Ever since the IHSAA’s Class A sectional draw paired Edinburgh up with top-ranked Indianapolis Lutheran, there was a bit of a funereal feel to what most expected to be the end of the Lancers’ most successful football season in a generation.
The unbeaten Saints didn’t do much to soften the parting shot on Friday night.
Two defensive touchdowns and a safety within the first four minutes set the tone for what ended up as a 69-8 bloodletting.
“They’re the No. 1 team in the state for a reason,” Edinburgh coach Tyler DeSpain said. “They do the right things, they’re disciplined, they’re athletic, they’re well coached. … That’s a program that’s been built from the bottom up.”
The night began on a down note right away for the Lancers (5-5), who pinned themselves inside their 10-yard line with a penalty on the opening kickoff. A pair of quarterback sacks, the second by Jake Roberts on third and long, resulted in a safety just 50 seconds into the affair. The Saints (10-0) then needed just four plays to go 60 yards after the free kick, scoring on a 13-yard run by Joe Davis.
Nick Detling gave Edinburgh a boost when he intercepted a Montesi Clay pass on Lutheran’s next drive, but the momentum shift didn’t last long. On the next play, Roberts picked up a Lancer fumble and rumbled into the end zone for a touchdown. Edinburgh quarterback Riley Palmeter was hit as he threw on the next play from scrimmage, and Jake Akins intercepted the pass and took it to the house to make it 21-0 with 8:20 still left to go in the first quarter.
Davis’ second TD run, this one from 8 yards out, stretched Lutheran’s lead to 27 at the 5:59 mark, and Clay added a 41-yard scoring trot just 31 seconds later.
Clay scored on a 45-yard keeper shortly thereafter, then hit Javen Holsey for a 13-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter, extending the score to 48-0. Mercifully, the teams agreed to a running clock from there in an attempt to minimize the damage the rest of the way. Still, the Saints scored one more time before the half on a 28-yard pass from Clay to Jake Pasch, and Lutheran’s backups tacked on a pair of Braydon Hall rushing touchdowns.
Edinburgh went into halftime with just 8 yards of total offense despite a 35-yard pass from Palmeter to Jarrett Turner in the first quarter.
The Lancers found some silver lining in the second half, breaking up the shutout when Palmeter linked up with an open Connor Ramey for a 35-yard TD pass and adding two more points when a bad snap by the Saints’ second-string offense resulted in a safety.
Edinburgh will graduate 10 seniors, a class that was a part of as many victories this season as in their first three years combined.
“It’s the foundation for a new and better program, which we’ve been looking for for a while,” Palmeter said. “It’s just good knowing that looking back, you’re the start of it. This team’s going to be one that people are going to remember.”
Though the final result on Friday was still an ugly one, the Lancers finished with a .500 record for the first time since 1993, a big step forward in what DeSpain hopes will be a long and sustained building process.
“I think people are starting to notice that Edinburgh is on the upward trend,” he said. “I keep telling (the players) that they’re the building blocks of this program. They’re the ones that started this program up, and obviously without them, it’s still the same old Edinburgh. They understand that they’re very good, and we just got the bad luck tonight.
“We’ve just got to hit the weight room. Obviously, these guys were a lot stronger and more powerful and more aggressive, and so we’ve got to find a way as a coaching staff to get them to that point of being more aggressive than what they are now and showing that Edinburgh is not just a team to step on all the time.”