North Harrison clinches first MSC football championship
The North Harrison Cougars fought off a turnover-plagued first half Friday night to secure at least a share of the first Mid-Southern Conference championship in program history, topping Silver Creek 32-12 on a rainy, chilly night in Ramsey.
The only thing more sluggish than the weather on homecoming night was the first-half offense for the ninth-ranked and undefeated (7-0, 6-0) North Harrison Cougars.
A strong second-half effort on both sides of the ball allowed the poncho-wearing, umbrella-toting home crowd to go home with a smile on their faces.
The Cougars had trouble holding on to the wet pigskin, losing possession to fumbles twice in the first half.
The lone first-half score for the home team came after Silver Creek’s first touchdown when senior Trey Kuerzi found a hole and darted through all the way to the end zone for a 78-yard kick-off return.
Sam Best added the two-point conversion.
Silver Creek (4-3, 3-3) was able to take advantage of the Cougars’ miscues and punch in two rushing scores. The Cougars eventually took a 12-8 lead into the locker room at the half.
North Harrison only managed a single first down in the first two quarters.
‘We kept calm, tweaked a couple of things,’ coach Mark Williamson said the half-time adjustments. ‘I’m proud of their effort. They are resilient. I mean, what they’ve been through the last three years, the seniors ‘ first of all they’re in junior high and they’re getting a new coach every year ‘ they are a resilient group. Down by four at half doesn’t really, you know, they look to the coaches to make some corrections and adjustments, and we do those things, but there’s no panic. We didn’t freak out.’
What they did do, however, was completely shut down the Dragon offense. Silver Creek was unable to even put up a first down until its last possession of the game after North Harrison had already had the game well in hand.
Senior linebacker Evan Goodman made his presence felt in the second half. Silver Creek ball carriers must have thought every Cougar wore 23 because, for a stretch of a couple possessions, it seemed Goodman was on the business end of just about each tackle.
Defensive tackle Levi Senn, along with the entire Cougars’ defense, also was impressive.
As evident by his bone-rattling tackle late in the fourth quarter that caught the crowd’s attention, Best does more than run the ball.
‘We came out (and) hit hard,’ Goodman said of the North Harrison defense. ‘The line blew it up; the safeties and the secondary made sure there wasn’t any passing going on. The linebackers did their job.’
On its first possession of the second half, North Harrison marched down the field in similar fashion to what it has done all year, on the ground behind a big and physical offensive line.
Quarterback Avery Blocker finished the drive with a keeper play for a score, and the Cougars added the two-point conversion behind Sam Best, to take the lead for good, 16-12, with 6:47 to play in the third quarter.
Best continued his scoring ways with two touchdown runs in the fourth quarter, the last of which included a bunny hop to avoid defenders before running untouched toward the scoreboard-side end zone, putting the game away.
Best added the two-point conversion run, making the final tally 32-12.
‘They were well-prepared, hats of to Silver Creek,’ Williamson said. ‘I mean, really, they were well-prepared, came ready to play. I told our kids all week it was going to be a 48-minute game. And it really was.’
With the win, the Cougars will look to secure the outright MSC title against winless Clarksville on Friday.
‘I haven’t grasped it; maybe next year or something I’ll realize we’ve made history. It’s just incredible,’ Goodman said of the program’s first MSC title, outright or shared.
Silver Creek 12 0 0 0 ‘ 12
North Harrison 8 0 8 16 ‘ 32