Cougar ‘D’ jolts ranked Commodores, 20-6
The North Harrison defense made some (state-wide) noise Friday night at Perry Central, unloading six sacks against the Commodore offense and going on to get the Cougars’ first win in 11 years over Perry, 20-6.
‘The defense, I’m extremely proud of,’ North Harrison coach Jason Mullis said. ‘It was a great night. Everybody played real well. The defense shut down a very good ball club.’
‘They’re a good football team,’ Perry coach Mike Spencer said. ‘So are we. We’ve got a long way to go in the season, but you’ve got to give them credit. They created a couple of turnovers that put us in a bad spot. We had a chance to capitalize on a couple and didn’t.’
The Commodores, who fell to sixth in the Class 1A coaches’ poll, showed a lot of momentum during the early going, but they then got hit by a wall. With the ball on the North Harrison 29, defensive ends Wes Kirk and Andrew Kitchell blasted through the Perry offensive line to slam quarterback Coulten Hauser to the ground.
The North Harrison pair didn’t wait long for another opportunity, hitting Hauser for another loss on the next play. The second sack forced the Commodores to give the ball up on downs.
North Harrison pushed the ball on the ground on its first possession, with the exception of one pass from Michael Dean to Isaac Davis. Bryan Schroeder’s number, however, was called on the drive’s last two plays, as he pushed the ball eight yards across the goal line for the first touchdown of the night.
John Becker booted the ball through the uprights and the Cougars led 7-0.
‘Being 0-10 (against Perry) the last 10 years, it’s not hard to get them ready for (the game),’ Mullis said. ‘This is a special group. We’re looking forward to doing special things. They really want to keep the ball rolling. They came out ready to go, and we’re taking one game at a time.’
Neither team scored on its next possession.
On its second possession of the second quarter, North Harrison fumbled twice. The Cougars’ recovered the first one, but the second got away and Perry needed just one play to get in the end zone, as Hauser launched a 72-yard touchdown bomb to Landon Neukam.
The Commodores failed on the point-after kick, however, keeping Perry down by one, 7-6, also the score at half-time.
‘It’s amazing how games like that come down to little bitty things that happen to you in there,’ Spencer said. ‘We knocked the ball loose down there, but we can’t get it. You start a pretty good play, and then you’re not able to finish it.’
North Harrison used its first four plays of the second half to move the ball to the Perry 6-yard line, but then got called for holding and was forced to move back to the 16-yard line.
Schroeder, however, finished the drive with a 16-yard run for a touchdown. North Harrison’s extra-point kick attempt failed, but the Cougars pushed their lead to 13-6.
‘Last year, we were really fortunate,’ Spencer said of Schroeder. ‘We held him under a hundred. I think the difference was the alignment. We grew up a little bit. We had three new D-linemen, different from last year. We had some young kids do a little prairie dog and stand up a little bit and then got run back by the safety. They learned real quick not to do that. So, we were able to make some adjustments and play him very competitively.’
The Commodores then moved the ball successfully on seven plays, but on the eighth, Perry lost the ball again as North Harrison forced a fumble and recovered. North Harrison failed to gain any ground and Schroeder went back to punt on fourth-and-five. Perry appeared to have 12 players on the field during the play, and North Harrison argued for the penalty. The Cougars lost the debate and Perry took over with 4:40 to go in the quarter. The Commodores got only three plays in before coughing up the ball to the Cougars once again.
‘We’re talking about dealing with adversity,’ Mullis said. ‘We’ve talked about that a lot with our kids. Last year, we didn’t deal with adversity very well. That was just one of those things where if we deal with it, we’re going to round up the boys and play a little harder. They did that.’
North Harrison kept the ball on the ground on its next possession. On fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Schroeder sprouted wings and literally flew over the Perry Central defensive line for his third touchdown of the game. The extra-point attempt was good, and the Cougars enjoyed a 20-6 lead.
The biggest defensive hit of the game came with just over 10-1/2 minutes left. On second-and-six, Perry’s Bo Gibson went down the left side of the field. He was met head-on by Geno Hedgespeth with a crushing blow. The ball popped out and North Harrison recovered the fumble on its own 23-yard line.
It looked like North Harrison was going to get yet another touchdown as the Cougars moved the ball to the 6-yard line for a first down. On the next play, however, they fumbled the ball and Perry took over on its own 2-yard line.
The Commodores made one last effort to get into the end zone.
Perry moved the ball into North territory, but then got called for an illegal motion penalty for a second-and-15 situation with just over a minute to go. The Cougar defense then sprang through for another sack and a 3-yard loss. A final pass attempt and Perry gave up the ball on downs. North took a knee, then celebrated its win.
‘It was a real big one,’ Mullis said. ‘It was a great team effort tonight. The defense really stepped it up. The offense struggled, and we went to the ‘I,’ and that really opened things up. We’re going to try a little bit more of that with Schroeder. We tried to keep him in that wing set, and he’s 10 times better back in the ‘I.’ ‘
‘We made too many mistakes,’ Spencer said. ‘They forced two turnovers that ended up being big turnovers. You’ve got to give their defense credit for that. We did some things well. They took us out of our game us a little bit. We missed a couple of passes we’d sure like to have back.’
The big stat of the game was North Harrison’s six defensive sacks, four of those with senior Wes Kirk being a major player.
‘We did good gap control,’ Kirk said. ‘Our linebackers made plays. It was the whole defense. We were tired of being scored on. We weren’t having too good of a game offensively. I kind of wanted to make a statement. It’s my senior year, and me and the team wanted to break this track record.
‘Their line was slow, so we flew off the edges. This is a big confidence boost.’
Schroeder ran for 162 yards on 25 carries and scored three touchdowns. He also had a kickoff return for 44 yards. Davis tallied 32 yards on seven carries and a 35-yard kickoff return. Corey Isaacs had 27 yards on two carries and a punt return for 22 yards. The Cougars recorded 242 yards of total offense.
‘We wanted to show everybody we could play for Perry Central,’ Mullis said. ‘Perry Central has a great tradition, so it was a way for us to awaken everybody up and say, ‘Hey, North Harrison is for real. We’ve got Charlestown next week, and that’s the only game we’re looking at right now. They’re going to be a tough ball club.’
Perry Central’s Gibson finished with 44 yards on 13 carries. Neukam caught two passes for 78 yards, while Linette caught four for 35 yards. The Commodores had 190 yards of total offense.