Fans huddle together for warmth while watching a football game between Hagerstown and Northeastern in Fountain City, Friday, Oct. 31, 2014.
FOUNTAIN CITY, Ind. – Northeastern High School football coach Mike Roeder said he expected to see an improved Hagerstown, and early on, the Knights got that.
When the Tigers put together an impressive drive in the first quarter, though, the Knights responded.
The Class A No. 3-ranked Knights pulled away from a somewhat close first half, defeating Hagerstown 50-13 in Friday’s semifinal of IHSAA Class A Sectional 45 and advancing to a fifth sectional final in seven years.
The Knights will play a sectional final rematch against Eastern Hancock, which won last year’s meeting and eventually fell in the state final. The Royals (9-2) defeated Monroe Central 35-18 in Friday’s other semifinal.
“It’s what we’ve been waiting on,” Roeder said. “What we’ve been wanting, what we’ve been dreaming of. I know that it sounds hokey to say it, but this has really been this team’s goal this whole year. It’s just to get a chance at this next week. It wasn’t so much just at Hancock. Whoever we would play, we just wanted a chance to advance and win this sectional, and we’ve got that opportunity now.”
The Knights (11-0) rolled out to a 12-0 lead after the first quarter on a 17-yard touchdown run by Josh Tudor and later a 70-yard touchdown pass from Joey Claypoole to Kelsy Kirkland.
In between, Hagerstown used four first downs to get solid field position at the Knight 20.
However, the Knight defense buckled down, stopping the Tigers (5-6) on fourth-and-2 to force a turnover on downs.
Claypoole made it 18-0 with a 6-yard run about midway through the second quarter, before Hagerstown finally got on the board with a 2-yard run by Dylan Woolard.
However, the Knights responded with a pair of touchdowns in the final 1:33 of the half, with Claypoole running in a 9-yard score to make it 26-7 and, after an interception from Tyler Sandlin, Claypoole finding Craig Dingwerth on a 13-yard touchdown strike for a 32-7 halftime lead.
“I thought at the end of the first half, that flurry of points kind of might have been the determining factor here tonight,” Roeder said.
Claypoole added touchdowns of 6 and 23 yards, respectively, in the third, and after Hagerstown’s Dakota Roach added a 4-yard score in the fourth, Cole Retter capped the scoring with a 5-yard run.
Claypoole finished with two touchdowns and 178 yards in the air, unofficially, while adding 127 yards and four more scores on the ground.
“They’re a very talented team, so they did a great job up front with their line, and they had a good game plan coming in,” Hagerstown coach Scott Snodgrass said. “Coach Roeder’s team is tough this year. No one can argue that, I don’t think, and Claypoole’s a great athlete. You get him in the second down-and-30 and he just gets first down. It’s just, I felt like our kids played hard. Sometimes, though, that’s not always enough.”
Kirkland had one reception last week while playing mainly defense as the program’s all-time leading rusher recovered from injury.
He returned with 56 rushing yards on 10 carries, plus a pair of catches for 98 yards and another strong performance on defense.
“We’re excited to play Eastern Hancock. They’re going to bring a tough game, and we’ve got to prepare like it’s our last game. And it was good to be back this week,” Kirkland said.
Chace Mosley and Petey McDaniel teamed on a quarterback sack for the Knight defense and Ryan Hartmann added another, while Quest Schwab played solid defense, including a sack that was negated with a penalty.
Jake Slinker had a pair of catches for 37 yards, Dingwerth had two for 38 and Alec Hughes one for 15.
Elijah Wagers had 42 yards on three carries, Tudor added 19 yards on two and Jacob Auger 16 on five.
Northeastern, an outright Tri-Eastern Conference champion for the first time ever, is 11-0 for the first time in school history.
The Knights fell in the sectional final in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013.
Hagerstown is just one of two TEC teams to have won a sectional title, and the Tigers own 10. The other is Tri, which has one.
Hagerstown was the last TEC team to go 11-0 when the Tigers finished 12-1 in 2010.
This year, the Tigers finish 5-6 after starting 0-4.
“The way I look at it right now is, I feel awful for the three seniors, they’re great young men. Peter Hellwarth, Martin Block and Garrett Blevins, they’ve led us all year long,” Snodgrass said. “On the bright side, they’re the only three seniors. We’ve got a lot coming back and we’ve got a lot coming up, so it’s going to be exciting.”
Block had a pair of sacks for the defense and added 46 yards on seven carries.
Freshman quarterback Owen Golliher added 88 yards on 16 carries, Woolard had 59 on 10 and Roach 42 on five.
KNIGHTS 50, TIGERS 13
Hagerstown 0 7 0 6 — 13
Northeastern 12 20 12 6 — 50
NE- Tudor, Josh 17 run, 8:55 (pass failed)
NE- Kirkland, Kelsy 70 pass from Claypoole, Joey, 3:15 (pass failed)
NE- Claypoole 6 run, 7:43 (run failed)
HAG- Woolard, Dylan 2 run, 5:34 (Adams, Keeton kick)
NE- Claypoole 9 run, 1:33 (Kirkland run)
NE- Dingwerth, Craig 13 pass from Claypoole, :39 (run failed)
NE- Claypoole 6 run, 7:26 (run failed)
NE- Claypoole 23 run, 3:48 (run failed)
HAG- Roach, Dakota 4 run, 5:23 (kick blocked)
NE- Retter, Clayton 5 run, 1:23 (run failed)
First downs- HAG 12; NE 15
Rushes-yards- HAG 39-227; NE 39-271.
Passing yards- HAG 3; NE 178.
Comp-att-int- HAG 1-10-1; NE 7-13-0.
Punts-Avg.- HAG 4-28.5; NE 4-31.75.
Fumbles-Lost- HAG 7-4; NE 4-0.
Penalties-yards- HAG 2-20; NE 4-40
RUSHING– HAG: Golliher, Owen 16-88; Woolard 10-59; Block, Martin 7-43; Roach 5-42; Templin 1-(-5). NE- Claypoole 11-127; Kirkland 10-56; Sandlin, Tyler 4-5; Tudor 2-19; Auger, Jacob 5-16; Hughes, Alec 2-(-2), Hartmann, Ryan 1-3; Wagers, Elijah 3-42; Retter, Cole 1-5.
PASSING-HAG: Golliher 1-9-3-0; Burns, Brett 0-1-0-0. NE- Claypoole 7-13-178.
RECEIVING-HAG: Templin, Bret 1-5. NE: Kirkland 2-98; Dingwerth 2-38; Slinker, Jake 2-37; Hughes 1-5.