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Kick leaves Cougars satisfied

Kick leaves Cougars satisfied
Kick leaves Cougars satisfied
With a hold placed by Zane Armstrong, North Harrison place kicker Ben Waynescott boots through the game-winning field goal Friday night at Brownstown Central. Photos by Brian Smith

Harley for ninety!
Blocker-to-Wetzel ” oh guts
Waynescott splits the bars

A haiku can be accomplished with three lines of verse and ending with 17 syllables.
On the football field Friday night, North Harrison went to 3A No. 8 Brownstown Central and produced 17 jaw-dropping points to land a key Mid-Southern Conference victory, 17-14.
Similar to a three-part Japanese poem, the Cougars couldn’t have scribed a better start, middle and end.
The start: Junior kick-off return man Jake Harley went 90 yards up the gut, untouched for a TD.
The middle: With one second remaining before halftime, North Harrison took a 14-0 lead when Avery Blocker connected a pass to Skyler Wetzel on fourth down.
The end: 0:00.8 seconds left in regulation, senior kicker Ben Waynescott lined up from the left hash and booted a 24-yard game-winning field goal.
‘I got an email Monday saying this was going to be one of the games in the state to watch. It lived up to it,’ North Harrison coach Mark Williamson said. ‘I told the officials it was a class game. It was what high school football is all about.’
With 9:43 to play, Brownstown Central scored on a direct-snap rush by running back Matthew Bell to even the score at 14-all.
The Braves would never touch the ball again.
It’s no secret what North Harrison does on offense; however, during the first half versus the Braves, North Harrison uncharacteristically completed six passes.
The final drive of the game, North Harrison went back to what it does best: run.
There were a few obstacles along the way. Blocker was tackled for a 5-yard loss on his own 36, setting up a third-and-11 situation. Connecting with Wetzel for an 8-yard pick up forced Williamson to call a time-out and choose between punting or going for the first down.
Go for it the Cougars did, handing off to Kohana Wilks for a 4-yard gain.
‘It was ground and pound,’ Wilks said of the final drive. ‘It was North Harrison football. We pounded it in there. We had the big fourth down where coach called a time-out and asked us if we wanted to punt it or push it for the first down. I told him I wanted to push it for the first down, so that’s what we did. We kept pushing and chopped wood.’
From there, North Harrison chipped away at the clock while picking up positive yards on each hand-off or keeps ran by Blocker.
Another fourth down on the Brownstown Central 31 saw Blocker sneak over center Colton Sieberns for an easy pick-up.
As time wound down, North Harrison’s Peake ran to the 7-yard line, with Williamson halting the clock at 0.8 second for a field-goal try.
Waynescott, with a hold from Zane Armstrong, kicked the clincher dead center of the uprights from the left hash. As the ball sailed in the air from 24-yards out, Waynescott turned to sprint toward the Cougars’ sideline to begin a frantic celebration with teammates.
‘I took a deep breath and just hit it,’ Waynescott said. ‘I’m usually not that good from the left hash, so that worried me a little bit, but I let that go and just hit it … I knew it was going right down the middle. I know what a good kick looks like when I get it. That one felt right.’
Confidence in Waynescott extends beyond him, who said a quad injury nearly kept him out of the game.
‘Ben is a stud; he’s a stud kicker,’ Wilks said. ‘It was terrible field position, but we put full and total trust in Ben. He’s a real good kicker.’
‘I wasn’t thinking a touchdown any part of that drive,’ Williamson said. ‘I was thinking to get it inside the 15 to give (Waynescott) a good shot at it. He can kick it if we get to the 20, about a 37-yard kick is about his range. Inside a 32-yard kick is perfect for him.’
Jake Harley, who started the game with a spectacular 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, relived the final moments:
‘I’m 10 yards behind him, crouched down on my knees praying it goes in,’ Harley said. ‘I trust (Waynescott) because he is one of the best kickers in the conference, if not the best.’
