|Tue, Sep 23, 2014 12:18 AM
|Issue of September 17, 2014
September 26, 2012 | 10:00 AM
First-year North Harrison football coach Mark Williamson insists junior running back Brandon Craig is still his starter, but he has no problem using whichever ball carrier is hottest under the Friday night lights.
In Friday's homecoming matchup against Eastern, there was no doubt which back was sizzling.
North Harrison freshman running back Tyler Jones (21) eludes Eastern’s Kaleb Nicholson, left, in Friday’s Mid-Southern Conference matchup in Ramsey. Jones rushed for a career-high 288 yards and had four touchdowns in the Cougars’ 28-7 victory. Photo by Alan Stewart (click for larger version)
Five-ten freshman Tyler Jones had 31 carries for 288 yards and scored all four of the Cougars touchdowns on runs of 54, 37 and two four-yard romps in a 28-7 Mid-Southern Conference victory.
"Tyler's done a good job the last couple of weeks. He sees things pretty well. He runs the ball well. His big thing is, where he's improved is, he hasn't put the ball on the ground lately. Earlier this season, he was having a little bit of ball security issues and now he's coming on," Williamson said. "Brandon Craig is still our starter. He will remain our starter, but Tyler's kind of a nice kid to have come in to change the pace up. We're going to have two guys and go with the hot guy."
Eastern (0-6, 0-5 MSC) drew first blood after forcing a North Harrison punt to start the contest.
Starting from their own 35, the Musketeers marched to the Cougars' 28 in eight plays. On fourth-and-long, Eastern quarterback Austin Roberts connected with Scott Ames down the middle of the field. Ames scooted the distance and went untouched to the end zone. Jordan Omerso added the conversion kick for a 7-0 lead with 5:46 left in the opening quarter.
North Harrison (2-4, 1-4 MSC) bounced right back.
Starting at the 46, thanks to a nice kickoff return by Derrick Harter, Jones took the handoff from sophomore quarterback Jack Phelps, cut back across the grain and outran the defenders for a touchdown. The two-point run failed and ended the first quarter scoring at 7-6.
The Cougars converted on three third-downs and one fourth-down situation to drive to Eastern's 5-yard line when Phelps was stripped of the ball by a defender and the Musketeers took over at their own 5.
Celebration from the visiting sideline was short-lived, however, when Roberts was unable to handle a bad snap into the end zone and was eventually tackled. North junior linebacker Brandon Stokes was credited with a safety to give his club an 8-7 lead it wouldn't relinquish.
After a nice 29-yard reception by Harter, Jones added his second score of the night from 37 yards out with 4:26 remaining in the half. He added a two-point conversion to set the margin at 16-7 at the intermission.
The only real highlight for either team in a scoreless third quarter was an interception by North Harrison senior Steven House, who hauled one in after Eastern's intended receiver, Ames, tipped the ball in the air high enough that House was able to get under it for the catch.
That eventually led to a Cougar touchdown five plays later — on the first snap of the final quarter — when Jones rumbled up the middle for a four-yard score. The point-after pass failed, keeping the margin at 22-7.
After forcing Eastern to punt on its next possession, Jones took just three plays to find the end zone. He ran for 11 and 45 yards to set up a four-yard dive with 8:28 left in the game. The conversion run failed, setting the final score at 28-7.
"I was really happy with the way the offensive line played, and, defensively, (Eastern) did some things early on their first drive and we changed things up. I was really happy how we played defensively," Williamson said. "We're getting a little better every week and you can see it. The attitude is changing a little bit. By no stretch are we there. We've got a long haul, but we're better than we were three weeks ago. It was a good total team effort. It was really, truly closer than the score showed."
Craig had 57 yards on 13 carries. As a team, the Cougars rushed 57 times for 350 yards. Phelps was 1-4 in passing with no interceptions. North Harrison had 17 first downs and was penalized twice for 30 yards.
The Musketeers rushed 21 times for 38 yards and were paced by Jordan Eberle's 42 yards rushing. Roberts finished 2-8 for 33 yards and one reception, giving Eastern just 71 yards of offense on the night. The team was held to just six first downs (two in the first half) and was hampered by five penalties for 45 yards.
Off the win, North Harrison will travel to Silver Creek Friday for another MSC matchup. The Dragons (1-5) are largely a three-headed monster offensively with running back Layne Taylor, quarterback Brooks Howell and receiver Drew Sherrow. The team's only win came against Eastern, a 44-18 blowout on Sept. 8.
"Silver Creek, I know they put a lot of points on the board against everybody. It's going to be a real challenge for our defense," Williamson said. "Hopefully, we can move the ball well enough to keep their offense off the field. We don't want to give up the big plays. We want to make them earn it, and that's the way our defense is designed."