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The Unthinkable

The Unthinkable
The Unthinkable
Running back Kohana Wilks picks up a first down on North Harrison's next to final drive of the game.

Electricity and water don’t mix.
While science is science, there was only one explanation for the level of shock hovering around the rain-soaked North Harrison football field Friday night: a comeback worthy of ‘Did that really happen?’ questions.
Down five points on the home scoreboard, the Cougars were backs-against-the-wall after Batesville scored the go-ahead touchdown in the Class 3A Sectional 31 match-up. Out of time-outs and a measly 26 ticks remaining, North Harrison wasn’t shy on belief.
A three-play, 65-yard drive used every 10th of a second left of the 17.2 seconds glowing on the scoreboard after the kick-off return by Isaiah Lawson to the North Harrison 35 yard line.
The play set to be etched in the memory of those grinding through 30-degree temperatures and chilling rain was North Harrison quarterback Avery Blocker airing a 25-yard touchdown to Skyler Wetzel.
Dropping back to pass with 1.5 seconds left, Blocker let go of the slippery pigskin before being sowed to the mud by a blitzing Logan Mears. As the ball hung in the air, Wetzel turned back to near the 5-yard line to haul in the catch. From there, with Batesville defensive back Garren Williamson on his back, Wetzel powered his body just over the goal line.
As soon as the arms raised of the sideline referee, pandemonium ensued and water splashed as players and fans stormed the goal line.
North Harrison 20, Batesville 19.
‘They knew we were going to throw it, and I was just trying to get the ball first then get in the end zone,’ the junior Wetzel said. ‘It was the last play of the game. I knew what we needed.’
Blocker, covered in mud from playing middle linebacker on defense, seized the final moment.
‘After the game started, my hands were soaked and I was covered in mud,’ the senior QB said. ‘Even that last pass, I didn’t think I would get it off well because, when I grabbed the ball, it was wetter than it had been the two previous times. I gave it all I had.’
There was his target, Wetzel, who had a final bit of assistance to the end zone from junior Drew Kuerzi with a push.
‘I know if I throw it up for (Wetzel) and it’s him and another guy, he’s going to come down with it,’ Blocker said.
Blocker had some doubt after Batesville’s elusive quarterback Trey Heidlage went in to put the Bulldogs up 19-14 with less than half a minute remaining.
‘I’m still kind of in shock,’ Blocker said. ‘I honestly thought, after they scored, it was over. There are not many times when you are down by five with 26 seconds left, being the football team we are, in the soaking rain, to make a comeback the way we did.’
Blocker hasn’t thrown a ton of passes this year, and only once this season had the Cougars attempted double digits in a game (10 versus Silver Creek). Add the poor playing conditions Friday, completing a comeback in the air wouldn’t seem to favor the power running-style of North Harrison.
Deliver the Cougars did.
Blocker looked the defense off to his left on the first pass play of the final drive, finding a leaping Wetzel over the middle of the field. He made a path to get out of bounds at the Batesville 25-yard line.
‘Wetzel was pretty heady about getting out of bounds,’ North Harrison coach Mark Williamson said. ‘Had he not gotten out of bounds, I don’t think we would have gotten another play off. We were out of time outs.’
A ball was batted down by the Batesville defense on the second pass attempt to Wetzel. The third, however, was the memorable TD.
‘We did wet ball drills all day yesterday, and (Blocker) couldn’t throw it a lick because his hands aren’t very big,’ Williamson said. ‘Then, he throws three great passes at the end … I’m still astonished by what happened. I’ve seen some crazy things. This one is probably top of the list. They didn’t give up. If you would have seen the focus in Avery’s eyes in the last 26 seconds … he makes plays.’
Senior Brett Rudolph, a player who doesn’t miss many snaps on offense or defense, was on the sideline for the final passing formations.
‘I was on the sidelines about to puke,’ he said. ‘Skyler gave me a big hug. It means a lot to me. Being a senior, it’s a lifetime memory I can tell my kids about one day.’
Rudolph said when Wetzel made the catch, he ‘froze.’ Once the touchdown signal was made, ‘we all lost it.’
It was a program-best 11th win for the unbeaten No. 6 Cougars. It didn’t come without adversity.
All seemed well in the early going. Batesville, making the two-plus hour drive south, saw wide receiver Austin Siefert fumble a sweep when Rudolph made a tackle in the backfield. North Harrison’s Chase Johnson recovered the fumble, setting up North Harrison’s first scoring drive.
