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Key stops bring Cougars a win

Key stops bring Cougars a win
Key stops bring Cougars a win
North Harrison linebacker Mason MIller pulls down ClarksvilleÂ’s Nathaniel Jones for a big loss in the first half. The Cougars went on to win, 38-14, Friday night. Photo by Brian Smith (click for larger version)

It was key stops on defense on third and fourth downs, combined with three 50-plus-yard touchdown plays, that led North Harrison to a resounding 38-14 victory Friday night over Clarksville.
North Harrison made five stops on key fourth-down attempts by visiting Clarksville while limiting the Generals offense to 268 yards and one touchdown for the game. Clarksville’s second score came on a kickoff return to begin the second half.
Hitting big plays on the offensive side of the ball gave North Harrison not only an early lead, but a lead the Cougars would sustain the rest of the game. Michael Cox had touchdown runs of 55 and 56 yards, while Ryan Rennirt took a screen pass from Derrick Harter for a 61-yard touchdown.
‘They are working hard and starting to believe in themselves,’ North Harrison coach Greg Burton said of his team. ‘We preached from the first day I got here was to get better daily, and they are buying into it. We thought we were going to score that many points to win because we thought (Clarksville) would score. They have a good quarterback and wide receiver, but we made tackles and limited them.’
Cox, who ran for 209 yards on 25 carries, started the scoring on the third play of the game. The 5-foot-9 back carried the ball 55 yards up the middle for a touchdown. Quarterback Derrick Harter, starting for the second consecutive week for the injured Wyatt Faith, ran in the two-point conversion.
Clarksville bounced back, putting together a lengthy drive that resulted in quarterback Wes Rittman running a keeper for a 5-yard score. Nathaniel Jones ran in the two-point conversion.
From that point on, the Clarksville offense was held in check, all while the Cougars offense continued to surge.
Rennirt scored on North Harrison’s next possession, a 3-yard plunge after he had carries of 13, 11 and 31 yards on the drive.
‘We released the restraints off Rennirt and moved him to fullback,’ Burton said. ‘It made a big difference. He kicked out holes. And we ran 31 trap four or five straight times to score in the first half.’
Following stopping Clarksville on fourth down at the 35, North Harrison came up with its second big play. On third-and-23, Harter threw a screen pass to Rennirt. The senior caught the ball on the right side of the field, cut back to the left toward the sideline and streaked 61 yards for the score. Mitch Bolin’s run for two points gave North Harrison a 24-8 halftime lead.
‘He caught that little screen pass, and we all thought he was down five times but the kid kept going,’ Burton said.
One of North Harrison’s biggest stops came with three seconds left in the first half. Clarksville moved the ball quickly downfield with its two-minute offense. Yet, on Rittman’s pass to Aidan McEwen from the 10, McEwen was stopped at the 1 as the clock reached zero.
‘We were in third- and fourth-down situations a lot last week and struggled getting our defense off the field,’ Burton said. ‘Tonight, we were able to get stops and get off the field. It was a big difference in the game. Our defense played when they needed to the most.’
Clarksville’s Greg Taylor took the opening kickoff of the second half 68 yards for a touchdown, allowing the Generals to cut the Cougars lead to 28-14.
As earlier in the game, the Cougars defense held strong while the offense added two fourth-quarter scores. Rennirt had a 1-yard touchdown, and Cox ran in from 56 yards out.
‘We know Cox can pound it in there. He isn’t the fastest guy, but he has a big heart and doesn’t go down easy,’ Burton said.
Rennirt had 76 yards on 10 carries for North Harrison. Harter was 2-of-11 passing for 66 yards.
Clarksville’s running backs were held to 160 yards on 40 tries. Rittman completed 19 of 25 passes but accounted for only 108 yards. McEwen had 11 grabs for 70 yards.
North Harrison evened its record on the season at 4-4, including 3-4 in Mid-Southern Conference play. Clarksville dropped to 3-5 overall.
Up next for North Harrison will be a trip Friday to Paoli (6-2) at 7 p.m. Paoli was shut out, 28-0, by Evansville North last week.