Cougars prevail in Battle for Ol’ Blue
The Battle for Ol’ Blue was a real tug of war Friday night between North Harrison and Crawford County with the Cougars holding off the Wolfpack in the last quarter for a 26-21 win.
From the very beginning, the game was a nailbiter.
The game began with Crawford County scoring only seconds into the game. Austin Key took the opening kickoff from his own 20-yard line and ran 80 yards for a touchdown, putting Crawford County up 6-0 to start the night.
North Harrison wasted no time coming back getting on the board at the 8:22 mark. The Cougars pushed the ball down to the 4-yard line then gave up the ball on downs. On its first play, Crawford County coughed up the ball in the end zone. The Cougars smothered the ball, putting them on the board. Michael Cox took the ball in for the two-point conversion and an 8-6 edge.
The Cougars scored again in the period with 1:04 to go. Crawford County got the ball when the Cougars again came up a yard short of the goal line on fourth down. Crawford County fumbled the ball once but recovered it back on the one. B.J. Mahoney moved the ball to the five on the next play. On third-and-6, Crawford County fumbled again. This time, however, the Cougars recovered it in the end zone and scored again on the defensive end for a 14-6 lead. Neither team scored in the second period, and the Cougars took their eight-point lead to the locker room.
‘Our goal this year, we would like to see us get 2,500 rushing yards, 250 a game,’ Alan Hess, Crawford County’s first-year coach, said. ‘Those three are going to run the ball a lot, (Corey) Cain, Key and (B.J.) Mahoney. They made some great plays. They really did. You look, three of their scores were on fumbles they returned for touchdowns. Take those three away … we’re right there. We’re going to be OK.’
‘We had some things in for when their linebackers blitzed,’ Greg Burton, the Cougars coach, also in his first year, said. ‘When we got down to the goal line, they went to a split-six defense and we didn’t account for that. It messed our blocking up a little bit. That’s my fault for not preparing the team for that. We weren’t prepared for the split-six.’
Both teams gave up the ball on their first possessions of the second half. North Harrison gave up the ball a second time on fourth-and-23 to go. On the first play of their second series, Key ran the ball to the 1-yard line before North Harrison’s Mitch Bolin stopped the touchdown. Three plays later, Christ Schwartz took the ball in himself then Schwartz threw to Justin Carlisle for the conversion, tying the game at 14.
‘He never played (quarterback) before in his life,’ Hess said of Schwartz. ‘I talked to him during the summer and said, ‘Where do you play?’ He said, ‘Receiver, running back.’ I said, ‘I need a quarterback.’ We had a couple of kids that we thought would come out and they didn’t come out. I said, ‘Christ, you’re my guy.’ Is he perfect? He’s far from it. None of us are. He’s worked his hardest. He’s a leader. He’s a good kid. We’ll win games with him at quarterback.’
Fumbles continued to plague the Wolfpack. With just more than nine minutes to go in the game, Crawford County coughed up the ball again. That led to another score by the Cougars when Wyatt Faith took the ball in from four yards out. The Cougars later scored again when Bolin intercepted a Schwartz pitchout to Key, who ran 68 yards for a second TD with 1:02 to go and a 26-14 lead. Crawford scored again in the final seconds as Schwartz threw to Carlisle for a 24-yard score, leading to the 26-21 final.
Burton said the key to the game came during the summer.
‘We had 40 guys in the weight room all summer and, whenever they got a little bit tired, we were in shape,’ Burton said. ‘We had some cramping. We had those problems, but our guys were able to get back in the game and they didn’t quit. We were fighting, and we were in pretty good shape.’
While some might call it a moral victory for the Wolfpack, Hess said it was anything but that.
‘To me, moral victories are for those who don’t expect to win,’ Hess said. ‘I fully expected to win this ballgame. I’m disappointed we didn’t win. I’m proud of the way we played. I’m proud of the way we fought.’
Burton gave credit to both Michael Cox and Mitch Bolin, who played both ends of the field in the win.
‘Cox had a monster game,’ Burton said. ‘I’m probably pretty stupid for not giving him the ball a little bit more than I did. The coaches were trying to get me to give him the ball a little bit more. We planned on letting Mitch run the ball a little bit more, but he got a little bit tired so I got away from that. When we needed a big play, he ran that corner out and the line blocked. We had a big play and got that big first down. We just started pounding the ball inside. Michael Cox took us the rest of the way.’