HAMILTON, Mo. — East Buchanan has developed a penchant for scoring a lot of points in a short amount of time.
Yet even the Bulldogs couldn’t have foreseen the fast turnaround they ended up putting together in a 60-41 victory over Hamilton on Friday night at Alumni Stadium.
The Hornets (6-3, 5-2 KCI Conference) had an upset bid up and rolling in the first half against the Class 2 No. 2-ranked visitors, leading 28-6 with 3 minutes, 48 seconds left until halftime.
Over the next 16 minutes and change, East Buchanan (9-0, 7-0) strung together 38 unanswered points to put the finishing touches on a second-straight perfect regular season and claim another conference crown.
“It’s kind of like a snowball effect, really,” said Bulldogs senior quarterback Colby Rapp. “Once it starts to roll, it’s really hard to stop.”
The Bulldogs began the comeback with another one of their trademarks, putting together a quick-strike drive right before halftime. After completing a 23-yard pass to Nate Griffin on fourth-and-17, Rapp ran in the touchdown from 2 yards out to cut the lead to 28-14 with 58 seconds left in the first half.
East Buchanan got the ball out of the break, and took a little more than a minute before Griffin scored from 35 yards out on a screen pass to make it 28-22.
“That was the momentum changer,” Griffin said. “Zac Johnson had a good block that got me open and we just started rolling from there.”
The Bulldogs suffered a brief setback following their only turnover — an interception by Hamilton junior Jaran Richman, but a sack by linebacker Patrick Frazier on third down forced a punt.
A 77-yard pass from Rapp to senior Jason Daugherity followed, setting up a 2-yard run by Garrett Brendle to tie the score at 28-28.
Knowing they needed to resuscitate their offense, Hamilton came right back with a heavy dose of junior running back T.C. East. East carried the Hornets down inside the 10, but then a costly fumble gave the ball back to East Buchanan.
“If we don’t do that maybe it comes out different,” Hamilton coach Caleb Obert said. “We get a little momentum back. But we did. I thought our offense played pretty well. We scored 41 points. That should be enough to win, but it’s not.”
It took less than 3 minutes for the Bulldogs to drive 93 yards, with a 44-yard pass to Griffin setting up the go-ahead score — a 1-yard run by Rapp with 21 seconds left in the third.
East Buchanan then recovered an onside kick, which turned into a 10-yard touchdown pass from Rapp to Johnson which made it 44-28 with 11:03 left.
East finally broke the run with a 1-yard touchdown run, but the conversion attempt failed and East Buchanan reached pay dirt twice more to put the game out of reach.
Rapp finished 26 of 46 through the air for 417 yards and two touchdowns. Seven of those passes went to Griffin for 154 yards, while Daugherity had 94 yards and Johnson hauled in eight passes for 84 yards.
“We had to come together, and at halftime it really helped,” Johnson said. “We just told ourselves that we needed to settle down and we were trying to do too much. If we just did what we had been doing the first eight weeks of the season everything would come together in the end.
“That’s exactly what happened.”
The Hornets found success early in the game running the ball, and took the lead on a 29-yard play-action pass over the top from Richman to Corby Ford. Kyle Elliot, Richman and Telly Harper each ran in second-quarter touchdowns to extend the lead.
East ran the ball 19 times for 129 yards in the loss.