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NH seniors contain Lanesville early

Cougars clinch county title on senior night
NH seniors contain Lanesville early
NH seniors contain Lanesville early
North Harrison senior Joseph Lee Hergenrather slides to keep the ball in play, shooting it just past Lanesville’s Owen Ash on Monday. Photo by Brandon Miniard
Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]

Prior to taking the field against rival Lanesville Monday night, the North Harrison boys’ soccer team took time to honor the nine seniors who helped the Cougars to a successful regular season.

The senior night festivities were just the latest in a streak of good times for the Cougars, following a 2-0 victory over rival Charlestown to clinch the Mid-Southern Conference championship. Just four days after their victory over the Pirates, the Cougars now had a chance to clinch the Harrison County title with a victory over the Eagles.

Utilizing a pair of goals in the first five minutes of the match, the Cougars piled on the offense against the Eagles to ground their county rivals 5-1.

“We were doing what we wanted to do early, which was spreading out, moving the ball well, and got a couple of quick goals,” Cougars head coach Kirk Wetzel said.

The seniors were responsible for the Cougars’ early offensive surge, starting when midfielder Quentin Scott fired a fairly slow roller that barely made it past Eagles’ senior goal keeper John Morgan, giving the Cougars a 1-0 lead just over two minutes into the contest.

Forward Carter Wetzel followed Scott’s lead almost three minutes later as his shot on goal, a missile compared to Scott’s, shot past an outstretched Morgan to double the Cougars’ edge.

The Cougars scored another goal with over nine minutes to go in the first half while their defense limited the Eagles’ offense to only a couple of scoring opportunities. The result was a 3-0 Cougars’ edge going into halftime.

“Honestly, I think our defense played pretty well,” Eagles head coach Bradey Sanders said. “The ground’s a little rough in front of our goal, and I think that’s what caused the first goal. It was a hard shot on the ground, which took a weird bounce.”

A corner kick over six minutes into the second half split the Eagles’ defense like a hot knife through butter as senior midfielder Joseph Lee Hergenrather tapped the ball into the back of the net.

The Cougars’ scoring assault ended in strange fashion as Lanesville’s Lucas Frazier was called for a hand ball despite the ball hitting him in the side. The Cougars converted on a perfect penalty kick to extend their edge to 5-0.

“After (the first five minutes of play of the first half), we were trying to play big, and Lanesville had (junior defender Cameron Walter) back there who’s just fast and was getting to everything,” Wetzel said. “The long balls weren’t going to work, so for the second half we had to adjust and get back into some small offense, which is what we’re better at.”

While the Cougars have had only high points the last several matches, they did have one relatively minor low after the Cougars’ seniors were taken out of the match with over six minutes to go. On a dropped ball, Eagles’ senior Griffen Lucas split the new Cougars’ defense, firing a shot into the net to get the Eagles on the scoreboard.

“I think we came into this game with a very defensive mindset, and we couldn’t get much offense going,” Sanders said.

While the goal broke a string of six consecutive shutouts for the Cougars, it made little difference in the match as the Cougars walked away with a 5-1 victory, allowing the Cougars to clinch the county title on senior night.

The Cougars (9-3-1, 4-0 MSC) are getting hot at the right time, made all the more apparent by their seven-game winning streak. Starting on Sept. 11, the Cougars have outscored opponents 18-1. With the postseason looming, the Cougars conclude the regular season and MSC slate by hosting rival Salem tomorrow. This matchup with the Lions goes beyond conference implications as the two rivals are set to meet in the first round of sectional on Tuesday in Scottsburg.

“It’s been a really good time for this team,” Carter Wetzel said. “(Against Salem), it’s trying to figure out how they play so we can optimize going into the first round of sectional.”

For Coach Wetzel, a sectional championship is something he doesn’t want for himself, but rather for the group of seniors whose development he’s overseen for almost a decade.

“We just have to keep up the intensity with how we’ve been playing,” Wetzel said. “We’ve got nine seniors who know that the end is near and they want to go hard. I’ve coached this senior class here for probably nine years, so it’s pretty cool to have them come all the way through and finish it out.”

The Eagles (7-5-1) have a more difficult time ahead of them as they concluded the regular season against the Cougars. Unlike the Cougars, the Eagles have one of the most daunting post-season paths in the state when they travel to Trinity Lutheran on Monday to confront defending 1A state champion and second-ranked Providence at 5 p.m.