[Zach Paquette | WOUB]

East Knox Stages Comeback Win Over Trimble with Big Performances from Lester and Knepp

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TRIMBLE, Ohio (WOUB) — The Trimble Tomcats came into Saturday night’s battle with the East Knox Bulldogs as the five seed in Division VII, Region 27. They finished the regular season 7-2 overall, 4-0 in TVC conference play, and were coming off a 38-0 victory over Fisher Catholic in the first round of the OHSAA Playoffs. East Knox came into the game as the four seed and had home field advantage. They finished 8-2 in the regular season, 5-1 in conference play, and defeated Reedsville Eastern 41-13 in the first round of the playoffs. East Knox also came into the game undefeated at home. The stage was set for a great round two matchup, and we got just that.

Bryce Downs got the scoring started for the Tomcats as he ran in a 67-yard touchdown run to give Trimble the 7-0 lead. Get used to hearing Downs’ name.

After a Trimble interception by Austin Wisor, the Tomcats drove down the field and Downs again capped off the drive with a 26-yard touchdown run to give the Tomcats a 14-0 lead going into the second quarter.

In the second quarter is when the Bulldog offense and quarterback Peyton Lester woke up. Lester started the scoring for East Knox with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Blake Bonham to cut the Tomcats lead in half.

Downs was not done yet though. On the next Trimble drive, Downs ran in a 64-yard score that would put the Tomcats up by 14 again, 21-7.

Lester then came back a little over a minute later and found Shane Knepp who would have a toe-tap grab in the back of the endzone from 25-yards out to make it 21-14. Knepp is another name to get used to hearing.

Then, who other than Downs with yet another touchdown. This time from 58-yards out to keep the Tomcats ahead. Downs accounted for 215-yards on just touchdowns in the first half. Dominant.

Before the end of the half Lester again found Knepp for a 29-yard score to get the Bulldogs within a touchdown going into halftime. 28-21.

The second half is when both defenses tightened up the screws.

There was only one score in the third quarter, and it was Lester again finding Knepp for his third score of the game. This time for 26-yards, but after a blocked point after attempt, the Tomcats still led 28-27.

That lead would hold for the rest of the third quarter and majority of the fourth quarter. Both teams traded punts and failed fourth downs for the first 11 minutes of the final quarter until the Bulldogs broke through.

On third down, Lester dropped back and threw down the right sideline to his most trusted receiver. Despite the ball being a bit underthrown and having two Tomcat defenders also clambering for the ball, Knepp rose up, caught the pass, and dove into the endzone to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the game with just 38 precious seconds left.

Knepp then stood up in the back right corner of the endzone and raised both of his arms in the air. As he looked back to his teammates on the field, his teammates off the field, and the community that backed him the whole way, he seemingly soaked in the moment.

However, the Tomcats had one last chance. With four seconds left, Trimble quarterback Tabor Lackey rolled to his right and threw a prayer down the field that was never answered. The ball was batted down.

Tomcat players were scattered around the field heartbroken and in disbelief that their season was over. Bulldog players ran and jumped around the field elated to get to play for at least one more week.

After the game, East Knox head coach, Cody Reese, who is also the principal at the school, talked about Shane Knepp. “Really successful first half, coming out in the second half, we saw some things that we liked so we continued to try to get the ball to him. He continued to make those plays. You love it when you have a senior who’s selfless and a team player like that stepping up making those plays because he’s all about the team.” Knepp was the catalyst for the Bulldog offense but not to be overshadowed is his quarterback, Peyton Lester. Lester threw for 395 yards on 24 completions, a 63.2% completion percentage, and five touchdown passes.

Knepp finished the game with nine catches for 183 yards and his four touchdowns.

Downs finished the game for the Tomcats with 23 rushes for 277 yards, good for 12 yards per carry, and four touchdowns.

Lackey also added on 15 rushes for 78 yards.

For Trimble this is the end of the road for seniors like Tabor Lackey, Bryce Downs, and Blake Guffey just to name a few. It was a big senior class that accounted for a lot of yards, tackles, and touchdowns. Production that will have to be filled next year with the younger players. For East Knox, they move onto week 13 and a date with the number one seed in the region, the Newark Catholic GreenWave. That will be at a neutral site and at a date and time to be named later.