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Do-it-all Blocker notches 5 TDs, 2 INTs vs. Salem

Do-it-all Blocker notches 5 TDs, 2 INTs vs. Salem
Do-it-all Blocker notches 5 TDs, 2 INTs vs. Salem
North Harrison cornerback Jake Troxell grabs hold of Salem receiver Derrek Cornett while Cougars' Lowell Bezy (81) and Ethan Hamby (4) pursue. Photo by Brian Smith

North Harrison quarterback Avery Blocker accounted for all five touchdowns Friday night against visiting Salem. The signal-caller threw for one and ran for four.
Not only did he power the Cougars’ offense, Blocker accounted for two interceptions from his safety position to vault North Harrison to a 39-21 victory over Mid-Southern Conference-rival Salem.
The previous two regular season meetings between the schools have been nail-biting finishes determined by three points. Coming out with a win, North Harrison coach Mark Williamson knew how valuable the mark in the win-loss column is.
‘Our defense is playing pretty good,’ Williamson said. ‘Salem is a good team. They are a tough match-up.’
North Harrison’s defense set up the first points. Forcing a three-and-out, the Lions saw the snap to punter Blayton Miller sail over his head for a safety.
On the next kickoff, Jake Harley returned the ball to the Salem 27-yard line. Runs by Brett Rudolph and Harley set up a 4-yard keeper to the left scored by Blocker.
North Harrison extended its lead to 16-6 when Blocker put in another TD. Within the 9-play, 73-yard drive, Rudolph escaped for a 30-yard gain. The Cougars also drew Salem offsides on a critical fourth-and-1.
Hobson, who completed 7-of-19 passes for 131 yards, felt the heat on the next possession. North Harrison’s Ethan Hamby and Rudolph hit Hobson in the pocket, forcing incompletions.
Following a punt to the Cougars, North Harrison went to the air. Blocker dropped back and pump faked before airing the ball out to Jake Troxell along the right sideline. The 55-yard TD score vaulted North Harrison ahead 23-6.
‘Coach went in the huddle, called the play, and I went to the line with my heart pounding thinking this could be my second pass ever,’ Troxell said. ‘When he threw it, it was perfect. It came down in a straight line, and I caught it. I just ran as a fast as I could and scored.’
‘We pump faked the bubble, then hit the outside guy,’ Williamson said. ‘The corner bit a little, and we hit the play.’
Hobson kept Salem in the game before the half, connecting with Derreck Cornett, Damien Miller and Clayton Ratts for chunks of yards. Hobson polished the drive off with a 1-yard score on third down.
North Harrison, however, gained back some points before the half, seeing Ben Waynescott knock through a 30-yard field goal as time expired. The quick drive for field-goal position was set up by Drew Kuerzi catching a 32-yard pass from Blocker.
‘We felt pretty good at halftime, being up 12 (26-14) and getting the ball back, making a few adjustments blocking up front,’ Williamson said. ‘I thought they stopped our run game at times.’
Salem caused a fumble to start the second half, forcing Kuerzi to cough up the ball. Quickly, the game whittled down to one-possession, 26-21, after Hobson scored for the second time.
Needing an answer, North Harrison started to pound the ball on the ground. Evan Goodman, Josh Kemp, Blocker and Rudolph took the ball down the field, putting together a 76-yard drive. Blocker worked in a 20-yard pass to Rudolph as well. The drive closed with Blocker scoring from the 3, chewing up eight minutes of clock.
‘To start with a contact fumble in the second half, it wasn’t him holding the ball loose and out; he got hit and that happens in football,’ Williamson said. ‘(Salem) got the score ‘ a great start for them ‘ but we responded with a long drive. We had to answer. If they would have gotten the ball back down five, we may have been in trouble.’
North Harrison’s defense went to work the rest of the way. The Cougars stuffed a fourth-and-1 run attempt by Hobson to take over on downs. One Salem possession later, Rudolph and a gang of North Harrison tacklers sacked Hobson to force another short possession.
‘There was a couple of plays here and there (we gave up) but, besides that, we did very good, especially down the stretch,’ Troxell said of the defensive effort. ‘Blocker had two interceptions, and we had a few deflections.’
Salem’s final drive saw Blocker intercept a second Salem pass. His first pick set up Waynescott’s field goal.
‘He’s a football player,’ Williamson said of Blocker. ‘You see him on the sneak; he’s tough to bring down. I don’t know if he’s a quarterback. I don’t know if he’s a safety. I don’t know what he is, but I do know he can play the game of football. He’s tough and hard-nosed. I have to kick him out of the weight room. He’s our most conditioned kid. He isn’t tired.’
Blocker completed 3-of-5 pass attempts for 103 yards. In all, the Cougars rushed for 218 yards. Rudolph, who had 89 yards at the half, closed with 130 on 20 touches. Blocker ran for 32 yards, while Kemp had 41 yards.
‘That was a good win for us,’ Williamson said. ‘They are good and can do a lot of things. That flex-bone (offense) is hard to stop. I thought the key defensively was we were able to limit them in the run game. I won’t say they became one-dimensional, but we really slowed the run game enough to make them want to throw the ball more.’
Salem was held to 115 rushing yards, with Hobson accounting for 89.
‘Salem has a really good quarterback, too,’ Williamson said. ‘Salem has a lot of ingredients.’
Off to a 3-0 start, including 2-0 in defense of the program’s first MSC title, the Cougars are feeling lively.
‘Coming into the season, some people thought we weren’t going to be as good because we lost Sam (Best) and (Austin) Nevil, but we put the work in in the weight room and knew what the results could be,’ Troxell said. ‘We work too hard.’
Williamson said players are stepping up to fill the roles lost by key players from last season’s team. He knows there is still room for them to grow.
‘I think we’re a tough team to beat,’ Williamson said. ‘I’m still not 100 percent sure how good we are. We’re going to find out the next two weeks. We found out tonight we are resilient, not bad, and, when we call certain plays, we can do different things.’
The Cougars will hit the road Friday to face Charlestown (2-1, 1-1) at 7 p.m.

Salem 6 8 7 0 ‘ 21
North Harrison 9 17 6 7 ‘ 39
NH ‘ Safety; NH ‘ Avery Blocker 4 run (Ben Waynescott kick); S ‘ Kory Akers 10 run (kick failed); NH ‘ Blocker 1 run (Waynescott kick); NH ‘ Jake Troxell 55 pass from Blocker (Waynescott kick); S ‘ Seth Hobson 1 run (Hobson run); NH ‘ Waynescott 30 FG; S ‘ Hobson 8 run (Jacob Thompson kick); NH ‘ Blocker 3 run (kick failed); NH ‘ Blocker 1 run (Waynescott kick).