ZIONSVILLE – In recent years Hamilton Southeastern has had Zionsville’s number when it comes to football.
The Royals came into Friday’s game at Class 5A No. 6 Zionsville with a seven game winning streak in the series, and five of those wins were by eight points or less.
That dominance continued by a wider margin Friday night, as the host Eagles fell to 2-2 in the tough Hoosier Crossroads Conference with 21-3 loss to the Royals behind a strong defensive effort.
“It is the same thing that has been wrong all year,” Zionsville coach Larry McWhorter said of his stagnant offense. “We’re just not executing very well. We’re not blocking people consistently, we’re not running the ball as we think we should and the passing game is atrocious. We thought it got a little better last week but tonight Southeastern had a lot to do with it.”
For much of the first half the Eagles walked a delicate balance to avoid being blown out. Zionsville gained only 79 first half yards, 39 of which came on a second quarter drive that ended with a 26-yard field goal from Ryan Conner.
Southeastern, on the other hand, gained 224 yards and earned 12 first downs. The Royals started their first two drives inside Zionsville territory, the first of which ended in a 1-yard touchdown run by Tyler Janney.
That drive was aided by a 15-yard penalty on the Eagles and a fumble recovered 12 yards downfield by HSE.
Zionsville’s defense bailed the Eagles out three times in the first half. Zach baker recovered a fumble at deep in HSE territory and returned it to near midfield midway through the first quarter. Conner, playing defensive back, also had an interception deep in Zionsville territory to end another drive.
The Royals moved ahead 14-0 on a 19 yard run by Hunter Hardee with 7:30 left in the first half before the Eagles benefited from an HSE mistake. The Royals went for an onside kick, but interfered with Zionsville’s opportunity to catch the ball and the Eagles got the ball at the HSE 43. That led to Conner’s field goal.
The Royals had a chance to add to their lead before halftime, but after completing a pass to the two with six seconds left and no timeouts they elected to go for a touchdown. Jamitreus Crockham was stuffed at the line to keep it 14-3 at halftime.
“Turnovers were really good and I thought we could capitalize on them but we didn’t get a single point off of them,” McWhorter said. “I thought the stop was significant and would give us some momentum in the second half and we had a couple stops early in the third quarter, but we couldn’t get anything going and they decided they could run it down our throats.”
Unfortunately, Zionsville’s offense struggled even more in the second half.
Zionsville gained only 41 second half yards and managed only one first down that was not granted via penalty.
The Eagle defense held strong, but The Royals closed than game out with a clock-killing 63-yard drive on its final possession. Hunter Hardee scored from two yards out with just under a minute to play to make the final margin 21-3.
“We have to find a way to score points and it is just painfully obvious to anyone who watches us,” McWhorter said. “We’re averaging barely double digits and that is not how this league goes. I don’t know where we go for those answers. We’re working as hard as we can and it is just not happening.”
Hardee finished the night with 125 yards on the ground and a touchdown, which was almost equal to Zionsville’s entire offensive output of 120 yards.