Cougars ‘clock’ Eastern, eye Creek
Alan Stewart, Contributing Writer
Even on the gridiron, things have been odd in 2020.
After a pair of overtime wins in the first three weeks of the season, North Harrison found itself in its second consecutive matchup that finished with a “mercy rule” running clock; only this time, things were tilted in the Cougars’ favor.
Two weeks ago, Brownstown raced away to a 55-22 win over North Harrison that had a running clock in the second half, and Friday night there was another shortened affair in Ramsey: Buoyed by strong performances again by senior running backs Aaron Nevil and Colby Whittaker, North Harrison led gate to wire in a 42-0 shutout of winless Eastern (Pekin).
Nevil scored five times and rushed for 265 yards, while Whittaker snapped off a 42-yard touchdown run and tallied 75 yards in the winning effort that snapped the Cougars’ two-game losing streak.
“We had some guys who probably didn’t play as well as they should and some guys who need to play better, but it’s tough when you play an opponent like this that is struggling, struggling with numbers and all sorts of things. I feel for them,” North Harrison head coach Mark Williamson said. “It was nice to win. You lose two in a row and you win and get that winning feeling back a little bit. It’ll be a good weekend for everyone.”
It took just three plays and 70 seconds for the Cougars (4-2, 4-2 Mid-Southern Conference) to score all the points they’d need in the ballgame after Nevil burst through the line and scampered 43 yards for the touchdown. Whittaker carried in for the conversion for an 8-0 lead.
After Eastern’s next drive stalled after seven plays, Nevil punched in another six-pointer from 10 yards away. Matthew Nealy hit the first of two PAT kicks for a 15-0 lead that held to the end of the quarter.
On the first play of the second quarter, Nevil had a one-yard plunge.
Four plays into Eastern’s ensuing possession, Colt Beach stepped in front of a throw by Musketeers quarterback Nathan Teusch for an interception.
On North Harrison’s next snap, Whittaker took a handoff and ran into the line then bounded outside and scooted 42 yards to the end zone. Landon McIntire kicked North Harrison’s PAT to extend the advantage to 29-0.
The Cougars’ final score of the opening half came on a 11-play, 74-yard drive capped by an 18-yard romp by Nevil. McIntire’s kick set the half-time margin at 36-0.
Nevil scored with 4:24 left in the third for the final touchdown of the night, but the point-after kick was blocked.
North Harrison had four penalties for 25 yards, while Eastern was flagged three times for 16.5 yards.
“This was an easier offense for us to manage, compared to last week,” Williamson said. “It was nice that in the third quarter we were able to get our top backups in and get to see them on film. There’s about five or six starting spots that, even this late in the year, could go either way. It was good to see that and get the backups in there.”
Defensively, North Harrison held the Musketeers to just 65 yards of total offense. Aiden Combs had five tackles and five assists, Whittaker had two tackles and two assists, Nealy matched Whittaker’s numbers and added one tackle for a loss, Garrett Schroeder had five assists and one solo tackle and Landon King had three assists and one solo. Beach had one interception for the Cougars.
Rounding out the running game, Owen Whittaker had five rushes for 21 yards for the hosts, who didn’t attempt a pass in the contest.
The competition gets significantly tougher Friday night in a trip to Sellersburg to battle No. 16-ranked (Class 4A) Silver Creek, which is undefeated and is flying high after a 70-0 blowout of Clarksville. The Dragons are 4-5 all-time against North Harrison but have not lost to the Cougars since 2017.
“It’s on to Silver Creek now. Hopefully, we can regain a little momentum from this, get a little pep in our step and practice and get better. We’ve got to execute flawless on offense and in every phase of the game,” Williamson said of this Friday night’s game. “We can’t make mistakes, and we certainly can’t put the ball on the ground. We are going to have to chew up the clock and, over the years, we’ve upset a team or two by doing that. That’ll be the plan, and they know we are going to do that. We’re going to try to shorten the game, get some first downs and get down there and get it in. We’ve got to tackle, too.”
Eastern (Pekin) 0 0 0 0 – 0
North Harrison 15 21 6 0 – 42
North Harrison – Aaron Nevil, 43, run (Colby Whittaker run); North Harrison – Nevil, 10, run (Matthew Nealy kick); North Harrison – Nevil, 1, run (Nealy kick); North Harrison – Whittaker, 42, run (Landon McIntire kick); North Harrison – Nevil, 18, run (McIntire kick); North Harrison – Nevil, 11, run (kick blocked).