HURLEY — East Central closed its season with a bittersweet 21-20 win over Stone High on Thursday night.
This win gave the Hornets their only Region 4-5A win of the year. East Central and Stone both finished 3-7 overall and each 1-4 in region play. The Hornets, however, will miss the state playoffs for the first time in 10 years under second-year head coach Sam Huff.
The Hornets were led by running back Cody Yauch, who carried the ball 20 times for 135 yards and three touchdowns. KJ Galloway shined in the loss for the Tomcats as he accounted for 114 yards of offense and two touchdowns rushing.
“It was huge, what a better way to end the season for these seniors,” Huff told Makenzie Knight after the game. “It hadn’t been a fun season and we know that as well as anybody. (The win) was just a testament to the kind of kids we have here, they played their guts ut knowing that it was the last time they’d play on this field.”
After forcing an East Central three-and-out on the first drive of the game, Stone grabbed the early 7-0 lead. Tomcats quarterback Dylan Collins ripped off a 50-yard run to help set up a 4-yard touchdown by Galloway.
East Central responded in the second quarter with an 8-yard touchdown run by Yauch to tie the game at 7.
Later in the quarter, the Hornets attempted to take the lead with a 52-yard field goal try. The attempt fell short, giving Stone a short field before halftime.
The Tomcats capitalized with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Collins to receiver Willie Breland for a 13-7 lead as time ran out in the first half.
In the third quarter, the Hornets’ Pacey Baria picked off Collins and Yauch punched in his second touchdown run of the game, this time from 15 yards, for a 14-13 East Central lead late in the quarter.
Less than 20 seconds later, Stone regained the lead on a 57-yard touchdown by Galloway.
Trailing 20-14, the Hornets’ offense drained the clock for the remainder of the third quarter and the majority of the fourth quarter.
Yauch capped the winning drive with his third touchdown rushing for a 21-20 East Central lead with 3:09 left in the game.
With Stone driving down the field, Baria got his second interception of the game to secure the victory and help the Hornets wrap up the regular season on a winning note and snap a four-game losing streak to end the season.
It marked a disappointing end to a disappointing season for the Tomcats as well under first-year head coach Jacob Ayccock. Stone played for the Class 4A South State championship last season. Also, a win by the Tomcats in the season finale against the Hornets would have resulted in a playoff berth for Stone but instead, the Tomcats missed the postseason for the first time in nine seasons since 2014.