Singing Crazies see shutout
Before Corydon Central picked up its second first down of the game Friday night, the blue-out North Harrison student section was already belting ‘Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.’
No, they weren’t off to shop early for Christmas gifts nor was Santa making a surprise appearance. Certainly, Frosty wasn’t showing up in the 90-degree heat and high humidity in Ramsey.
The Cougars’ faithful was showing love for their own Rudolph: junior running back/defensive end Brett Rudolph. His 4-yard touchdown run with 1:22 before halftime gave North Harrison a rather surprising 35-0 lead the Cougars would take into halftime.
Adding on in the second half, the Cougars made it two Big Cat Classic wins in a row over rival Corydon Central, posting a 49-0 victory Friday night. It was the first shutout of the Panthers for North Harrison since 27-0 in 2000.
‘I didn’t think it was going to be like this,’ Rudolph said of the final score. ‘It was physical, but we figured it would have been closer all the way through. We come out here and hit hard every time. Eventually, it wears the other team down and we kick up.’
Rudolph closed the night with 110 yards rushing on 17 carries. He scored three touchdowns.
Not only was Rudolph and others taken back by the score, North Harrison coach Mark Williamson was expecting his team to steadily improve as the season went on. The leap from a week-one win over Crawford County to a shutout of Corydon Central was pretty big.
‘We think we’re a team that is going to get better every week, but, dog on, we got better pretty quick in week two,’ Williamson said.
It was on the defensive end where the Cougars excelled. On Corydon Central’s first five offensive series, the Panthers fumbled twice. Once, Corydon Central got the ball back on the next snap when the Cougars coughed up the ball.
Corydon Central’s offense went nowhere post turnover, punting after a three-and-out.
The Cougars handed off the ball to elusive sophomore Jake Harley for a 25-yard touchdown run down the left sideline. Along with Rudolph’s opening TD, the Cougars went up 14-0.
Bottling up Corydon Central running back Austin Kopp, he picked up one first down within the first six possessions.
Once North Harrison received the ball back via punt, the Cougars flashed some air on its fourth possession. Quarterback Avery Blocker went play-action, hitting an open Harley for a 27-yard strike.
Two plays later, while trying to elude a rush, Corydon Central quarterback Alec Saulman fumbled; the ball was recovered by the Cougars.
‘It was poor execution,’ Corydon Central coach Andrew Smith. ‘To be honest, we had two bad days of practice in a row. I think we felt confident, maybe too confident. We played just the way we practiced.’
Blocker had a carry of 21 yards to inside the 15-yard line, setting up another Rudolph TD, bouncing off would-be tacklers.
‘We’ve always had a lot of weapons,’ Blocker said. ‘If something isn’t working, we can go to a different play and feel comfortable about it. Tonight, the running game was working well so we stuck with it. The offensive line was blowing them off the ball. A lot of credit goes to them.’
Skyler Wetzel pounced on a loose football when Corydon Central fumbled the next kick-off. Three plays later, Rudolph was in the end zone again, posting a 35-0 score.
Up front, North Harrison senior offensive lineman Levi Senn said the Cougars were in sync.
‘It was no one person on the offensive line; it was a team effort,’ Senn said. ‘We were all working together. We got everyone hyped up. We were ready to go. We put the work in and wanted to get the job done.’
Kopp broke off a pair of long gains inside the final 80 seconds of the first half, pushing the pigskin toward the red zone. Saulman connected with Weston Goodman for a completion to the 4, halting the clock at 11.1 seconds. On the next play, a gang of Cougars’ defenders brought down Kopp for a loss, firing up the home team further at the half.
‘Goal-line stops, I love them,’ Williamson said. ‘Goal-line scores and goal-line stops are big in football, especially at the end of a half. They could have came in 35-7 at half, a little momentum; getting the ball (the second half), anything could have happened. That stop pretty much sealed it.’
Kopp finished the game with 101 yards rushing on 16 carries. As a team, the Panthers were limited to 128 yards of total offense. During the course of the game, Corydon Central dealt with a handful of injuries.
‘We’re playing a lot of guys both ways,’ Smith said. ‘That’s hard when you are in this spot and it’s hot. We have nine guys starting both ways. We’ll have to address our rotation. We thought we had one, but we had a few guys go down with legit injuries and it messes the whole rotation up. We are asking some freshmen to step in. That’s asking a 14-year-old to play, and that’s not fair for them.’
Meanwhile, North Harrison stuck to the run game. The Cougars amassed 366 yards on the ground, while Blocker completed both of his pass attempts for 32 yards.
Plenty of carries were spread around, too. Kohona Wilks ran for 93 yards and a second-half touchdown. He also aided the defense by playing closer to the line of scrimmage from his linebacker spot.
‘We schemed them on defense and prepared,’ Blocker said of shutting down the Panthers. ‘We changed our defense, playing a linebacker up, and I don’t think they ever adjusted. It worked real well.’
Others with rushing yards for the Cougars included Harley (52 yards), Blocker (44 yards), Jaylen Peake (29 yards), Josh Kemp (22 yards), Wetzel (10 yards) and Chase Johnson (six yards, touchdown).
‘We are building this team,’ Senn said. ‘We started at just a few wins (under Williamson), but we get into the weight program, put in the work, chop wood, show up and get it done.’
‘All and all, it was a real clean game by the Cougars, and we wore them down and imposed our will on them,’ Williamson said. ‘Come tournament time, when the weather breaks, Corydon can be a whole different team. They have a lot of talent. I feel we beat a real good team. They traveled to Southridge and played toe-to-toe for four quarters.’
The win was the 11th straight regular season victory for the Cougars’ football program.
‘It’s an amazing start,’ Rudolph said. ‘We have to keep the same momentum next week. I know Corydon is our rivals, and we want to beat them more than anything, but we have to play next week this same way.’
North Harrison (2-0, 1-0 Mid-Southern Conference) will welcome Salem on Friday at 7 p.m.
Meanwhile, Corydon Central (0-2, 0-1) will hit the road again on Friday to face Silver Creek.
‘We come back Monday and be positive with them,’ Smith said of rebounding. ‘I still think we are too talented to either have this result or to fold it in. Ultimately, that is our challenge: Do you fold up shop or go to work and get ready for the next one? We have to go back to work. There is still plenty of games we can win; we just have to play better.’
Corydon Central 0 0 0 0 ‘ 0
North Harrison 7 28 7 7 ‘ 49
NH ‘ B. Rudolph 27 run (B. Waynescott kick); NH ‘ J. Harley 35 run (Waynescott kick); NH ‘ Harley 27 pass from A. Blocker (run failed); NH ‘ Rudolph 3 run (Rudolph run); NH ‘ Rudolph 4 run (Waynescott kick); NH ‘ K. Wilks 8 run (Waynescott kick); NH ‘ C. Johnson 1 run (Waynescott kick).