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Creek too strong for Cougars

Creek too strong for Cougars
Creek too strong for Cougars
North Harrison senior Colby Whittaker hustles past a line of Silver Creek defenders on the opening kickoff of Friday night’s 28-14 setback to the Dragons. Photo by Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart, Contributing Writer

Despite posting the most points anyone this season has scored against undefeated Silver Creek, and holding the Dragons to their second-lowest offensive output of the season, North Harrison’s upset-bid fell just short Friday night in a Mid-Southern Conference scrum in Sellersburg, 28-14.

The Cougars never seemed fazed by the hosts’ sparkling record and a potent offense that came into the affair averaging 48 points a game.

“I’m proud of our effort. We came in here to win. We didn’t come here to play it close, and (the players) felt like they could do it and have a big upset. We’ve done it before in the past, and we thought this could be a shot. We came up short, and we gave them a good game,” North Harrison coach Mark Williamson said. “I’m proud of our effort. We can’t go with moral victories anymore. I used to do that eight or nine years ago, but there’s no such thing with this program. We came in here, fought for 48 minutes and I’m happy with that.”

Set up by a long Colby Whittaker run-back to start the game, which gave the visitors the ball at Silver Creek’s 23, the Cougars (4-3, 4-3 MSC) jumped on Silver Creek, 7-0, thanks to a one-yard plunge by Aaron Nevil and a Matthew Nealy point-after kick.

On the ensuing kickoff, Nealy had a picture-perfect onside pooch that was recovered by the Cougars, but the drive stalled at the opponents’ 25-yard line, the first of 11 times that North Harrison went for it on fourth down in the game.

The Dragons (7-0, 7-0 MSC) answered with a nine-play, 75-yard drive that ended on a seven-yard run to the end zone by LaShun Mays, who finished with 109 yards on 12 carries.

Silver Creek failed on its attempt at an onside kick, giving the Cougars solid field position to start its third drive of the game. Unfortunately, the drive ran out of steam on downs after 24 yards and six plays. The Dragons took the lead on the next snap as Ben Landers, who paced Silver Creek with 12 rushes for 143 yards, zipped around the right end and down the sidelines for a 66-yard touchdown run to make it 14-7 at the first stop.

After another turnover on downs by the Cougars, Silver Creek scored again in just three plays on a 33-yard touchdown run by Trey Schoen, son of former South Central basketball standout Scott Schoen. The point-after kick failed and made it 20-7.

In its most impressive — and arguably most needed — drive of the night, North Harrison mounted a charge from its own 25 and stomped 75 yards for a score at the half-time siren on a two-yard dive by Nevil, who carried the ball 16 times on the drive. Midway through the effort, the Cougars were benefited by a pass interference call on a toss from Colt Beach that was intercepted. The flag gave the Cougars a fresh set of downs to keep the drive alive and set up the touchdown by Nevil, who carried 44 times for 186 yards.

“That was huge,” Williamson said of his team’s final effort of the first half. “I thought the game could have been 21-20 us at halftime.”

North Harrison picked up its second onside kick to start the third quarter but was unable to move the ball and turned it over on downs. Silver Creek took over at its 41 and drove to the Cougars’ 13 before North Harrison’s defense held strong and ended the drive.

Neither team scored in the third period, with Silver Creek notching the game’s final points five plays into the final stanza.

Quarterback Dylan Meyers connected with Ben Landers from 34 yards away, with Landers juggling the ball and flipping into the end zone, where he caught the ball between his legs for the score. A two-point pass set the margin at 28-14.

“We moved the ball well; we just don’t do well with finishing,” Williamson said. “They are a very good team, and we know that. I don’t think anyone has put 14 on them, and all of that wasn’t trash points. Those were heat-of-the-battle points. We played all four quarters. I’m proud of our effort, and we took a step up.

“I can tell you right now we are better than we were two weeks ago (against Brownstown Central). We just have to keep working. We’ve practiced better on Tuesdays and Thursdays, our work days, and I’m hoping that’s what’s paying off.”

Williamson noted that the ground-and-pound offense wouldn’t be possible without the load up front.

“Everybody is playing young kids, but our whole right side where we run the ball is all underclassmen, sophomores and a couple of juniors,” North Harrison’s coach said. “They opened some holes for us.”

Beach was 6-of-10 passing for 37 yards with no interceptions for the Cougars. Sawyer Wetzel had one catch for 15 yards, Kaleb Kellems had a pair of receptions for 18 yards and Nevil had one catch for seven yards. Nick Gunter had three carries for 15 yards, and Whittaker had nine carries for 19 yards.

Defensively, Whittaker had three tackles and five assists, Aiden Combs had three tackles and two assists, Colten Cahill had a pair of tackles and assists, Noah Marrs had two tackles, and Beach, Kellems, Wetzel, Garrett Schroeder, Nealy and Cody Cottrell all had solo tackles, with Schroeder and Nealy tallying four assists along the way.

While Silver Creek will host Brownstown Central (6-1) this week, North Harrison will play its final regular-season road game Friday at Crawford County, which is winless (0-3) on the season and has dealt with canceled games due to COVID-19. From there, the Cougars are set to host Clarksville (3-4) on Oct. 16 to close out the slate before the postseason. North Harrison will learn its tournament trail Thursday when the Indiana High School Athletic Association conducts its pairings show.

North Harrison                     7     7     0     0 – 14

Silver Creek                        14     6     0     8 – 28

North Harrison — Aaron Nevil, 1, run (Matthew Nealy kick); Silver Creek — LaShun Mays, 7, run (Jonathan McIntyre kick); Silver Creek — Ben Landers, 66, run (McIntyre kick); Silver Creek — Trey Schoen, 33, run (kick failed); North Harrison — Nevil, 2, run (Nealy kick); Silver Creek — Landers, 34, pass from Dylan Meyers (Landers pass from Meyers).