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Cougars’ modest improvements not enough against Brownstown

Cougars’ modest improvements not enough against Brownstown
Cougars’ modest improvements not enough against Brownstown
North Harrison sophomore wide receiver Owen Whittaker runs the ball up the middle during the first quarter of the Cougars’ 43-12 loss to Brownstown Central on Friday. Photo by Brandon Miniard
Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]

After falling to rival Charlestown 39-7 in Week 4, the North Harrison football team knew once again there was room for improvement in almost every facet of the game. Sitting at 1-3 both overall and in Mid-Southern Conference play, the Cougars felt a sense of urgency to try and salvage the remainder of their 2021 campaign.

Doing so would not be easy, especially going into Week 5 as they traveled north to Jackson County to confront MSC powerhouse Brownstown Central. As is typically the case, defeating the Class 3A No. 8 Braves would be a daunting task as they entered Friday’s matchup with the best offense in the MSC with 127 points scored in conference play and 219 overall.

Mix the Braves’ titanic offense with a Cougars’ defense that’s allowed a league-worst 126 points in conference action, and the result is a 43-12 beat-down to give the Braves their fifth-straight win of the season.

“Our linemen couldn’t block (Brownstown Central) because of their quickness; it took our linemen a whole quarter and a half to block them,” Cougars’ head coach Mark Williamson said.

Scoring early is crucial to success, but the Braves needed no invitation to do so. After limiting the Cougars’ opening drive to six yards on three plays, the Braves needed just one as running back Kiernan Tiemeyer split the Cougars’ defense. The result was a 64-yard rushing touchdown to end the Braves’ opening drive as quickly as it began, along with a 7-0 advantage.

The Braves capitalized on their early scoring with less than two minutes remaining in the first quarter. On the third play of the drive, Tiemeyer once again showed off his wheels, taking the pigskin to the house on a 55-yard run. With a 13-0 lead, the Braves opted for another PAT, but the snap was wild, sending the ball past kicker Cooper Wolka. Instead of the extra point failing, freshman Grant Killey recovered the ball and passed it to Adam Wayt before the latter turned the play into an unconventional two-point conversion.

Not comfortable with a 15-0 advantage, Tiemeyer assumed quarterback duties just over three minutes into the second quarter before finding Jake Pauley for a 32-yard touchdown pass. The Cougars’ offense followed by utilizing almost the rest of the period, needing more than eight minutes before senior quarterback Colt Beach took matters into his own hands, pushing past the Braves’ red-zone defense for a two-yard rushing touchdown.

Despite junior kicker Landon McIntire’s PAT failing, the Cougars broke the shutout with just over 30 seconds remaining before retreating to the locker room trailing 22-6.

The Cougars’ touchdown to end the first half did not faze the Braves as they began the second half with two more scores. The first came from the legs of Tiemeyer, who dashed down the field on a 38-yard run before converting on the next play with a three-yard rushing touchdown. The second came on their next drive, needing only three plays which concluded with Lane Zike taking it to the house on a 13-yard rushing score.

With just less than three minutes to go in the third quarter, the Cougars’ offense showed some signs of life when they marched down the field on 11 plays, concluding when Beach found junior running back Sawyer Wetzel for a 13-yard passing touchdown. After Tiemeyer ran 28 yards for his fourth rushing score just seven seconds into the final quarter, the Cougars slowly trotted down the field. Eighteen plays and 60 yards later, a Beach incompletion resulted in a turnover on downs with less than a second remaining. One last Braves’ snap allowed the contest to conclude, allowing the Cougars to ride home on the receiving end of a 43-12 final.

“They definitely hit hard; they’re one of the hardest hitting teams I’ve ever played,” Wetzel said. “We were just trying to pound the ball up the middle all game; it just wasn’t working.”

The Braves’ offense was overpowering, doubling the Cougars’ total offensive yards 402 to 201, needing only 26 plays against the Cougars’ 59. Tiemeyer recorded more offensive yards on the ground by himself than the Cougars had total yardage, running wild for 245 yards on 12 carries and four rushing touchdowns. He added to his phenomenal night in the air, recording 44 yards and a passing touchdown on a perfect 2-for-2 passing.

Pauley had a strong night as well for the Braves (5-0, 4-0 MSC) with 100 rushing yards on five carries and led the Braves’ receiving corps with 32 yards.

While having to settle for their fourth loss of the season, the Cougars had a few bright spots in an otherwise bleak outing. Their 201 yards were an improvement over the previous week’s 183, and they managed 12 points on a Braves’ defense that allowed just 52 points in MSC contests coming in, the second best in the conference among teams to play at least four games to this point in the year.

Beach had a hand in both Cougars’ touchdowns, rushing one into the end zone himself before finding Wetzel for the other. On the night, Beach recorded 74 yards on 9-for-17 passing, as well as rushing for 11 yards on five carries. Wetzel led the Cougars’ ground game with 86 yards on 21 carries and 25 yards on three receptions. Sophomore wide receiver Owen Whittaker followed Wetzel with 27 yards on 16 carries and led all Cougars’ receivers with 46 yards on four receptions.

“We had a 12- to 15-play drive; I bet it was eight, nine minutes. It looked more like North Harrison controlling the football,” Williamson said. “Defensively, we had no answer for (Tiemeyer), but we’re slowly getting things cleaned up.”

In a normal year, the Cougars (1-4, 1-4 MSC) could look forward to their next opponent, as they are set to visit Eastern (Pekin) on Friday, a team that has not had a winning season since at least 2007. That matchup is in jeopardy as East Washington schools have been dealing with COVID-19 protocols, which cost the Musketeers (0-2) their scheduled matchups against rivals Silver Creek and Corydon Central the past two weeks.

After the Brownstown Central game, Williamson expressed optimism that the Musketeers will be cleared to return to competition in time for Friday, made all the more apparent after emailing Musketeers’ skipper Luke Dean a day earlier.

“I emailed (Dean) and I said, ‘Are we good for week six?’ and he replied back with ‘Yes’,” Williamson said. “I know all the athletic directors talk to each other pretty much every day about what’s going on with all the sports, so, if they weren’t good, we would already know.”

Barring further complications with COVID-19, the Cougars’ matchup against the Musketeers is slated for 7 p.m.

North Harrison                0     6     6     0 – 12

Brownstown Central     15     7   14     7 – 43

BC – Kiernan Tiemeyer 64 yd run (Cooper Wolka kick); BC – Tiemeyer 55 yd run (PAT failed, Grant Killey to Adam Wayt 2-pt conversion); Jake Pauley 32 yd pass from Tiemeyer (Wolka kick); NH – Colt Beach 2 yd run (kick failed); BC – Tiemeyer 3 yd run (Wolka kick); BC – Lane Zike 13 run (Wolka kick); NH – Sawyer Wetzel 13 yd pass from Beach (2-pt conversion failed); BC – Tiemeyer 28 yd run (Wolka kick).