MARION – Almost 160 years ago to the day, Charles Dickens published the last chapter of arguably his most famous work, “A Tale Of Two Cities.” He took over nine months to write it.
On Friday, Cody Reese spent two hours writing A Tale Of Two Halves – with a far happier ending.
After falling behind, 20-0, to Seneca East in the third quarter, Reese’s East Knox Bulldogs rallied for three touchdowns to stun the Tigers, 21-20, in their Division VI Regional Semifinal at Marion Harding Stadium.
“It was all the boys standing up and saying, ‘Enough’s enough. Let’s make a play,’” said Reese, who is coach of the first 12-0 team in East Knox history. “We got momentum, and the boys just fought their hearts out – with a lot of prayers along the way.”
East Knox will play for a regional championship against Carey next Friday. The Blue Devils edged Hillsdale 7-0 last night. This marks the Bulldogs first regional final appearance since 1999, when they fell to rival Danville at Yellow Jacket Stadium.
Caleb Gallwitz rushed for 156 yards and two touchdowns, including the eventual game-winner with 9:43 to play in the game. Kadden Lester threw a touchdown pass to Braden Kannady, his favorite target in Friday’s game.
Lester spent the first half attempting longer passes, just missing his targets. In the second half, he tried shorter passes and began completing them. That spread out the Seneca East defense.
“I feel like we had a few jitters,” said Lester, who completed 11 of 21 passes for 104 yards. “We came out in the second half, and we were ready. The line threw some good blocks, and the receivers ran crisp patterns.”
East Knox took advantage of six fumbles by Seneca East, recovering four of them. Gallwitz forced three of the fumbles, recovering one of them himself. However, the Bulldogs weren’t able to capitalize on the first three turnovers.
In the third, the Bulldogs’ offense took the field trailing by 20. Lester found Kannady on a 31-yard pass play to the Seneca East 5. Gallwitz ran it in on the next play.
Two plays later, Gallwitz stripped the Tigers of the ball and Shane Knepp fell on it. After a personal foul call on the Tigers, Lester threw a TD pass to Kannady to bring the deficit to six.
“He stood in the pocket and, even though he got drilled, he stepped in and completed a pass,” Reese said. “That says so much.”
Gallwitz took over for most of the next drive, a 62-yard march that ended with East Knox’s first lead of the game.
The Bulldogs (12-0) won a game by one point for the second straight week. They topped Crestview, 21-20, in last week’s Regional Quarterfinals.
Chase Foos went 16 of 22 for 156 yards for the Tigers. Skyler Walker had 24 carries for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
Walker rushed for the first touchdown of the night with 1:14 to play in the first quarter. The holder muffed the snap on the conversion – a mistake that ultimately made the difference in the game. If that sounds familiar, it was a missed extra point that made the difference for East Knox last week as well.
East Knox managed just 101 total yards in the first half, including an interception. In the second half, the Bulldogs rattled off 200.
“In the first half, they brought it to us, and (the Bulldogs) looked a little shell-shocked, to be honest,” Reese said. “They really played hard in the second half and got it together.”
Five different Bulldogs caught passes Friday. Kannady finished with four catches for 59 yards, while Steinmetz had three catches for 15 yards.
Weston Melick led the East Knox defense with 11 solo tackles, two for loss.
The Bulldogs face Carey for the regional championship next Friday at a site to be determined. Coincidently, Carey was the only team to beat Seneca East this season – until Friday.
They won’t worry about that until Saturday. In the meantime, they’ll enjoy another record-setting win.
“I’ll just hang out with my family and soak it in,” Lester said. “Tomorrow, it’s a one-game season again.”