Fessel returns with 306 yards, but NH rally falls short
The last train to Clarksville delivered a 34-20 loss to North Harrison on Friday night, but not before the Cougars’ “G-train” rolled out of town with a whopping statistic of 306 yards rushing.
Senior running back Gary Fessel, feared lost for the season with a torn Acromioclavicular joint in his shoulder just three weeks ago, returned to the offensive backfield in a huge way for North: 37 carries for 306 yards and all three NH touchdowns of 3-, 9- and 79-yard runs.
Of North’s 324 yards rushing, 3-6 belonged to No. 2 in the blue. Fessel, who broke his own school record with the effort, played defense only the previous week against Brownstown.
“Their running back did a really nice job,” Clarksville coach Dennis Hawkins said. “I thought our defense did a real nice job and had everything plugged up, but he still found a way to get through. I’m going to have to look on the tape and try to figure out how he did it.”
Despite Fessel’s huge numbers, North’s rally from 26-6 to 26-20 with 2:34 left fell short when Clarksville scooped up the onside kick and scored five plays later on Ben Camilotto’s second touchdown of the game. Camilotto carried the ball for 106 yards, including the 25-yard game breaker with 1:15 left.
North Harrison (1-6, 0-3 Mid-Southern Conference) had several opportunities to score throughout the game, but a huge momentum shift came in the first half on the Generals’ 1-yard line. Instead of scoring six points, the Cougars were stuffed at the line by Clarksville.
Then, with 2:05 left, the Generals broke a 6-6 deadlock on a bobbled ball by Brandon Oakes. Instead of knocking Nick Scott’s pass away, North’s defensive player deflected it up. Oakes tipped the ball twice and out-sprinted everyone to the end zone for a 72-yard strike.
“We didn’t have that killer attitude down there on the 1-yard line. We’ve got some tremendous athletes, but for a reason not known to me, sometimes they don’t play at 100 percent. I wish I knew what magic button to push to change that,” North Harrison coach Dan Haskell said. “That was pretty big. When you are on the 1-yard line, you expect to punch it in. Instead, they come back and get a touchdown before the half.”
The defensive let-downs spoiled an otherwise productive night for the Cougars: North Harrison had the ball for almost 30 minutes compared to just 18:04 for Clarksville; they out-gained the hosts in total yards 341-326, and picked up more first downs (13-9).
The Generals (3-4, 2-3 M.S.C.) drew first blood on its second possession of the evening when Eli Fitzpatrick capped a nine-play, 62-yard drive on a four-yard run. The Cougars wasted no time matching the score as Fessel took a fourth-down handoff seven yards to the Clarksville three to set up his own 3-yard plunge with 11:26 left in the half.
Thanks to a clipping penalty and Matt Jones’ crushing hit on Clarksville’s Fitzpatrick in the backfield, North forced a punt. The Cougars took over at their own 33 and cruised to the Generals’ 1. Fessel had a TD called back because of a holding penalty. That set up Clarksville’s momentum-turner in Oakes’ score.
“Let’s just say we are very fortunate that (Oakes) caught the football,” Hawkins said. “He’s really struggled with that recently.”
Clarksville pushed the lead to 20-6 on its first possession of the third quarter. Oakes had another bobbled catch on a crucial fourth-down play to keep the drive alive, and Josh Massey broke through for the touchdown two plays later. After forcing another punt by North Harrison, the Generals scored again on an 8-yard run by Camilotto, pushing the lead to 26-6.
Fessel brought the ensuing kickoff to the Generals’ 46 and took the ball 31 yards up the middle on the next play. However, the Cougars were foiled again on the eight by Clarksville’s defense.
North finally righted its ship on the first possession of the fourth quarter, when Fessel notched six points on a nine-yard, fourth-down run with 5:15 left. The Cougars’ defense forced a punt and North scored again on Fessel’s 79-yard gallop.
“(Gary) called that TD run. He wanted the ball in that situation. What else can you say about him and the kind of night he had?” Haskell asked. “After that run, he was pretty spent and understandably so. Try running up and down this field three times and see how you feel, not to mention people hitting you the whole way.”
North nearly recovered the ensuing onside kick, but Clarksville held possession for Camilotto’s TD.
“We rallied nice, but it was too late,” Haskell said, noting that the Cougars’ seniors had not lost to Clarksville in their careers.
Defensively, Colt Becht led the defense with seven tackles. Fessel and Scott Austin had six apiece. Becht also caught one pass for 12 yards. Austin and Jeremy Schultz both had sacks for North Harrison.