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Cougars’ comeback effort falls short against Scottsburg

Cougars’ comeback effort falls short against Scottsburg
Cougars’ comeback effort falls short against Scottsburg
North Harrison senior Colten Hickman, left, drops to his knees in a rush to recover a fumble against Scottsburg on Friday. Brandon Miniard
Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]

While rain assaulted certain portions of Southern Indiana on Friday, Scottsburg Middle School remained virtually untouched by the weather. Instead, the cloudy skies made for the coolest temperatures of a scorching week, much more bearable weather for Week 2 of high school football.

After getting blown out by Salem 38-0 in its season opener, North Harrison’s desire to capture its first win of the season burned brighter as the Cougars pulled into Scott Memorial Health Field. Against rival Scottsburg, the Cougars fell behind early but made a push to comeback in the fourth quarter. A pair of late touchdowns from the host Warriors doused the comeback attempt en route to a 42-30 victory.

“We were getting out-toughed,” head coach Mark Williamson said. “(Scottsburg) was playing tougher than we were; they were doing the nitty gritty stuff better than we were.”

The Warriors’ scoring attack began on their first possession, though their initial rushing touchdown was denied on a holding penalty. It made little difference as Warriors quarterback Javis Roush found Langdon Holbrook on the next play, the latter rushing into the end zone for the first score of the game, followed by a Wyatt Crawford two-point conversion.

The Cougars answered immediately as junior running back Sawyer Wetzel returned the kick all the way to the Warriors’ 40-yard line. The subsequent drive set up a five-yard rushing touchdown for Wetzel, followed by a two-point conversion by senior running back Colten Hickman to tie the score.

While the first quarter was back and forth, the same couldn’t be said of the second period as the Warriors turned up the intensity.

Starting with a five-yard rushing touchdown by Crawford 20 seconds into the quarter, the Warriors rallied for three consecutive touchdowns, the latter two coming on a Roush 18-yard rush before finding Traven Crawford for a 66-yard passing score.

The Cougars’ offense closed the gap with a little more than 3:30 remaining in the half when senior quarterback Colt Beach found junior wide receiver Kaleb Kellems for a 25-yard touchdown pass. A successful two-point conversion, courtesy of sophomore receiver Owen Whittaker, cut the deficit to 30-16 before the half-time buzzer.

“(Scottsburg) came out and hit us hard early,” Beach said of the Cougars’ initial struggles. “We figured out what we had to do, go out there and try to hit them back.”

Neither squad saw significant action for most of the third quarter, but the Cougars’ defense came up with a pass interception late in the period. The pick set up a drive that paid off a little more than two minutes into the fourth quarter when Whittaker notched a five-yard rushing touchdown followed by a successful two-point conversion to cut the gap to 30-24.

While slightly surprised by the Cougars’ late-game heroics, the Warriors did not falter, extending their advantage with a 13-yard rushing touchdown from wide receiver Holbrook. The Cougars still believed they had a chance after stopping the subsequent two-point conversion, closing the gap even more after Beach found Hickman for a 54-yard pass. The PAT failed, leaving the score at 36-30.

The final dagger in the contest came with just over three minutes remaining, when Roush launched the ball 49 yards, landing it right into the hands of Holbrook before crossing into the end zone for the night’s final touchdown. Instead of their first victory of the year, the Cougars start the year 0-2 for the first time since the 2014 campaign.

“We started executing a little better (in the second half). Regardless, it was not good either half,” Williamson said. “It’s pretty disgusting to watch right now.”

Out of the 374 total yards the Warriors (2-0, 1-0 MSC) captured, 292 came courtesy of Roush. Alongside his 34 yards on the ground, the senior flung the ball 258 yards, completing 13 passes on 17 attempts and three touchdowns. Traven Crawford had a day on both sides of the ball, recording 125 total yards (56 rushing, 69 receiving), with a touchdown and 15 total tackles. Mason Busick led the way for the Warriors’ receiving corps with 104 yards.

The Cougars (0-2, 0-2 MSC) recorded more total offensive yards than the Warriors, finishing the night with 403, but it mattered little at the end. Beach had a solid passing night, going 6 for 14 while throwing for 161 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception. Whittaker led the rushing attack with 191 yards on 36 carries, including his first career varsity touchdown, as well as notching 36 yards on two catches.

Despite the improvements on offense, Williamson knows this squad has a lot of work to do on both sides of the ball. When talking about his squad’s overall performance to start the year, Williamson held nothing back in regard to their flaws.

“This team’s got a long way to go to even think about having a winning season right now,” Williamson said. “Defensively, we’re not playing well. Offensively, we’re not putting together long drives like we used to. It’s very frustrating, frustrating for the kids, the program, everybody involved because a lot of people put a lot into this. Parents, players, coaches, everybody, and for this to be the result is disheartening.”

This week’s practices will most certainly address those issues, especially with what’s in store for them in their contest Friday when they host county-rival Corydon Central in the 44th annual Big Cat Classic in Ramsey. Kick off is set for 7 p.m.

This year’s edition of the rivalry will be the first time both sides meet with losing records since 2009. Coming into this matchup 0-2 to start the season, one of these programs will get their first win Friday night.

“(We need to work on) everything, really,” Beach said of the upcoming matchup. “It’s a fundamental game. Blocking, passing, running; everybody’s just got to get better.”

North Harrison                8     8     0   14 – 30

Scottsburg                       8   22     0   12 – 42

S – Holbrook 33 pass from Javis Roush (W. Crawford 2-PT conversion); NH – Wetzel 5 run (Hickman 2-PT conversion); S – W. Crawford 5 run (conversion failed); S – Roush 18 run (T. Crawford 2-PT conversion); S – T. Crawford 66 pass from Roush (Morrow 2-PT conversion); NH – Whittaker 5 run (Whittaker 2-PT conversion); S – Holbrook 13 run (conversion failed); NH – Hickman 54 pass from Colt Beach (kick failed); S – Holbrook 49 pass from Roush (conversion failed).

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