Taking the opening kick through the middle of the field for a 7-0 start gave North Harrison plenty of confidence in the battle of unbeatens.
‘I can’t take all the credit,’ Harley said. ‘The guys on the kick-return team, they do a great job blocking to give me a hole to run through.’
Brownstown Central, entering the game averaging 40.5 points per game, found itself void of any points at halftime. All three possessions for the Braves reached North Harrison territory but couldn’t extend to the red zone.
North Harrison’s Tate Griffin and Austin Chadwick closed in on Brownstown Central quarterback Gus Hogan for a third-down sack with 3:26 to go in the second quarter.
Getting the ball back on its own 15, North Harrison went to the air. Julian Edelman’s amazing catch in Super Bowl 51 could have been rivaled by Harley’s grab on North Harrison’s two-minute drive. Leaping in the middle of the field, Harley tipped the ball then felt a pair of Brownstown Central players close in for a tackle. Pinning the ball near his helmet, Harley came down with the grab near midfield.
Griffin also added a 10-yard reception then a 14-yard pick-up to Wetzel. On fourth down, Blocker found Wetzel for a 20-yard catch and run along the right sideline, resulting in a touchdown with one second left. The TD gave North Harrison a 14-0 half-time edge.
‘Any time you score right before the half is a downer for the other squad,’ Williamson said. ‘We were feeling good at half, and we just wanted the ball back. We knew they weren’t going to quit.’
Statistically, North Harrison ended the game with more passing yards than rushing. Blocker completed 8-of-11 passes for 130 yards.
‘We threw for over 100 yards passing, which hadn’t happened since I’ve been here,’ Williamson said.
The defensive success against Brownstown Central, according to Williamson, came down to scheme.
‘We are a scheme team on defense, and we don’t change no matter what you do offensively,’ he said. ‘We’ve gotten better over the years against Brownstown. Holding them under 30 points is a chore. With our offense plugging away, it helped slow them down.’
The Braves, however, found a way to score in the second half. They moved the ball down the field with chunks of runs picked up by Caleb Bollinger and Colton Ritz.
Facing a third-and-goal from the 3, Hogan faked a run and completed a jump pass to an open Karl Pence for a TD.
North Harrison picked up two first downs before punting the ball away. The Braves then went on a 10-play drive, ending with Bell’s touchdown.
‘We got down on defense because they put together some (long) drives,’ Williamson said.
Then, North Harrison drove the ball during the final 9-1/2 minutes to kick in the winner. Winning at Brownstown Central, let alone against Brownstown Central, has been rare for the Cougars until the last three years.
Dating back to 1989, Brownstown Central had gone 25-1 versus the Cougars. Since 2015, the Cougars have won two of the last three meetings. The last win at Brownstown Central came in 1992 (24-15).
‘I had no idea if we had ever won here before,’ Waynescott said. ‘There was a coach that said we won about 30 years ago. I knew when they tied us 14-14, it was going to get really tough. The guys stuck with it and got me in field-goal range. I was glad I could make it for them.’
‘It’s a tough place to come and play,’ Harley said. ‘To beat a team that is that good is a great feeling and a good confidence booster.’
Peake finished the game with 76 rushing yards on 19 attempts. Wilks carried for 24 yards on seven tries.
In the passing game, North Harrison (5-0, 5-0 MSC) had pass catches by Wetzel (three for 45 yards), Harley (three for 42), Griffin (one for 22) and Brett Rudolph (one for 21).
Brownstown Central (4-1, 4-1 MSC) rushed for 239 yards on 39 tries and completed 2-of-3 passes for 13 yards.
The Cougars next head to Eastern (Pekin) on Friday.
‘I’m so proud of our guys,’ Williamson said. ‘They hung in there. I give them hell all week, they put up with me and they go out an play hard.’
North Harrison 7 7 0 3 ‘ 17
Brownstown Cent. 0 0 7 7 ‘ 14
NH ‘ Jake Harley 90 kickoff return (Ben Waynescott kick); NH ‘ Skyler Wetzel 20 pass from Avery Blocker (Waynescott kick); BC ‘ Karl Pence 3 pass from Gus Hogan (Ethan Sevakis kick); BC ‘ Matthew Bell 3 run (Sevakis kick); NH ‘ Waynescott 24 FG.