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Brandon Craig breaks through for one of his three touchdowns Friday night leading North Harrison to victory. Photo by Ross Schulz (click for larger version)

'Amazing' finish gives NH back-to-back wins

Phelps boots buzzer-beating FG for 31-28 win

October 09, 2013 | 11:01 AM

"It just feels amazing."

That's how quarterback and place kicker Jack Phelps described knocking through the game-winning field goal for North Harrison against Silver Creek as time expired Friday night in Ramsey.

"What can you say? Only in sports. Just amazing," Cougars head coach Mark Williamson said.

Senior running back Brandon Craig, who had three touchdowns on the night, a fumble recovery and a 70-yard return, described the game similarly: "It feels amazing."

"I haven't had that feeling in a long time," assistant coach Gary Fessel, one of the more accomplished players in school history, said following the game.

So, in case it wasn't clear, there was an amazing finish, at least for those backing the home team, Friday night in Ramsey.

After trading scores throughout the second half, North Harrison took possession with 4:58 to go in a 28-all game.

As it had done all game, North Harrison stayed on the ground. Sam Best picked up a first down on two carries and then broke free for a 19-yard gain to move into Silver Creek territory. After an unsuccessful run, a sack, another short run and a Silver Creek offsides penalty, the Cougars were faced with fourth and 5.

Phelps tossed to Best on a sweep, and Best did the rest, easily securing the first down on a 20-yard gain. A couple of runs later, the Cougars were knocking on the door inside the 10-yard line, but time became its biggest threat. With the clock moving inside a minute, Williamson called his last time-out.

Another short gain by Best brought the Cougars to the five-yard line, but the clock continued to tick with no way of stopping it, so the coaching staff rushed the kicking unit onto the field.

"We were taking a risk of them blocking it and running it back," Williamson said.

By the time everyone was set and ready for the snap, only two seconds remained.

Snap. Hold. Kick. Ballgame.

The North Harrison sideline erupted in celebration, as did the student section and fans behind them.

The two Mid-Southern Conference teams were evenly matched, with each score answered by the other.

North Harrison (3-4, 2-4) did its damage on the ground, while Silver Creek (3-4, 2-4) had success through the air.

In the first quarter, the Cougars got on the board first with a 50-yard touchdown run from Craig, but the conversion attempt failed.

Early in the second quarter, Silver Creek matched the Craig touchdown with Bobby Haines scoring from 41 yards out. Cameron Cook drilled the extra point to give the Dragons the lead, 7-6.

The next North Harrison drive stalled, but Trey Kuerzi planted a perfect punt that was downed at the Silver Creek 3-yard line. If that wasn't enough, Kuerzi, who also plays defensive back, intercepted a Brooks Howell pass to give the ball back to the Cougars offense.

A few plays later, Craig added his second touchdown, this time from 10 yards out, on a run in which he broke two tackles and went airborne near the right pylon.

Austin Nevil got into the action on a successful two-point conversion with a smashmouth up-the-middle run to put North Harrison ahead, 14-7.

But, as was the case all night, Silver Creek came back with a score of its own.

Facing a fourth down on the last play of the half near the North Harrison 35-yard line, Howell found Austin Hastings over the middle for a score. The Cougars kept the lead going into the half after a botched snap on the extra-point attempt.

It was more of the same in the second half, as Howell found Cook for a 10-yard scoring play, again on fourth down. A fake extra point led to an easy two-point conversion for Jake Meadows and the Dragons, giving them a 21-14 lead.

After a three-and-out by the Cougars and another long drive by Silver Creek, it looked as though the Cougars would again falter and fade in the second half as it had done in three of its four losses.

But, the defense held and gave the ball back to the offense, where a familiar face, Craig, broke through for a 63-yard touchdown. Phelps added the extra point to tie the game.

On the ensuing kick-off, Hastings quickly turned the momentum back to Silver Creek with a big return to the North Harrison 20-yard line. Luckily for the Cougars, Phelps never gave up on the play and ran down Hastings while shedding a block from Haines to prevent a touchdown.

And three plays later, Haines fumbled on first and goal, when — guess who — Craig picked up the ball and returned it all the way to the Silver Creek 29. Momentum Cougars.

Best and Nevil did the rest, with Nevil punching it in for the score this time, putting North Harrison ahead 28-21 with 7:25 remaining in the game.

Behind the arm of Howell, Silver Creek stormed down the field to tie it on a 14-yard touchdown completion to Drew Sherrow. Sherrow was covered well by Nevil but used his height advantage to leap up and make the grab, knotting the score but leaving enough time for Phelps' heroics.

Howell finished 13-22 for 187 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.

"Their athletes made plays through the air," Williamson said of Howell and his receivers.

Total yardage was quite close, not surprisingly, with Silver Creek edging North Harrison, 353 to 300. North Harrison finished with 299 yards on the ground.

The Dragons didn't do themselves any favors with nine penalties for 55 yards, compared to only three for 15 yards for the Cougars.

It marks the first time the Cougars have won back-to-back games since Oct. 7, 2011, and they'll try to make it three in a row Friday at home against conference foe Clarksville. North Harrison hasn't won three consecutive games since 2006.

Silver Creek will host undefeated conference leader Brownstown Central.

Twitter: @rossschulz

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