Jaylen Peake took the score in from the 10-yard line, needing the assistance of his teammates. A rugby-like scrum saw the Cougars push No. 2 to the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
North Harrison later had a drive stall out on the Bulldogs’ 9-yard line, a moment the Cougars looked to go up two scores.
Offensively, North Harrison struggled to move the chains until the final quarter. In between, Batesville’s Heidlage did plenty of leg-work to keep his team going.
The QB carried the ball 35 times, picking up 247 rushing yards. All but three Bulldogs carries went to Heidlage.
‘It was tough defensively,’ Williamson said. ‘We ran some things we hadn’t practiced in forever on defense. It was an attempt to slow them down. That quarterback is the real deal. We had a tough time stopping him.’
When Heidlage threw passes, they were for touchdowns. His first came on third-and-goal in the third quarter. A play-action fake left Mears open to haul in the 6-yard floater. Rudolph blocked the extra-point try, keeping North Harrison ahead 7-6.
A three-and-out by North Harrison returned the ball to Batesville again. Heidlage marched the Bulldogs forward, ending with another pass, a 17-yard touchdown to Mears.
North Harrison found an offensive groove with a shift to Kohana Wilks in the run game. He sludged his way down the field during an eight-minute drive, setting up a 1-yard sneak by Blocker. Ben Waynescott’s extra point skimmed the inside of the post, giving the Cougars a 14-13 lead with 3:35 to play.
‘We didn’t do diddly on offense the whole second half until we got the ball back and started to run our cowboy in the fourth quarter,’ Williamson said. ‘We went about 70 yards out of that formation.’
Again, Batesville put the ball in Heidlage’s hands. He took the Bulldogs 77 yards but not without some luck. On third-and-9 from his own 42, Heidlage fumbled the ball. At the right place, Batesville’s C.J. Thomas pounced on the recovery, also using the forward fumble to pick up a first down. Five plays later, Heidlage was in the end zone. Kuerzi would break up the two-point conversion pass attempt.
‘He was quick,’ Blocker said of Heidlage. ‘We should have done a better job wrapping up. They were getting blocks on our secondary and linebackers, which were opening things for him.’
Then, the unthinkable comeback.
‘I couldn’t let our seniors down,’ Wetzel said. ‘They’ve worked too hard to get to this point. They’ve gotten North Harrison football out of the mud and to the top. That’s what motivated us. We could have held our heads on (Batesville’s) last touchdown, but we didn’t. We kept getting after it.’
Williamson said he was an assistant coach at Castle when that team went 89 yards in 89 seconds to win a semi-state title in 1994. Now, he has the Cougars’ comeback added to the memory bank.
‘This is dead last, have-to-have-it moment,’ Williamson said. ‘That was crazy. A lot of times, when you win a championship of some sort, you win a game you probably shouldn’t have won.’
Prior to Williamson’s arrival at North Harrison, he coached three years at Franklin County. The program, along with Batesville (7-4), is a member of the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference.
‘I didn’t think Batesville was physical on film, but they were physical tonight,’ Williamson said. ‘It’s a credit to that league they play in. It’s a very physical league … Hats off to Batesville. My gosh, they dominated from the middle of the second quarter on. We hung in there and pulled it out.’
Peake rushed for 109 yards on 27 carries for North Harrison, while Wilks picked up 50 on 14 touches. Kuerzi had one run for 15 yards. Blocker was 2 of 4 in the passing game for 65 yards.
‘We never gave up,’ Rudolph said. ‘We all went out there and gave it our all. That last touchdown, I knew we had to do something big. It was nerve-wracking. I still can’t believe it.’
Another EIAC team looms for the Cougars (11-0) in the sectional championship. A showdown with No. 5 Lawrenceburg (10-1), the defending 3A state runner-up, is slated to kick-off at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at North Harrison’s field in Ramsey. The Tigers’ lone loss was in the season opener, 15-14, to East Central. Of the four remaining teams in Sectionals 31 and 32 (Evansville Memorial and Gibson Southern), the squads have a combined 42-2 record.
‘Going into a sectional final is huge, especially for this program,’ Wetzel said. ‘Playing, I’m assuming Lawrenceburg, gives us a chance to play against a top-notch team in the state. It’s a great feeling to get to that point.’

Batesville 0 0 6 13 ‘ 19
North Harrison 7 0 0 13 ‘ 20
NH ‘ Jaylen Peake 10 run (Ben Waynescott kick); B ‘ Logan Mears 6 pass from Trey Heidlage (kick blocked); B ‘ Mears 17 pass from Heidlage (Nate Slavin kick); NH ‘ Avery Blocker 1 run (Waynescott kick); B ‘ Heidlage 4 run (pass failed); NH ‘ Skyler Wetzel 25 pass from Blocker.

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