Cougars roll to 6-0, blank Eastern
The gauntlet of the regular season was behind the North Harrison football team, earning stout wins over the likes of Corydon Central, Salem, Charlestown and Brownstown Central.
Then came the praise.
After dropping Brownstown Central last week, 38-30, the flood of attention came to the program now off to its best start since football began in Ramsey in 1978. Coach Mark Williamson was named the Indianapolis Colts Coach of the Week, prompting former Super Bowl player Mike Prior to visit the players. The Cougars entered the top 10, ranked No. 8 in the Class 3A AP poll. Louisville TV station WLKY-32 named North Harrison its Team of the Week.
Through the glory, North Harrison had to turn attention to its next opponent: a road match-up against Mid-Southern Conference’s Eastern (Pekin).
Five first-half touchdowns kept the Cougars rolling along, leading to a 44-0 shutout of the Musketeers. The win moved North Harrison to 6-0, its best start in program history.
‘We had a lot of distractions this week, and I was worried,’ Williamson said. ‘I never give speeches, or hardly do, but I had to give one tonight to make sure we were focused in on what we needed to do.’
Eastern’s best drive came off the opening kick-off. The Musketeers moved the ball to the 25-yard line. Pressure came off the edge for the Cougars to halt the hopes of a scoring drive. On second down, Garrett Nokes sacked quarterback Taylor Branaman for a 9-yard loss.
Two plays later, Branaman’s incomplete pass gave the ball to the power run game of North Harrison.
Only five plays were needed to cover 72 yards. Sam Best sprinted away from missed tackles to score a 44-yard touchdown.
Things got rocky for the Eastern offense. Snapping the ball over Branaman’s head went for a Musketeers’ loss of 21, then Austin Nevil sacked the signal caller for negative six yards.
After punting, Nevil had gains of 24 and 11 yards. Polishing off the drive, Evan Goodman scored his first career touchdown from the 1. The junior fullback normally opens holes for Best and Nevil but punched it in to put his team up 13-0.
The scores kept coming for North Harrison in the first half. Nevil scored all three touchdowns in the second quarter. After a TD from the 5, Nevil went 67 yards through a gaping hole set up by the offensive line, prompting a 25-0 score.
Before the half, on North Harrison’s final scoring drive, quarterback Avery Blocker had a run of eight yards. Tight end Trey Kuerzi took an end around for a 27-yard pickup down to the 3. From there, Nevil punched in the pigskin.
North Harrison led 32-0 at the half.
The quick start helped solidify the final result Williamson was looking for.
‘I’m not going to lie to them; we saw (Eastern’s) tape and we were the much better team coming in, and they knew it should be a game like it was,’ Williamson said. ‘They got it done. You can’t get them greased up for every single game, but they have to be ready to do what they have to do to get the job done.’
The No. 1s for North Harrison played the first drive of the second half before turning it over to the younger players. Two offensive plays was enough. Nevil had a gain of 60 yards before being tackled along the sideline. Best closed his day with a TD from the 5.
Nevil finished with 207 yards on 10 carries to go with his three touchdowns. Best had 13 rushing attempts for 154 yards.
North Harrison protected the shutout the rest of the way. Jake Troxell took home a highlight on defense for the Cougars. With less than six minutes to play, the junior leaped in front of Sebastian Mull to pick off a pass. Keeping the momentum from skying for the ball, Troxell raced to the corner pylon for a defensive TD.
Best also forced a fumble, recovered by Nevil in the first half.
‘We have to get better this week,’ Williamson said. ‘I’m not 100 percent sure we did that, but we didn’t get any worse.’
In the second half, North Harrison’s Brett Rudolph carried the ball nine times for 43 yards. Backup QB Tristen Griffin had two carries for 22 yards, while Jake Harley had 10 yards rushing.
‘It’s great stuff because that is our future,’ Williamson said of the younger players seeing Friday night action. ‘We have a lot of numbers down there and good players. They are this close to playing.’
North Harrison (6-0, 5-0 MSC), averaging 39.8 points per game, holds a one-game lead over Brownstown Central and Corydon Central in the MSC.
The Cougars will return home to face Silver Creek (4-2, 3-2) on Friday.
‘It was a good win,’ Williamson said. ‘We’re 6-0 for the first time ever and clinched a winning season. I’m happy about those things with a big one coming next week.’
North Harrison 13 19 6 6 ‘ 44
Eastern (Pekin) 0 0 0 0 ‘ 0
NH ‘ Sam Best 44 run (Ben Waynescott kick); NH ‘ Evan Goodman 1 run (kick failed); NH ‘ Austin Nevil 5 run (kick failed); NH ‘ Nevil 67 run (kick failed); NH ‘ Nevil 3 run (Waynescott kick); NH ‘ Best 5 run (kick failed); NH ‘ Jake Troxell 35 INT return (kick failed).