Cougs roll along, blank Generals for 3rd in a row
The reaction to the program’s first shutout since 2007 may not have been a typical one, but the North Harrison seniors couldn’t resist.
Riding a three-game winning streak after a dominant 33-0 winning performance Friday against Clarksville, a couple of the Cougars seniors decided to give coach Mark Williamson a Gatorade bath. The pink-clad students ‘ donning the bright colored ‘Tackle for a Cure’ shirts ‘ didn’t waste time celebrating on the field with their classmates.
‘They are excited,’ Williamson said. ‘I said all preseason and through the offseason that this was going to be a fun season. I saw the commitment the kids had and buying into the program. The Corydon game took a lot of steam out of us, but the kids kept practicing hard.’
Scoring 30 points for the third consecutive game behind a powerful, balanced running game, North Harrison simply ran away from visiting Clarksville. The win marked the third in a row for the Cougars, the longest win streak since the 2006 season, and evened their record at 4-4.
Like the focus of the players in the offseason to keep at the weight room, North Harrison remained focused after dropping four straight games since defeating Crawford County in the season opener.
‘Nothing has changed because we practiced hard when we lost four in a row,’ Williamson said. ‘I think the key was we got through the meat of the schedule without getting embarrassed. That kept our guys focused and coming to practice every day ready to work. Chances are (in sectional), we’re going to see one of those guys again.’
The Cougars defense came to play against Clarksville. The Generals picked up one first down through the opening three quarters and manged a measly three for the game. On seven Clarksville possessions, North Harrison’s swarming defense didn’t allow the Generals to run more than four plays from scrimmage.
‘Our kids are playing hard and playing the scheme,’ Williamson said. ‘We live by the creed of having two safeties 12 yards deep, back-peddling before the snap. We don’t want to give up the big play.’
Williamson said the week prior against Silver Creek, a safety ran down a play that seemed destined for a touchdown to keep the Dragons out of the end zone. On the next play, Silver Creek fumbled the ball to the Cougars. That effort was pointed out as to why the defense is getting better.
‘Our bend-but-don’t-break philosophy worked last week and this week,’ Williamson said.
From the onset against Clarksville, it was evident the North Harrison smash-mouth running game was going to be too much for the Generals to handle. Austin Nevil and Sam Best had runs of 10-plus yards on the opening drive. Going 52 yards in less than four minutes, quarterback Jack Phelps snuck in the first score to put the hosts up 7-0.
Before the close of the opening quarter, North Harrison put together a 10-play drive for its second score. Using a balance of running backs, senior Brandon Craig had a run of 21 yards to advance the pigskin to the red zone. A North Harrison holding penalty drove them back, but runs by Craig set up a fourth-and-3 at the 11.
Attempting his first pass of the game, Phelps tossed a swing pass to Craig, who ran the ball in, putting the Cougars up 14-0.
If there was one noticeable hiccup for the Cougars, it was a muffed punt Clarksville would recover to end the first quarter. While the muff may have put pressure on the North Harrison defense, they responded by stuffing an Andrew Wright pass two yards short of a first down at the 19.
North Harrison’s offense went to work, linking together an 81-yard touchdown drive. Phelps completed a 19-yard pass to Mason Miller, while Craig had a 15-yard rush. Nevil pushed the ball to the 14 with an 11-yard run. Two plays later, Phelps scored his second touchdown on the ground with a 3-yard plunge.
Before the half would end, North Harrison used a hurry-up style offense to score once again. Nevil had a pair of 15-plus yard runs while Phelps hooked up with Brandon Stokes for a pass play of 13 yards.
The drive ended when Craig scored from three yards out.
Heading to the locker for half, the Cougars led 26-0.
‘We really can throw the ball a little bit,’ Williamson said. ‘Our problem is that sometimes we aren’t catching the ball. We threw it four times tonight and completed three with a touchdown. To beat a good team, you aren’t going to get away with just running smash-mouth. If you see run blitzes, it makes your protection tough when you want to throw.’
Defensively, Best finished with 3-1/2 sacks; his half was assisted by Miller. On North Harrison’s first drive of the second half, Best had four runs totaling 30 yards. Stokes closed the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run.
For the game, North Harrison out-gained Clarksville 384-89.
Four different North Harrison backs carried the ball for at least 60 yards. Craig led the way with 90 yards on nine carries, followed by 11 carries and 80 yards from Best. Nevil contributed 67 yards on 11 carries, while Tyler Jones had 19 carries for 64 yards.
Efficient behind center, Phelps completed 3 of 4 passes for 43 yards. He also rushed for 21.
Clarksville, held to 28 yards in the first half, was led by Marquise Parrish rushing for 60 yards on 15 carries. Generals quarterback Andrew Wright was 4 of 9 passing for nine yards.
The win over Clarksville closed the Mid-Southern Conference season for North Harrison at 3-4.
Williamson said the momentum has been positive for his Cougars.
‘I can’t wait until Sunday to see what the draw looks like,’ Williamson said. ‘Our guys are excited and want to keep playing. That’s big time right now at this time of year. A lot of teams want to pack it in, and our guys want to keep playing. That’s a credit to our parents. They feed the boys like crazy and treat them pretty good when they are not on the field.’
The Cougars drew a road trip to Mitchell (1-7) to open the Class 3A Sectional 31 play on Friday, Oct. 25.
Next, however, North Harrison steps out of the MSC to play at Paoli (6-2) this Friday.