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United takes EOAC from Southern

United’s Brock Rhodes gets past Southern’s Colton Soukup (7) and Justin Robb (37) on a punt return Friday. (Morning Journal/Ron Firth)

HANOVERTON — United dominated on both sides of the football and soared like Eagles to the outright Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference championship with a 28-6 win over Southern Local before a rocking crowd in Hanoverton Friday night.

United, Southern and Leetonia shared the EOAC crown last fall, but that wasn’t the case this season as the Golden Eagles left no doubt as they captured the league crown outright at 6-0. United improved to 8-1 overall heading into next weekend’s Division VI playoffs.

“We’ve won it (the league title) three out of the last four years,” smiled United coach D.J. Ogilvie. “I’m very proud of our kids and our program.”

With the loss, Southern ends the regular season at 7-3 overall and 6-1 in the EOAC as the Indians will be in D7 playoff action next Friday.

“We didn’t play well,” said Southern Local coach Rich Wright. “The field was a mess and they were bigger, they were stronger and they outplayed us — out everything.”

United combined an outstanding defensive effort with a balanced and effective offensive attack to capture the one-sided win against a quality Southern Local team.

The Golden Eagles’ defense held the Indians, who came into the game averaging 38 points per game, to six points and picked off two Southern passes, one which set up a score. The Indians’ power rushing attack was held to 105 yards.

United’s defense stopped Southern Local drives at the Golden Eagles’ 34, 24 and 16-yard lines during the game.

The Golden Eagles were bigger than the Indians on both sides of the football and won the battle in the trenches.

“Just proud of our kids and how hard they played,” said the United coach. “Our offensive line is very physical.”

“Our defense played spectacular,” said Ogilvie, who got a Gatorade shower compliments of his team afterward.

“It was tough field position and their kicker put us in bad field position and their defense definitely out-coached me tonight, but we’ll get better,” said Wright.

Offensively, the Golden Eagles racked up 346 yards of offense, led by junior quarterback Grant Knight, who accounted for 212 yards of it, including a game-high 119 yards rushing on 13 carries with a touchdown. Through the air, the United helmsman was 11-of-14 for 107 yards and a score.

“It feels great (to win the league title),” said Knight. “We did it last year and we had to do it all over again, and all the hard work paid off.”

The United signal-caller sensed the Eagles were about to play a great game early.

“The first kickoff, actually,” he said. “We had a great week of practice, great defensive practices, great offensive practices and we just came out here and showed we were the best team.”

Complementing Wright in the backfield were United’s Ward Kiko with four carries for 60 yards and Lincoln Urmson with 40 yards on 11 carries.

When Ogilvie prepared to talk to his team in one end zone after the win, he took off his outer shirt and underneath was a white T-shirt commemorating United’s EOAC title. His team loved it.

Leading Southern offensively was running back Wyatt Morris with 38 yards on eight carries while Colton Soukup added 32 yards on 13 tries and Noah Perfetto had 27 yards on four carries.

United set the tone early, scoring on its second possession of the night. The Eagles had a sustained drive, capped off by a four-yard scoring run by junior running back Caden Marshall. Kicker Luke Courtney added the PAT kick and the Golden Eagles took a 7-0 lead at the 2:30 mark of the first period.

United’s defense held Southern’s run-dominated offense to just 45 yards in the first half while Eagle defenders Tyler Dickens and Ward Kiko picked off passes. Dickens’ pick set up United’s second touchdown.

The Eagles found the end zone when Knight rolled right, reversed his field and sprinted 30 yards to the end zone. Courtney again boomed the PAT kick and the Golden Eagles, who had 103 yards offense at the break, went up 14-0 with 2:04 left before halftime.

“There’s nothing much more you can ask for,” said Knight. “My line is great, my receivers are great and our defense was amazing.”

“Grant played very well tonight,” lauded Ogilvie. “I’m proud of him — he’s progressed as a quarterback and a leader.”

United made it 21-0 midway through the third quarter. After a short Indians’ punt, the Golden Eagles took over at the Indians’ 47 and capitalized when Knight faded back and found junior wideout Nick Hardgrove who had gotten behind a Southern defender with a 47-yard scoring pass over the middle at the 5:20 mark of the third period. Courtney again added the PAT kick.

Southern finally got on the board with 4:39 left in the fourth quarter on a one-yard quarterback sneak by Ryan Exline. The conversion pass failed and the Indians trailed 21-6.

“We fought hard,” said the Southern mentor. “We made too many mistakes and they (the Golden Eagles) did a good job tonight. I wish them luck in the playoffs.”

“We’re a good young team and we’ll see them again,” said Wright who only has two seniors on his roster while United only has seven.

Game notes

¯ Southern won last year’s meeting with the Golden Eagles by a 34-21 final in Salineville. The Indians had won the previous two meetings prior to Friday. United’s last win in the series was in 2018 when the Golden Eagles rolled to a 33-18 triumph.

¯ Both United and Southern Local are expected to host playoff games next Saturday night.

Playoff pairings will be announced by the OHSAA on Sunday.

“You’re never happy when you lose but we get to play at our place next week and we usually play pretty well there,” Wright said.

SOUTHERN: 0-0-0-6 — 6

UNITED: 7-7-7-7 –28

SCORING

U — Caden Marshall, 4 run, 2:30 1st (Luke Courtney kick)

U — Grant Knight, 30 run, 2:04 2nd (Luke Courtney kick)

U — Nick Hardgrove, 47 pass from Grant Knight, 5:20 3rd (Luke Courtney kick)

S — Ryan Exline, 1 run, 4:39 4th (Pass failed)

U — Lincoln Urmson, 1 run, 1:57 4th (Courtney kick)

——

S U

First downs 12 20

Total yards 214 346

Rushes-yards 34-105 37-239

Passing 109 107

Comp-Att-Int 9-15-2 11-14-0

Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-0

Punts 3-34 4-33

Penalties-Yards 6-55 7-70

——

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

RUSHING — Southern, Colton Soukup, 15-32, Ryan Exline 4-8, Wyatt Morris 8-38, Noah Perfetto 4-27; United, Grant Knight, 13-119, Lincoln Urmson 14-40, Ward Kiko 4-60, Cody Cope 2-2, Caden Marshall 3-18

PASSING — Southern, Ryan Exline, 9-15-93-0-2; United, Grant Knight 11-14-93-1-0

RECEIVING — Southern, Colton Soukup 4-64, Markel Smith 4-35, Noah Perfetto 1-10; United, Nick Hardgrove 1-47, Ward Kiko 8-30, Cody Cope 2-16, Caden Marshall 1-3

INTERCEPTIONS — Southern, Colton Soukup; United, Tyler Dickens, Ward Kiko.

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