Cougars click, rattle Pirates on the ground
The North Harrison Cougars made quick work of visiting Charlestown in a Mid-Southern Conference football game Friday night, overpowering the Pirates 35-7. The Cougars used a multitude of weapons on the Pirates, who had little answer to the Cougars’ onslaught.
‘I’ve been getting this feeling in practice,’ North Harrison coach Mark Williamson said. ‘Just Tuesday and Wednesday, our practices were so smooth. We were getting done like 10 or 15 minutes early, because we’re not having to redo things. I could just feel us getting better and better and better, and people understand. Our running game is clicking right now. It might take us a quarter to figure some things out.’
Neither team scored on its first possession. That changed soon afterward, however, as the Cougars mixed up their plays and Kohana Wilks barreled his way to a 24-yard touchdown run. Luke Robertson got the extra-point kick, and North Harrison had a 7-0 lead.
Charlestown was forced to punt on its next possession, but the Cougars fumbled the ball away on their second play. The Pirates, however, failed to take care of the ball and fumbled to North Harrison on the next play.
North Harrison continued its next drive into the second period. The Cougars ran 12 plays on the possession to get to the 1-yard line. Avery Blocker kept the ball on the next play, pushing into the end zone for six points. Robertson was again good on the extra point, and North Harrison took a 14-0 lead.
Marion Lukes returned the ball to the 41-yard line on the kick-off return. The Pirates managed just two plays before coughing up the ball to the Cougars, with Tate Griffin falling on the pigskin. That turnover led to another touchdown for the Cougars. Wilks got his second score of the night with a 27-yard run, and the Cougars had a 21-0 lead.
Charlestown did not go to the locker room, however, without getting on the board. The Pirates started on their own 20-yard line and worked to keep the ball on the ground. Charlestown twice lost ground to the Cougars’ defense. Lukes pounded the North Harrison defensive line for nine straight plays. With 38.5 seconds to go in the half, Lukes ran in the final 12 yards to score. Dalton Bowen got the extra-point kick, and the Cougars’ lead was cut to two touchdowns at halftime.
‘He (Lukes) transferred in from Floyd Central,’ Williamson said. ‘We just had half a tape on him from three games. That’s all we got. He’s a difference-maker. There’s no question about it. He’s an athlete. He’s an accurate passer. He’s a nice player. He wears the same number as Brandon Lawler, and he played like him.’
Charlestown got the ball to start the second half with the intention of making the game even tighter. Darian Crawford returned the kickoff to the 24-yard line. From there, Charlestown pounded the ball on the ground to midfield. Lukes and Crawford continued to move the ball forward, inside the 10-yard line. The Pirates, however, would not see six. On fourth down and goal, Lukes was sacked by Tate Griffin, giving the ball to the Cougars and completing the goal-line stand.
‘Anytime you score right before half, that hurts,’ Williamson said. ‘They had plenty of time. They had a timeout left. That was the big stop. If they had come in 21, I think we would have been fine. Coming in 21-7 with them getting the ball back and then they go about 65 yards or whatever it was and get down (to) the goal line again, if they score there, it’s a dogfight. That was a huge goal-line stop. That’s probably our fourth or fifth goal-line stop of the season. We had a bunch against Salem.’
The Cougars took their next possession into the fourth quarter. North Harrison mixed up its plays with Wilks on the ground and a 25-yard pass play from Avery Blocker to Brett Rudolph to move the ball to the 2-yard line. Wilks got the call into the end zone for two yards, and Robertson was again good on the extra-point kick for a 28-7 lead.
North Harrison had another big defensive play when Zane Armstrong intercepted a Lukes pass. Moments later, the Cougars had their fifth touchdown of the night, this one coming on a 30-yard run by Jake Harley for a 35-7 lead.
Charlestown got another chance to score again, but the Pirates eventually gave the ball back to the Cougars, who took the 35-7 win.
‘They practice hard,’ Williamson said of his team. ‘They’re on time, too. I haven’t had to run anybody or get mad at anybody. We’re early. That’s our motto, ‘If you can’t be on time, be early,’ and our dudes are early. They’re fitting into the routine they’re polishing up. I think we’ve taken a step up every week. Last week, we played in a hurricane, though it was hard to tell when you looked at the tape … ‘
Williamson said his team is dangerous because it has so many weapons, all of which were put to use against the Pirates.
‘It’s kind of been funny,’ he said. ‘It’s been the Jaylen Peake show, Wilkes’ first game, now Peake two in a row, and Jaylen again. It was good to see Harley get in there. We’ve got to get him involved more. He is a Christian McCaffrey-type player. He shot through there like it was nothing. We practice him a lot more. He’s got to be an inside runner to get the ball, and that’s what we do.
‘People defend our outside with Avery’s keep-and-sweeps and the different things he does,’ the coach continued. ‘A lot of times that outside stuff isn’t there, and that’s where we want to get him the ball. I think he had three or four carries tonight. We’ve got to get him more involved. He’s a weapon, and we’ve got to get the ball in his hands. We practice a lot of things to get the ball in his hands, but, once the game starts, we’re not calling his number. We can’t forget about him.’
Despite how well things have been going for the Cougars through the early part of the season, Williamson said there are still things his team needs to get done.
‘We need to be able to open some things up a little bit more,’ he said. ‘We get in these tug-of-wars, and it’s hard what you do best. We can throw. Avery was two-for-two tonight, and he hit them right on the money. When it’s there and we need it, we’ve got confidence. We may be a team that throws only three or four times, but you would like to see us be a little more dynamic. That’s where we could improve.’
The Cougars (4-0) will head to Brownstown Central (4-0) on Friday for a Mid-Southern Conference battle. The duo, along with Silver Creek, are currently unbeaten in league play.
Charlestown 0 7 0 0 ‘ 7
North Harrison 7 14 0 14 ‘ 35
NH ‘ Kohana Wilks 24 run (Luke Robertson kick); NH ‘ Avery Blocker 1 run (Roberson kick); NH ‘ Wilks 27 run (Robertson kick); C ‘ Marion Lukes 12 run (Dalton Bowen kick); NH ‘ Wilks 2 run (Robertson kick); NH ‘ Jake Harley 30 run (Robertson kick).