Cougars, behind Best, blank Crawford
The North Harrison Cougars football team brought out its best in the name of Sam Best Friday night in its season opener against visiting Crawford County. Best also brought out his best, scoring four touchdowns as the Cougars rolled to a 54-0 win over the Wolfpack.
‘We’ll get better from this game,’ North Harrison coach Mark Williamson said. ‘That’s what I’m excited about. Last year, we didn’t get to play this game, and most football teams make their biggest improvements from week one and week two. We got that chance this year, and we’re happy about it.’
‘There’s positives to take from this, but this has got to stop,’ Crawford County coach Alan Hess said. ‘We say it every year. We sit here and talk about getting over the hump. It’s got to stop. We’ve got to come together as a group and look in the mirror and say, ‘Enough.’
‘At some point, Crawford County football has got to stop being the rotten stepchild,’ he said. ‘We’ve got to step (up) and be playing with the big boys. We’ve got to believe we can do it, not just the coaches but the players and the individuals.’
There may have been a few first-game jitters on the Cougars’ part in the early going as they fumbled their first possession. One thing Crawford County was doing right was containing Best, who made only short gains before North Harrison fumbled to the Wolfpack.
Located just past midfield, Dakota Novak threw long to Ty Nickelson, who made the catch and appeared to be on his way to a touchdown for the Wolfpack until he was tripped up by Trey Kuerzi. The ball came loose from Nickelson’s hands as he went to the ground. North Harrison picked up the ball and stopped Crawford County’s chances of a touchdown.
‘The play of the game was Trey Kuerzi running that kid (Nickelson) down and stripping the ball down at the 5-yard line,’ Williamson said. ‘That changed the whole complexion of the game.’
With 4:09 to go in the first, Best finally broke free for his first touchdown, a 46-yard run. The extra-point attempt failed, but it wouldn’t be long before North Harrison had a second chance.
Just under two minutes later, Crawford County fumbled away the ball again, this time at the 45-yard line. Best gained two yards on the next play. From there, Austin Nevil got the call and ran 47 yards to score. Ben Waynescott found the upright this time, and the Cougars were up 13-0.
Crawford County gave up the ball on downs on its next possession, and Best broke free for a 35-yard-run to score, with Waynescott getting the extra point for a 20-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Williamson said there was no adjusting for his team as Crawford County kept Best in check most of the time. The only option was to just keep pounding the ball.
‘No adjustments; you just get tired of tackling big backs like that,’ he said. ‘That’s what happens. You’re going to see it all year long. We’re not going to stop. We’re not going to panic, ‘They stopped us for a 2-yard gain.’ You’ve got to keep stopping it.’
‘I’m really good about that,’ he said. ‘I don’t give up on what we do. I’m not like, ‘Oh, we need to start throwing it around everywhere.’ You’ve got to stop them for four quarters. If we’re down late in the fourth quarter and they’ve been stopping him the whole game, now it’s time to start doing some other things.’
Best admitted the Crawford County defense kept him contained in the first quarter but he knew he would just have to keep on driving to try to wear down the Wolfpack’s defensive line.
‘We came out and there was adversity, and that’s what we’ve preached, ‘We’ve got to fight through it as a team,’ ‘ Best said. ‘Nobody gives up, and we’ve just got to come together as one and fight through it, and that’s the only way we’re going to get through it.’
‘The linemen had a couple of different blocks they were getting,’ the North Harrison senior said. ‘Once they figured out what they were hitting, they just kept hitting the holes hard and kept running as hard as we can. We tried to find some holes and got some yards there.’
Crawford County moved the ball well on its next possession early in the second period with a mixture of plays, both on the ground and in the air, to advance to the North Harrison 5-yard line. The Cougars, however, made a strong goal-line stand and kept the Wolfpack from reaching the end zone, the ball going to North Harrison on downs.
Best followed that with his biggest run of the night, heading into the end zone on a 60-yard dash on third down. Waynescott’s extra point made the score 27-0.
Crawford County suffered another turnover when Kuerzi intercepted Novak’s pass on second down. Avery Blocker ran a keeper play for 65 yards and sent the Cougars to the locker room with a 41-0 lead.
‘That was a pass play, reverse 47 pass,’ Williamson said, ‘and he’s taught, if nobody’s out there, to tuck it and run. It goes to Sam out in the flat, but nobody was out there, so he ran and Sam became a blocker. Avery is a pretty good athlete.’
‘We knew for us to have a legitimate shot at their size we had to put together some sustained drives and they had to have some mistakes and get us off the field defensively,’ Hess said. ‘Early on, we did. But, then, we made the mistakes. You can’t turn the ball over against a team that’s that big size-wise compared to you and have a shot.’
‘We let doubt creep in, and you can’t do that,’ he said. ‘People make mistakes. You have fumbles. You throw pigs. You miss tackles. Guys in the NFL do it, and they get paid to do it for a living. You’ve got to understand, if you make a mistake, you let it go. Roll it off your back and play the next one. Sometimes the snowball effect starts to happen and the next thing you know you’re down four scores and you’re scratching your head saying, ‘Wait a minute. We were in the game and knocking on the door five minutes ago’.’
Crawford County had first possession to start the second half, but, on its second play, Jake Troxell picked off Novak’s pass at the 47-yard line.
The Cougars kept the ball on the ground down to the 2-yard line. Avery Blocker kept the ball to himself on the next play and got into the end zone, ballooning the Cougar lead to 48-0 following the extra point.
The Cougars scored one more time in the fourth quarter, when Josh Kemp got a touchdown on a 35-yard run. The extra-point attempt failed, but the Cougars had the 54-0 lead.
Players from both benches finished the game, but the Cougars celebrated the Battle for Ol’ Blue with the 54-0 win.
‘We’ve got some fundamental issues that have got to get cleaned up,’ Williamson said. ‘Right off the top of my head I can’t tell what those are, but I saw a few things, where we’re not long-arming things and different fundamental issues. We’ll get those things cleaned up. We want to get better every week, but between week one and week two, that’s your biggest improvement.’
‘It’s a team effort,’ Best said. ‘I couldn’t have done it without any of my linemen. (The) linemen, everybody out there on the field. I couldn’t have done it without them. … That’s what we are. We’re a physical team, and we’re not going to let up no matter what. That’s who we are. We’ve trained for it. We’ve lived for it. We’ve conditioned. We’re just going to come after you. We ain’t stopping.’
‘I don’t think they’re 54 points better than us,’ Hess said. ‘There’s no doubt they’re a better team. … I don’t think we showed our best football. I think that’s still to come.’
Crawford County 0 0 0 0 ‘ 0
North Harrison 20 21 7 6 ‘ 54
NH ‘ Sam Best 46 run (kick failed); NH ‘ Austin Nevil 47 run (Ben Waynescott kick); NH ‘ Best 35 run (Waynescott kick); NH ‘ Best 60 run (Waynescott kick); NH ‘ Best 9 run (Waynescott kick); NH ‘ Avery Blocker 65 run (Waynescott kick); NH ‘ Blocker 2 run (Waynescott kick); NH ‘ Josh Kemp 11 run (kick failed).