October 10, 2018The North Harrison Cougars bounced back from a one-point loss the week before to Mid-Southern Conference foe Silver Creek to roll past host Crawford County 42-6 Friday night. For the Wolfpack, who were playing short-handed due to injuries, it was another part of the learning curve as they get ready for the sectional.
"Tonight, I think what you saw is we were a little short-handed with injuries and other things, so we had 11 guys on both sides of the ball," Crawford County coach Jeremy Reynolds said. "The guys got tired, and we weren't able to finish drives. They had some mistakes and things like that, and I think that's what you saw."
"I thought we executed," North Harrison coach Mark Williamson said. "We didn't fumble and we played hard and physical, and I thought we got a little better from last week. We put some things in that our script is not going to change for the tournament. We did some things that we're working on for the passing game and with (Jarrett) Fenn running the ball and different things. That's what we're going to do the next two weeks."
Crawford County's Nick Stroud (left) and North Harrison's Skyler Wetzel both tried to haul in this Crawford County pass in the second half.
North Harrison won the coin toss and took reception of the ball first. The Cougars ran their first two plays through the air but then ran an intense ground game that made it difficult for the Wolfpack to stop. The Cougars ran 11 plays on their first drive to the 11-yard line. From there, Jake Harley finished the drive to put the Cougars on the board first. Luke Robertson got the extra-point kick, and North Harrison had a 7-0 lead.
Things didn't go well for the Wolfpack on their first possession, as Keith Brooks coughed up the ball and the Cougars recovered deep in Crawford County territory.
The Cougars needed just three plays to score a second time, with Jaylen Peake taking the ball into the end zone for six points and, following Robertson's kick, a 14-0 lead.
The Cougars scored again less than a minute into the second quarter after Crawford County was forced to give the ball up on downs. This time, the ball went in the air as Fenn threw to Skyler Wetzel from 11 yards out. Robertson added the extra point, and the Cougars' lead ballooned to 21-0.
Crawford County's Preston Coleman returned North Harrison's kick all the way to the Cougars' 45-yard line, giving Wolfpack fans something to yell about. Two plays later, Coleman ran a 33-yard gainer to move the ball to the 7-yard line. Quarterback Taten Arnold had no gain on the next play, and, after that, Crawford County was called for illegal procedure.
The next play was disastrous for the Wolfpack as Harley intercepted Arnold's pass and ran the ball all the way to the Crawford County 22-yard line. Four plays later, the Cougars were in the end zone again to take a 28-0 lead.
Crawford County had one more chance to score before the half. The Wolfpack ran the ball effectively on the ground, with Arnold bulldogging his way through the Cougars' defense. On the next play, Arnold threw to Coleman to the 39-yard line. North Harrison called timeout, but, after the break, Clayton Sauer gave Crawford County a first down. Arnold then threw to Stroud for another first down at the 14-yard line.
The next three plays went sour for the Wolfpack, but Arnold then gave Crawford County another chance with a first down at the 4-yard line. Stroud caught an Arnold pass in the end zone on the next play, but the officials said his foot was on the out-of-bounds line, canceling the touchdown.
Crawford County was then hit with another illegal procedure penalty, moving the ball back to the 9-yard line. Arnold went to Stroud again on the next play, but this time North Harrison's Zane Armstrong was there to make the interception in the end zone, deflating Crawford County's hopes, as the Cougars took their 28-0 lead to the locker room at the break.
"Going into the half, it was 28-0, and in the first half we got the ball inside the 10 (yard line) twice and didn't score," Reynolds said. "Then, we also gave them a touchdown on the fumble on the first play. So, it wouldn't have taken a lot and it was 21-14. Really, the first half I wasn't too displeased. We just didn't finish."
Crawford County gave up the ball on a fumble in the third quarter, and the Cougars took their time, scoring with 3:14 to go in the period when Zachary Taylor ran into the end zone from the 1-yard line.
Taylor later got a second touchdown less than a minute into the fourth quarter when he ran 46 yards for a 42-0 lead.
The Wolfpack fumbled their kickoff return, putting the Cougars in scoring position again. North Harrison went for a field goal this time from 37 yards, but Robertson's kick went just left of the goal posts, turning the ball over to the Wolfpack.
Crawford County got one last chance to score with time running down. The Wolfpack kept the ball on the ground on nine plays to advance to the 11-yard line. The next play went to the air but was incomplete. With 8.4 seconds left in the game, Arnold threw a strike to Stroud, and this time the pass stuck for a touchdown. The extra-point kick failed, however, and the Cougars went home with the 42-6 win.
"We've got to get better at throwing the ball," said Williamson, whose team completed five of six throws for the game. "We were like a fish out of water last week throwing the football. We work on it in practice, but in game-wise situations it's a whole different thing than practice. So, I was pleased with what I saw here tonight."
"That's a pretty solid team, and we knew what they were going to do offensively and defensively," Reynolds said. "They don't want to trick you. They want to run the ball right down your throat. We knew it and we made them go on drives that put it in, and they capitalized on a couple of turnovers we had late. We had one on the return."
The biggest stat for the Wolfpack was the four turnovers, three of those coming in scoring position. Arnold had 20 carries for 116 yards and completed four of 10 pass attempts for 48 yards. Coleman carried seven times for 85 yards.
"That was the best he's looked running the ball all year. (Clayton) Sauer did a nice job picking up that outside linebacker and made a nice lane for Taten, and he knew what to do with it. So, he had a couple of real nice runs. I feel like the offensive line had to be doing a better job because the times he did throw it he wasn't under as much pressure."
Peake had nine carries for 79 yards, and Taylor carried seven times for 71 yards. Harley carried three times for 29 yards. The Cougars completed five of six pass attempts for 41 yards. Williamson said he likes what he sees with one regular season game left.
"Fenn is coming along," Williamson said. "He's not going to come in and just throw. He's going to hand off, too, and run himself. We're getting healthy. Isaiah Lawson is back and Harley is back full-go. Those guys are impact players, and that really helps us. We looked better defensively this week than we have for a while with Lawson's presence … I was happy with the defense with the shutout there till the end."
Reynolds said getting that sectional game win is still the goal for his team and he hopes for a win this week to get some momentum going into the tournament.
"I keep reiterating that probably five times a day to the kids," he said. "That's the big goal right now: let's win a sectional game. We had some kids that were banged up. Christian Carlton probably could have went. If this had been a sectional game, he would have played, but we didn't want to risk it.
"There, early in the game, both Dillon Riddell and (Clayton) Sheckells were banged up a little bit. We took them out, and they were probably OK. We let them back on the field the second half to play a little bit more. But that's the ultimate goal at this point."
North Harrison 14 14 7 7 - 42
Crawford County 0 0 0 6 - 6
NH - Jake Harley 11-yard run (Luke Robertson kick); NH - Jaylen Peake 1-yard run (Robertson kick); NH - Skyler Wetzel 11-yard pass from Jarrett Fenn (Robertson kick); NH - Drew Kuerzi 10-yard pass from Wetzel (Robertson kick); NH - Zachary Taylor 1-yard run (Robertson kick); NH - Taylor 46-yard run (Robertson kick); CC - Nick Stroud 11-yard pass from Taten Arnold (kick failed)