Generals march past NH, win MSC title
There was a lot of hype going into North Harrison’s homecoming football game against visiting Clarksville Friday night with both teams undefeated and a lot at stake in the Mid-Southern Conference race.
Things had been said by Clarksville running back Ryan Masters in The (Louisville) Courier-Journal that irked the Cougars and there was also that battle on the field between Masters and Cougar star Bryan Schroeder.
The first half lived up to the hype, but then the Cougars collapsed, suffering a 40-20 defeat to the Generals.
‘Defensively, we played bad,’ North Harrison coach Jason Mullis said. ‘That’s the worst defensive game we’ve played. Maybe it was the environment. We weren’t quite ready for the pressure, and that’s my fault. That’s the coach’s fault, not having these kids more prepared for a situation like this.’
Both teams got off to a quick start. Less than four minutes into the first quarter, Clarksville quarterback Alex Knerr found Kent Lewellen alone in the middle of the field, and Lewellen ran unchallenged into the end zone for the first touchdown of the game. The Generals, however, misfired on their point after attempt, leaving a 6-0 score.
Just over two minutes later, the Cougars found pay dirt after Schroeder and Isaac Davis ran for three straight first downs and Schroeder moved the ball to the one-foot line. Quarterback Michael Dean ran the keeper on the next play and put the Cougars on the board. John Becker made his extra point kick attempt, and North Harrison was up 7-6.
Things got even more active in the second quarter. Knerr ran a keeper from two yards out with 9:49 left, but Clarksville failed on the two-point conversion attempt, the Generals taking a 12-7 edge.
Schroeder immediately answered on the Cougars’ next possession with a 49-yard run for a TD, and Becker’s kick gave North Harrison a 14-12 lead.
North Harrison had a chance to get the ball back with Clarksville at fourth-and-three on the next series, but an offside penalty gave the Generals five yards and a first down. Masters ran the ball twice and then Lewellen took the ball into the end zone. Clarksville again failed on the conversion, but still had an 18-14 lead.
With just over 2-1/2 minutes to go in the half, the Cougars began another charge downfield with Schroeder carrying the ball past midfield. North Harrison then called timeout with 1:20 left.
However, the Cougars’ backs were broken on the next play as Masters intercepted Dean’s pass and ran 68 yards for a touchdown. This time Lewellen got the conversion and the Generals would take a 26-14 lead to the locker room at halftime.
‘We were in the ball game until then and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back,’ Mullis said. ‘It shot them up a little bit and gave them a 12-point lead. (Dean) was going to try to throw it out of bounds, and it just got away from him. Masters was there and made the play and made some guys miss him. Our offensive guys aren’t used to trying to make a tackle on a kid with that kind of speed. That was definitely the turning point in the game.
‘That fit their momentum, and momentum is tough. That’s what we saw tonight. They got the momentum and just kept on to it. As a defensive coordinator, I take full responsibility for this one tonight.’
Clarksville took that momentum into the third quarter. The Generals scored quickly as Nick Wilson ran 32 yards for a TD and Masters added a deuce for a 34-14 lead.
More misery came for North Harrison at the 6:58 mark when its defense lost senior Wes Kirk to a personal foul and ejection.
On the Generals’ next possession, Masters ran into the end zone again on a four-yard run, jumping the Clarksville lead to 40-14.
‘He got ejected from the game, so he’ll be out next week (against Corydon) also,’ Mullis said of Kirk.
North Harrison got into the end zone one more time early in the fourth quarter when Davis ran in from five yards, but the extra point attempt failed, leaving the score at 40-20.
‘Clarksville, my hat’s off to them,’ Mullis said. ‘They had a nice game plan and did a nice job, but we definitely helped them out a lot. Our offense did their job, but defensively we can’t have these types of games. We won a couple of ball games early in the year 20-6, and I figured it would be that type of ball game, but defensively we didn’t come to play. With our offense, against a good ball club, 20 points should win a game.’
Schroeder won the battle of the running backs, tallying 247 yards on 24 carries. Davis added 49 yards on nine carries, and North Harrison finished with 295 rushing yards but had zero passing yards.
Defensively, Geno Hedgespeth had nine tackles and Davis had nine tackles and one sack. Jacob Snook had 6-1/2 tackles and Ty Brown had six put-downs.
‘That’s not unusual,’ Mullis said of the lack of passing yards. ‘We don’t throw the ball a lot, but that hurt us. That was a weakness for us tonight, and we got down and couldn’t throw. We’re going to have to look at some things and get us a passing game.’
Masters finished with 116 yards on 20 carries for the Generals. Lewellen carried eight times for 54 yards and Knerr kept the ball 10 times for 40 yards and was completed three of nine passes for 58 yards. Clarksville totaled 272 rushing yards.
‘It’s a disappointing loss, and it’s going to hurt because it was for conference,’ Mullis said. ‘They were undefeated at that time and we were, too. They definitely came out and took it away from us.
‘We’re just going to have to finish strong. We’ve got two more conference games coming up, and 7-1 sounds a lot better than 5-3. Every team in this state is going to lose a game except for one team in each class. That’s the only way somebody is not going to lose a game.
‘We can decide to let this be our only blemish and grow from that or put up shop, which I don’t think they will do. This is a good group with a good group of seniors and they’ll get this thing turned around.’