HOWARD – Caleb Gallwitz took the field in the second half with a new mission.
For one half of football Friday, Gallwitz and the East Knox Bulldogs were locked neck-and-neck with the Centerburg Trojans, two teams vying for the lead in the Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference. The Bulldogs had been slow and conservative, matching the Trojans in power and speed to a 7-7 score.
Then, like a pool hall hustler, Gallwitz exploded for an 80-yard touchdown run on the first play in the second half. East Knox rode that momentum to a convincing 38-14 victory, earning a stranglehold on the KMAC lead.
“We came together as a team and said enough is enough,” said Gallwitz, who rushed for 214 yards and three touchdowns Friday. “We had to come together as a team and get this done.”
Gallwitz had 174 of his yards in the second half. Eighty came on a simple off-tackle run play in which he shook one tackle downfield. No one else got close to him.
“That was a big step for our team, to come out on the right foot,” East Knox head coach Cody Reese said. “Then, we have to make sure it would sustain.”
After forcing a three-and-out, East Knox (7-0, 4-0 KMAC) took four plays to score again, when quarterback Kadden Lester found Cade Leach on a slant pattern. Leach broke away and scored on the 30-yard play.
Ian Toller struck the next blow for the Bulldogs. After stopping Centerburg (4-3, 2-2 KMAC) again, the Bulldogs lined up to receive the punt. Toller broke through and blocked the kick, setting up first down at the Centerburg 5 for the Bulldogs.
One field goal by Leach later, East Knox led, 24-7.
Lester completed 14 out of 25 passes for 175 yards and two scores.
“The offensive line was getting a better push off the ball (in the second half),” Reese said. “They were able to open up some holes for Caleb. That helped the passing game. It all works together.”
“They (Centerburg) have good players and a good coach. We had to work past that and work hard for the victory.”
Centerburg didn’t have a bad day on offense; the Trojans just didn’t have the opportunities East Knox had. Jack Gregory went 15-of-21 for 108 yards and a touchdown. Running back Donnell Marshall finished with 91 yards on 13 carries with a score. Seven different receivers caught passes.
The 14 points given up by East Knox was the most since Week 2, when they surrendered 15 to Utica in the Bulldogs’ 68-15 rout.
After a scoreless first quarter, East Knox struck first with a 31-yard pass from Lester to Weston Melick. The touchdown capped off a 14-play drive that ate up more than five minutes on the clock.
Centerburg responded with a 25-yard touchdown carry by Marshall, evening the score.
Following East Knox’s 17-point blitz in the third, the Trojans scored on a 22-yard pass play to Marshall.
East Knox put the game away on the following drive. The Bulldogs kept the ball for 8 1/2 minutes on 14 plays, capped by Gallwitz’s second touchdown from two yards out.
East Knox currently sits in first place in Region 22, according to joeeitel.com. Centerburg fell from eighth to 12th, according to the website. The Trojans’ next opponent is Highland, coming on Centerburg’s final home game of the year.
This was the third straight season East Knox began the year 6-0, and the second time the team went 7-0. The Bulldogs’ final three opponents – Cardington, Mount Gilead and Danville – have a combined 5-16 record.
“We aren’t wanting to leave a tradition of success. We want to leave a tradition of hard work in the offseason and playing as a team,” Gallwitz said. “From the field and in the crowd, we want to leave a tradition of working hard. We don’t want to leave a tradition of going 7-0.
“It’s a great feeling, but we’re not done yet. We still have very good teams to play.”