North Harrison falters against Salem
When Salem needed the big pick up Friday night, it got it. When North Harrison needed one, it just didn’t happen.
The visiting Lions were able to keep the Cougars from the end zone while making good on several third-down conversions to take a 21-0 win in Mid-Southern Conference play.
North Harrison coach Mark Williamson said Salem’s knowledge helped lead to its victory.
‘I knew their (defensive) line was going to be strong from what I saw on tape,’ Williamson said. ‘What you saw tonight was their kids knew more about what they were doing than our kids knew about what we were doing. Their technique was better than ours. We’re still speaking a little bit of Hebrew. You can tell (Salem) has interpreted (coach) Mo (Moriarity) from Hebrew into English, but we’ll get there.’
The game seemed poised for a scoreless halftime until Salem broke through with 17 seconds left in the second quarter. The Lions picked up a pair of third-down conversions, including a seven-yard gain by quarterback Jordan McNeely to advance the ball to the 6 with 28 seconds left.
Salem eventually punched the ball in when McNeely threw a fade route to Tyson Thomas in the back of the end zone. The score gave Salem a 7-0 halftime lead.
Within the first half, the Cougars had opportunities to score. On its first drive, North Harrison gained 52 yards, driving the ball into the red zone. From near midfield, running back Brandon Craig picked up 29 yards, advancing North Harrison to the 20. North Harrison moved to the 11, but, on fourth-and-one, quarterback Jack Phelps’ sneak attempt was snuffed out, forcing a turnover on downs.
‘In the most critical of situations, third and fourth downs, we made critical mistakes offensively and defensively,’ Williamson said. ‘On fourth and an inch, we don’t block a one technique on a sneak. I think the effort is there, I really do.’
Solid runs by Derrick Harter and Craig aided North Harrison’s second drive of the game. After drawing a horse-collar penalty, moving the ball to the Salem 21, North Harrison ran into a bit of trouble. A holding penalty and a sack moved the Cougars back. Incomplete passes on third and fourth downs turned the ball over once again.
North Harrison’s defense came up with a big play to ruin a Salem drive to start the second half. A McNeely pass was tipped and eventually intercepted by Brad Missi near midfield.
The Cougars moved the ball to the Lions’ 28-yard line, but a fumbled hand-off was recovered by Salem’s Seth Motsinger to spoil the hope.
Salem then went 13 plays to score its second touchdown.
McNeely was, again, part of several key pickups on the drive. He converted a third-and-six with a 12-yard pass to Kody Kramer. Later, it was with his feet. McNeely had a 6-yard pick up for another first down then gained 11 yards later on a fourth-and-one.
The Salem drive ended with McNeely connecting with Tyler Sizemore for a 15-yard pass play, putting the Lions ahead 14-0.
North Harrison had two more shots at the ball. The Cougars’ first drive of the final quarter was hampered by penalties, and they were forced to punt. Salem added another score, a McNeely 1-yard run, before North Harrison saw the ball again.
The final drive featured a big play when Phelps tossed a pass to Brandon Stokes to gain 32 yards, moving the ball inside the 10. The Cougars, however, couldn’t punch the pigskin in. A fourth-and-goal pass play to Harter was stuffed at the 2, eventually closing the game.
‘We’re going to plug away,’ Williamson said. ‘I think I have a pretty good handle on the mentality. They want to get this football program going. We knew this was an important game for our season, just like it was for Salem.’
Craig paced North Harrison’s offense with 95 yards rushing on 15 carries. Harter added 23 yards rushing and 19 receiving. Phelps finished 6 of 14 passing for 65 yards.
Williamson said he saw improvements from the previous week and wants those to continue. A few injuries also hampered the Cougars against the Lions.
‘I spent 15 minutes in the locker room talking about character,’ Williamson said. ‘Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to learn a lot about our players’ character and they’re going to learn about mine. It doesn’t get any easier.’
North Harrison will play Friday night at Class 3A No. 5 Charlestown, which defeated Clarksville last week, 67-18.
‘They are arguably a top three or four team in our class. It’s a complete mismatch, but we’re looking to getting better each week,’ Williamson said. ‘What you see on film is what they are learning. When we look at the film after tonight, and after the Charlestown game, we want to see they are learning and our teaching is paying off.’