BELPRE, Ohio — As the cliché goes, it’s not over until it’s over.
The Eastern football team took a one-point lead with just over two minutes remaining in regulation, on Friday night at Ralph Holder Stadium, but Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division host Belpre scored with 15 seconds left and took the 25-20 victory.
Eastern (4-5, 3-4 TVC Hocking) scored the game’s first touchdown at the 6:32 mark of the opening period, as junior Josh Brewer scored on a two-yard run, capping off a 13-play, 66-yard drive. Jett Facemyer kicked in the extra-point, giving the visiting Eagles a 7-0 edge.
After a punt by each team, Belpre (4-5, 4-3) executed a eight-play 49-yard drive that tied the game, as Issac Tullius scored on a two-yard run and Brandon Simonette made the extra-point.
On the next drive, EHS fumbled the ball away on the BHS 26, but forced Belpre to punt after just four plays. On the first play of the ensuing drive, BHS sophomore Ryan Simonette intercepted a pass, giving the hosts possession at the Belpre 45.
The EHS defense stood tall on fourth down, causing a turnover on downs, but the turnover bug soon struck the Green, White and Gold again. With 31 seconds left in the half, Belpre sophomore Jesse Collins intercepted an EHS pass and returned it 42 yards to paydirt, giving the hosts a 13-7 lead at halftime.
On the first drive of the second half, Belpre made it as far as the EHS 10-yard line, but Jett Facemyer picked off a pass to give the Green, White and Gold possession at their own one-yard line.
The Eastern Eagles punted after just four plays, and Belpre setup shop near midfield. The Golden Eagles made it into the red zone, but Eastern’s defense stood tall yet again, forcing another turnover on downs.
EHS punted on its first drive of the fourth quarter, and Belpre took advantage, increasing its lead to 19-7 with an 8-play, 57-yard drive, that was capped off by a 12-yard Ryan Simonette TD run.
Eastern answered on its ensuing possession, covering 51 yards in 1:20. The fifth play of the drive was a 20-yard touchdown run by Jett Facemyer, who also added the point-after kick to trim the EHS deficit to 19-14.
The EHS defense came up with a big three-and-out on the ensuing Belpre drive, but a 52-yard punt pinned the Green, White and Gold back to their own six. In four plays, Eastern moved the ball out to its own 35, and Jett Facemyer took it from there, as the EHS senior raced 65 yards for a touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt was stuffed, but Eastern led 20-19 with 2:07 to play.
Belpre returned the ensuing kickoff into EHS territory and were in the red zone after a defensive pass interference penalty and an 18-yard pass play. The Golden Eagles made it to the EHS one-yard line with a nine-yard Tojzae Reams run on first down. After an incomplete pass on second down, BHS quarterback Brandon Simonette punched into the endzone on a third down run to give the hosts a 25-20 lead with 15 seconds left on the clock.
Eastern made it as far as the Belpre 40-yard line in the final 15 seconds, but time ran out and BHS claimed the 25-20 victory.
Eastern outgained the Orange and Black 302-to-258 in total yards, but Belpre had a 19-to-14 edge in first downs. Eastern was minus-2 in turnover differential, but committed half the number of penalties as Belpre. The Golden Eagles were flagged eight times for 73 yards, while EHS was penalized four times for 52 yards.
Jett Facemyer — who was 11-of-18 passing for 95 yards — led the Green, White and Gold on the ground with 140 yards and two scores on 14 carries. Jeremiah Martindale marked 21 yards on two carries, Trenton Delacruz added 11 yards on three totes, while Josh Brewer had seven yards and one touchdown on 12 carries.
Blaise Facemyer — who completed his only pass attempt for 28 yards — led all receivers six receptions for 55 yards. Brewer and Sharp Facemyer each caught two passes, gaining 17 and 19 yards respectively. Jon Wolfe had one 28-yard reception and Corbett Catlett added one four-yard reception for the Green, White and Gold.
Reams led Belpre on the ground with 77 yards on 19 tries, followed by Ryan Simonette with 73 yards on 10 carries.
Bandon Simonette completed 7-of-13 passes for 102 yards, with Deijon Bedgood hauling in a team-best three passes for 60 yards.
Eastern will look to bounce back in Saturday’s regular season final, in which Southern will visit East Shade River Stadium.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.