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No. 10 Raiders take care of NH

No. 10 Raiders take care of NH
No. 10 Raiders take care of NH
With the help and final push from teammate Justin Flickner (20), North Harrison running back Aaron Nevil (5) makes his way to the end zone for a TD.
Brian Smith, Sports Editor, [email protected]

As sports fans wait for the ACC vs. Big Ten or Big 12 vs. SEC Challenges on the hardwood, the high school version in football went the way of the heavyweights from the Pocket Athletic Conference.

PAC squads Gibson Southern, Heritage Hills and Southridge combined to go 3-0 versus the Mid-Southern Conference’s three teams (Corydon Central, North Harrison and Salem) in Class 3A Sectional 32. Friday night, in semi-final action, Southridge traveled to Ramsey to earn a trip to the championship, defeating North Harrison 62-20.

No. 10 Raiders take care of NH
North Harrison lineman Devin Troncin (75) tries to bring down Southridge’s Chase Taylor while fellow Cougars Dalton Baylor (19), Sergio Perez (53) and Colten Cahill (60) also get in on the play.

“That whole league over there, they have battled each other and made each other better,” said North Harrison coach Mark Williamson. “Gibson Southern, Heritage Hills and Southridge have made each other better. That, offensively, was the best Southridge team we’ve played over the years. Defensively, they were what they are; they hit and are physical.”

All three PAC teams are ranked in the final 3A poll, with Southridge improving to 9-2. The Cougars, meanwhile, finished with a 5-6 record they won’t be letting go of anytime soon.

“We get to start (offseason) the Monday after Thanksgiving,” said Williamson. “We’re going to put ‘5-6’ on our shirts. You can’t get in the weight room without it. It’ll say ‘5-6, we own it.’ They are going to look at it every day.”

Williamson said the motivating shirts won’t be limited to the players only.

“We finished 5-6, and everyone in the program owns it,” he said. “It’s our first losing season in a while. Everyone owns it –– players, coaches, managers –– everyone.”

Southridge outclassed the Cougars on the cold Friday night. The Raiders scored on special teams and with their offense through the air and on the ground.

“They are No. 10 for a reason,” said Williamson.

Fielding North Harrison’s first punt, Southridge’s Camden Gasser blasted through for a 69-yard return.

To keep the Raiders’ offense on the sideline, North Harrison found success for a bit with its run game. Running back Aaron Nevil and quarterback Jarrett Fenn had positive gains. A pick up of six yards by Fenn moved the ball past midfield. Nevil followed with power runs of 10, 12 and three yards.

From the 17, Nevil ran through and over a host of Raiders toward the end zone. A Matt Nealy extra-point kick leveled the score at 7-all with 3:47 to go in the opening quarter.

“Offensively, our running game, the last three weeks of the season, has improved,” said Williamson. “We were finishing practice early because we didn’t have to run plays over and over. We were executing and blocking right.”

Southridge’s Garrett Voegerl showcased his track-and-field skills on the next Raiders’ drive. A fifth-place finisher in the high jump at state, Voegerl took an interception away from North Harrison’s Zachary Taylor. Taylor looked to have the under-thrown ball via Chase Taylor in his arms, but Voegerl came over the top and snatched the ball. He raced to the end zone in front of a crowd that went from North Harrison cheers to Southridge cheers for a 59-yard TD.

“Would that play have made a difference in the game? No,” said Williamson. “It may have given us a little momentum. That would have been the one stop we had, getting an interception. The thing is, the guys up top said if Taylor isn’t there, the guy probably doesn’t catch it. He catches the ball and gives him a chance to get an under-thrown ball. I never saw anything like that before.”

To start the second quarter, Southridge added a 17-yard touchdown run via Taylor. The signal caller was 5 of 6 in the pass game for 100 yards and ran five times for 47 yards.

The star in the run game for Southridge was Cole Calvert, who had 185 yards on 14 carries. He scored three times.

Down 21-7, North Harrison had some excitement on the next kickoff. Fenn took a kick to the center of the field and ran forward to the left. Soon, the senior was free of traffic and went 82 yards to the house.

No. 10 Raiders take care of NH
Finding an open running lane, North Harrison kick off returner Jarrett Fenn sprints through and takes flight for a touchdown return.

Making it a one-possession game was short lived, however.

Southridge added three more first-half scores to lead 42-19 at the break. Calvert had scoring runs of 21 and 32 yards. The half ended with Voegerl catching a fade pass in the end zone from Taylor from 24 yards out.

No. 10 Raiders take care of NH
Stretching out for a pass breakup, North Harrison’s Colby Whittaker disrupts a ball intended for Southridge’s Camden Gasser.

In the second half, Southridge added three more scores. Before the final horn, North Harrison’s Sawyer Wetzel broke the plane for a touchdown, prompting the final score.

“This group did everything we pretty much asked of them,” said Williamson. “I thought our culture took a dip in a few areas. That’s way more disappointing than the record. That will be discussed in the offseason.”

Nevil closed with 60 yards on 15 rushes. Fenn had 25 yards on five carries, also completing one pass for three yards to Colby Whittaker. Wetzel rushed for 44 yards in the second half.

“We have a lot of former players on our sideline and have for the last few years,” said Williamson. “They’ve never been through a losing season, but this program still has pride. Even though we walked off our home field 62-20, it doesn’t feel good. There is still a lot of pride in this program, and North Harrison football isn’t going anywhere.”

The Cougars graduate seven seniors: Zachary Taylor, Dalton Baylor, Derek Saunders, Dawson Howell, Zach Stewart, Devin Troncin and Fenn.

“It’s tough when you have a real small senior class,” said Williamson. “With our seniors, Stewart, our left guard, was a second-year player. Saunders was a first-year player. We go down the list there were only three of the seven that played all four years. We’re going to have a little bit of it next year, but we are going to have (a combined) 25 juniors and seniors back next year.”

The Cougars played one freshman (two-way lineman Colten Cahill) and a host of sophomores on the varsity level this season.

“We played a freshman this year for, hopefully, the only time, and he was one of our better players,” said Williamson. “It’s a different animal dealing with a physical game. We ended up playing fewer sophomores at the end. We have a really good freshman class that will be sophomores next year.”

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Southridge            14  28 14  6 – 62

North Harrison    7    7    0   6 – 20

S – Camden Gasser 69 punt return (Jaylon Leon kick); NH – Aaron Nevil 17 run (Matt Nealy kick); S – Garrett Voegerl 59 pass from Chase Taylor (Leon kick); S – Taylor 17 run (Leon kick); NH – Jarrett Fenn 82 kickoff return (Nealy kick); S – Cole Calvert 21 run (Leon kick); S – Calvert 32 run (Leon kick); S – Voegerl 24 pass from Taylor (Leon kick); S – Calvert 5 run (Leon kick); S – Carson Niehaus 5 run (Leon kick); S – Niehaus 20 run (kick failed); NH – Sawyer Wetzel 7 run (no attempt).