Cougars throttle Musketeers to end skid
By Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]
The North Harrison football team saw the middle portion of its season not treat it as kindly as the first one-third.
A 3-0 record after Week 3 didn’t help the Cougars during the past two weeks, which saw them take their lumps against some of the top teams in the conference, starting with a 39-13 loss at Charlestown in Week 4. Despite a better effort a week later, home cooking wasn’t enough for the Cougars to overcome Brownstown Central, falling to the Braves 27-22.
The Cougars got a slight reprieve Friday when they hosted Eastern (Pekin), which typically finishes the season toward the bottom of the Mid-Southern Conference standings. The Musketeers came to Ramsey on a high note, despite dropping a tight 33-32 matchup against Corydon Central in Week 5.
That high note meant little to the Cougars, who took the frustration of the past two weeks out on the Musketeers on homecoming night. Despite a tight first quarter, the Cougars were in near-complete control as they ran away with a 50-12 victory.
“We were sick of losing, period. Right before the game, one of our players broke us down and said, ‘I’m sick of losing’,” Cougars’ skipper Mark Williamson said. “We knew that Eastern was going to be tough; they’re a formidable opponent. Offensively, they can do a lot of things, but we played really well offensively and settled in defensively.”
After receiving the opening kick, the Musketeers marched downfield before striking first on an eight-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cody Banet. Senior running back Sawyer Wetzel led the counterattack on the Cougars’ first possession of the night, ending with a rushing score for the equalizer before again taking the rock inside for the two-point conversion.
The second quarter saw an uptick in offense, starting when Cougars’ sophomore quarterback David Langdon fooled the Musketeers on a perfect play fake before trotting into the end zone on a 10-yard run. The Musketeers managed another eight-yard passing touchdown from Banet with just over two minutes left in the half, but Wetzel quickly took away any possible momentum by returning the subsequent kick back to the house, giving the Cougars a 22-12 edge heading into halftime.
“We were focused on No. 22 (Brayden Jones), who’s their wide receiver, as well as their running backs and (Banet). (Eastern’s) got some nice sophomores that are good players,” Williamson said. “Jones had some runs. I don’t know how many yards he had; I’d like to think we held him under 100, but I don’t know if we did.”
The Cougars needed little time to get the offense rolling in the second half, needing only 1:21, a 22-yard run from Wetzel and a long pass to senior wide receiver Kaleb Kellems to the Musketeers’ red zone before Langdon forced his way through the middle for a rushing score. After forcing a Musketeers’ punt, a similar offensive sequence occurred before Wetzel notched his second rushing touchdown of the night. The Cougars suffered their only penalty on the night at the end of the third quarter, heading into the final period at 1st and 15 on their own 40-yard line while holding a 36-12 advantage on the scoreboard.
The Cougars didn’t seem comfortable with the score, prompting Wetzel to drive 40 yards to the Musketeers’ red zone over three minutes into the final quarter. That set the stage for Langdon’s third rushing touchdown of the night. Sophomore running back Payton King put the finishing touches on the Cougars’ bounce-back night with a rushing touchdown, giving the Cougars’ the running clock for the final two minutes before walking away with the 50-12 victory.
After being held in check by Brownstown Central a week prior, Wetzel returned to his usual ways as he led the attack on the ground with 202 yards on 21 carries and a pair of touchdowns. Langdon had small, yet efficient numbers in the air, going 2 for 3 with 58 passing yards, all of which landed in the hands of Kellems. Kicker Josh Waynescott had a perfect night, booting all six PAT attempts. On the defensive end of the field, junior defensive end Will Leffler led the Cougars with six tackles and 10 assets.
“I think (Eastern) was loading the box up because they said they wanted to play against our running game, so they had man coverage, but our line just played good,” Kellems said. “The line started off pretty slow, but they put it together in the second half and started blocking very well.”
“I thought that it was our best game offensively, defensively and special teams-wise. All the way around, it was a total package game even though it was tight in the first half,” Williamson said. “(Eastern) scored first, but we responded. I’m happy with the win, and I think we’re getting better, I really do.”
What would have likely been the final snap of the game never materialized due to a brief confrontation between players on both sides. Cooler heads prevailed as the situation was quickly broken up by both teams and officials.
“I didn’t have a good view of (the fight), but we’re here to play football, not to fight,” Williamson said. “After watching the game film, if our guys were the cause of it, then we’ll take care of it.”
After celebrating the homecoming victory, the Cougars will be back on the road Friday when they travel to Sellersburg to confront Silver Creek. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.