Perfect Cougars post another shutout
North Harrison took its high ranking (No. 6 in Class 3A) and marched out of the home of the Generals on Friday with its fourth shutout of the season, 56-0.
It was the regular season finale throughout the state on the gridiron. North Harrison, with the dominating performance at Clarksville, is one of 13 teams to post perfect 9-0 regular season records.
‘We practiced good all week, and we came out tonight with good intensity,’ North Harrison senior Josh Craig said.
One could have a reason to worry for a letdown. Facing an over-matched Clarksville team, which has lost 34 straight football games, combined with fall break week for North Harrison could have been a concern.
‘It was a real nice effort by our guys,’ North Harrison coach Mark Williamson said. ‘We had fall break so sometimes it is tough to keep their focus over break, but we probably had our best practice since I’ve been at North Harrison on Wednesday. They are pretty locked in. They have some things they want to accomplish this year.’
Accomplishing a Mid-Southern Conference championship is one goal checked off the list. The Cougars went 8-0 in league play, capturing the top spot at the table for the second time in three seasons. Going 9-0 was also accomplished in 2015 for the Cougars, who are 26-4 as a program since then.
‘It’s huge,’ Williamson said of winning conference. ‘Our players understand it. They’ve been through the process of turning the program around. Our community has a pretty good following now, and it’s been a lot of fun.’
Craig is among those taking it all in as well.
‘It feels good to get a conference,’ he said. ‘We’re all pretty excited, but we want to keep it going on into sectionals. It’s one game at a time.’
Clarksville went backward for much of the first quarter. A sack, rush for loss and a fumbled snap led to a Generals’ punt that traveled three yards.
On North Harrison’s first play from scrimmage, Jaylen Peake ran in from 13 yards out with assistance from a host of teammates for the final surge at the goal line.
The next three-and-out from Clarksville saw North Harrison’s Avery Blocker and Brett Rudolph combine to block a punt. There for the scoop and score was Craig.
Another miscue from the Generals, a fumble by quarterback Johnny Key, was pounced on by Austin Chadwick.
Four plays later, North Harrison led 21-0 after a Blocker 2-yard rush.
‘It was what we wanted,’ Williamson said. ‘We were focused and business-like. We wanted to keep playing well on defense, and we did that. It’s an important part of the game for us because we’re a defensive football team. We’re a smash-mouth offense, and they kind of work together.’
The lead doubled in the second quarter. Peake had two additional scoring runs of 16 and two yards. The junior finished with 131 yards rushing on 12 carries, putting his season rushing total over the 1,000 yard plateau.
Blocker completed one of two passes on the day. The completion was a 28-yard connection with Skyler Wetzel for a TD. Wetzel also intercepted a Clarksville pass before the end of the first half.
‘Our defense just prides itself on not giving up points,’ Craig said. ‘We fly around and hit people.’
Four of North Harrison’s nine wins have come by way of shutouts. After week nine, the Cougars rank No. 2 in the state in defense, allowing a mere 5.44 points per outing.
‘I’ve done this so long, I’ve kind of figured it out,’ Williamson said. ‘I’ve always heard offense wins games, defense wins championships, but what it really means is, when you are good defensively, you are mentally, physically tough. That defines your football team, and that’s why you win championships. We feel like we are tough and don’t feel like we’re going to get out-hit, and we are going to play sound, solid defense. We’ve done that all year.’
Opening the second half, Blocker took off down the left sideline for a 47-yard touchdown. The senior QB closed with 52 rushing yards on three carries. Additional touches out of the backfield went to Wilks (two for 18 yards), Tate Griffin (one for seven), Isaiah Lawson (four for 38) and Aaron Nevil (four for 19). As a team, North Harrison rushed 31 times for 265 yards.
The entire second half was played with a running clock, but, before time expired, Lawson got into the end zone for a 20-yard TD.
‘Two right off the bat that would play a lot more if we didn’t have this strong of a football team would be Isaiah Lawson and Aaron Nevil,’ Williamson said of the younger players seeing varsity action. ‘Both of those (freshmen) can really play. We will not be able to keep them off the field next year, that’s for sure.’
Clarksville was held to 22 total yards, 18 rushing and four passing.
Focus now turns to the postseason for North Harrison (9-0, 8-0 MSC), a program that seeks its first sectional in football.
‘They are locked on winning the sectional,’ Williamson said. ‘We start our new season on Monday. I think we’ve got as good of shot as anybody in our sectional to win it. This is a great time of year. We don’t want to end our season right now. Practices are fun. We want to keep this thing going.’
Sectional will begin for the Cougars on the road against rival Corydon Central (1-8). The Cougars won the regular season bout 28-0 in a downpour on a neutral field (Floyd Central) back on Sept. 1. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.
North Harrison 21 21 7 7 ‘ 56
Clarksville 0 0 0 0 ‘ 0
NH ‘ Kohana Wilks 13 run (Ben Waynescott kick); NH ‘ Josh Craig 10 block punt return (Waynescott kick); NH ‘ Avery Blocker 2 run (Waynescott kick); NH ‘ Jaylen Peake 16 run (Waynescott kick); NH ‘ Skyler Wetzel 28 pass from Blocker (Waynescott kick); NH ‘ Peake 2 run (Waynescott kick); NH ‘ Blocker 47 run (Waynescott kick); NH ‘ Isaiah Lawson 20 run (Waynescott kick).