VII, Region 27 modified postseason tournament came to a close with a 20-6 defeat to the Bulldogs a little more than two hours away from the Gem City.
Toronto, who was the 15th seed in the region, led the game 6-0 at halftime but had a couple other promising drives thwarted by penalties.
“They made some really good adjustments in the second half offensively and defensively,” Toronto head coach Josh Franke said. “We put together a couple of drives, but we weren’t able to finish them and they finished their drives.
“Being up 6-0 and losing 20-6, that’s tough. It’s tough to have the lead at halftime and not come be able to come away with a win. That’s the No. 2 seed in the region for a reason, our kids played tough and I don’t think East Knox expected this game to be that close. I’m proud of our kids, they fought hard.”
Garrett Dozier racked up 120 yards and a score on 31 carries. His score, a 1-yard plunge in the second quarter, wound up being the only points for Toronto (4-4). Dozier also completed a 27-yard pass and hauled in a pair of receptions.
“Garrett is a tough runner. He’s going to get his yards no matter how many guys they put in the box,” Franke said. “At one point, they had 10 or 11 guys in the box, and he was still getting chunks of yards. That’s Garrett.”
The Red Knights turned the ball over three times – all interceptions – and struggled to get anything going in the passing game, as 184 of their 224 total yards were on the ground.
“I don’t think it’s any secret what the key is to playing us,” Franke said. “If you can stymie the run game and force us into passing situations, that’s not necessarily our forte. They made us do some things we’re not comfortable doing and got us off our game plan by stopping the run. Hats off to them.
“Two of the interceptions were off of tipped balls, so credit to their defensive backfield for making some plays. You have to play mistake-free football in the playoffs, and penalties and turnovers hurt us tonight. If not for some of those penalties in turnovers, it might have been a different outcome.”
East Knox (6-1), the region’s No. 2 seed, scored all of its points in the second half.
“It really was a tale of two halves,” East Knox head coach Cody Reese said. “We went in down at halftime, we were playing hard and doing some things nice, but we just weren’t consistent. Toronto did a nice job against us. Give them credit, they had a nice game plan and have a nice team.
“We came out in the second half and were able to get our run game established, and I think that was the difference. Both teams played really hard. It’s the type of game you hate to see any team lose.”
The Red Knights marched inside the Bulldogs 5-yard-line with a 16-play drive opening drive before a couple of costly penalties pushed them back and the drive ended with a turnover on downs at the 5.
“I absolutely think this is a different game if we score there. Unfortunately, penalties hurt us,” Franke said. “It’s kind of been an Achille’s Heel for us the past few weeks that we’ve been able to overcome until (Friday). When you’re playing the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, you can’t have those types of mistakes.”
After a scoreless first, Avery Wiegand stepped in front of a pass by East Knox quarterback Payton Laster at his own 10 and ran it back 89 yards to the 1, setting up Dozier’s score.
That remained the score until near the middle of the third quarter when East Knox’s Weston Mellick ran for a 3-yard score to knot the game at 6-6. That was set up by the first of three interceptions by the Bulldog defense.
“That was the turning point in the game,” Reese said. “We talked to the boys about stepping up and making plays. They did there, and it led to our first score. That was the momentum swing.”
While the Bulldog defense began to contain Dozier, East Knox’s Cole Delaughder began racking up yards, tallying 97 of his 147 rush yards in the second half.
“That was huge because not only did it move the football, it took time off the clock,” Reese said of the run game. “Once we got the lead, being able to run the football and run that clock was monumental.”
Shane Knepp’s lone carry for the Bulldogs went 14 yards for the go-ahead score on the first play of the fourth quarter, then Delaughder scored on a 1-yard plunge with 2:39 to go in the game to all-but put the game out of reach.