Veteran Lions top NH
Wade Bell, Sports Writer
A young North Harrison Cougars football team took a beating in its opener Friday night against the visiting Salem Lions with experience being the main factor, as North Harrison is returning only two starters. The Cougars had a good first quarter, but Salem’s experience took over throughout the rest of the game to secure a 27-13 win.
“That was the best Salem team since I’ve been here,” North Harrison coach Mark Williamson said of the Mid-Southern Conference foe. “I knew they would be good. They’ve got a lot of returning starters. They’ve got enough athletes, good athletes. They’re two platoons. Most of their guys go one way. They wore us down a little. We had four players going both ways. That was a factor. They’re just pretty good right now. Hats off to them.”
Salem got the ball to begin the game, but the Lions only got off three plays before fumbling it to the Cougars on the North Harrison 24-yard line.
The Cougars kept the ball on the ground on their first possession with Aaron Nevil doing most of the damage. North Harrison drove the ball down to the 2-yard line where Nevil went in for the score. Matt Neely punched in the extra-point kick, and the Cougars had a 7-0 lead.
North Harrison held Salem scoreless through the remainder of the period, but that changed in the second with the Lions scoring twice. Salem scored on its next possession with 8:42 to go in the half when Brandon Corbin hit Reese McCoskey for an 11-yard strike. Luke Noel got the extra-point kick, and the game was tied at 7.
After the Cougars went three and out on their next possession, Corbin and Chance Allen took turns running the ball all the way down to the North Harrison 11-yard line. With 2:23 to go in the half, Corbin found McCoskey for another 11-yard passing touchdown. Noel was good again with his boot, and the Lions took a 14-7 lead to the locker room at halftime.
“Our focus with this group has not been that great,” Williamson said. “It’s getting better. We couldn’t even get in a huddle at camp in early June. You couldn’t get them to huddle up correctly. We knew we had a long way to go. We had six practices in the spring from the IHSAA and three in the winter, and, if it weren’t for those, it would be even worse right now.”
“But, on the up side, I believe all our coaches are kind of pleased where we’re at right now,” he said. “We’ve got to get better every week, and I think this group will. Our culture has got to stay together. We’re not at ‘circle the wagons’ mode by any stretch. We’re going to keep doing the same things we always do, and we’ll just keep getting better.”
North Harrison returned the ball to the 23-yard line to start the second half. McCoskey lost one on the next play, but quarterback Jarrett Fenn gave North Harrison fans something to cheer about when he ran the ball to the 45-yard line for a first down. Those cheers, however, died when the ball was called back for an inadvertent official’s whistle that was blown just before the play started. Any momentum Fenn had given the Cougars quickly was gone, and the Cougars were forced to punt the ball.
The Lions converted on their next possession from their own 15-yard line. Salem kept the ball on the ground, except for its last two plays of the drive. Corbin hit Mark Carrillo twice, the second pass going in for an 11-yard touchdown. The Cougars blocked the extra point, but Salem still had a 20-7 lead after three quarters.
North Harrison went three and out again on its next possession, and Salem took advantage. Corbin carried the ball five times to reach the 11-yard line. On the sixth play of the drive, Corbin hit Shane Muhuron on the 3. Lane Price took the ball in from there, and, with Noel’s extra point, the Lions had a 27-7 lead four seconds into the fourth quarter.
The Cougars went three and out again on their next possession but caught a break when the Lions fumbled the ball on the return, giving North Harrison good field position on Salem’s 37-yard line.
The Cougars kept the ball on the ground to the 1. Nevil drove the ball in for six, but North Harrison missed the extra-point kick.
Salem milked the clock from that point and took home the 27-13 win.
“I knew it coming in,” Williamson said. “The score was 27-13, but I’m no fool; it was a 42-7 game. They just whooped our butts on every phase of the game. On the bright side, I thought our guys fought. I think we’re a little better than I thought we would be at this point. We only have two guys coming back that started last year, basically that started all the games. We had guys play here and there some, but we’re starting four sophomores and a freshman.”
Price led the Lions with 148 yards on 19 carries, and Corbin carried 23 times for 117 yards. Corbin also completed all five of his passing attempts, good for 56 yards. The Lions had two turnovers, both fumbles.
“Their quarterback (Corbin) is the best quarterback in the conference,” Williamson said. “He can throw, run, handle the ball, he runs that offense perfectly. He doesn’t make any bad decisions. They’re going to be a handful for anybody they play.”
Nevil had 23 carries for 58 yards for the Cougars. Fenn completed 3 of his 6 passing attempts for 49 yards. North Harrison had no turnovers.
“We’ve been junior-senior for the last four years,” the North Harrison coach said. “It makes a difference in Friday night football, especially early. This is their first big show, and they make mistakes. We’ve got some guys that are making some mistakes, and they get down. They’ve got to let it go. I don’t know how you do that, but you’ve heard that your whole life, ‘Well, here comes four or five in a row.’ We did some of that.”
“Optimistically, we still have a good shot at having a winning season,” Williamson said. “It’s not gloom and doom over here. The players took it hard. It was silence. They’re not used to looking at a whole lot of losing. They’re hurt a little bit because they’ve got a lot invested. They’ve got just as much invested as any other team. It’s just that our experience is not good.”
Salem 0 14 6 7 – 27
North Harrison 7 0 0 6 – 13
NH – Aaron Nevil 2 run (Matt Neely kick); S – Brandon Corbin 12 pass from Reese McCoskey (Luke Noel kick); S – Corbin 11 pass from McCoskey (Noel kick); S – Mark Carrilo 11 pass from Corbin (kick blocked); S – Lane Price 3 run (Noel kick); NH – Nevil 1 run (kick failed).