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Cougars slugged by Musketeers


Faith, Fonda suffer injuries


September 28, 2011
The North Harrison Cougars took a beating in more ways than one Friday night at Eastern (Pekin), falling 27-12 and having two key players injured in the second half. It was not the kind of game the Cougar fans expected to see as the Musketeers used some big plays to pull ahead early.

"Our biggest problem is we don't tackle people, period," coach Greg Burton said. "We can draw any defense we want. We can draw any kickoff coverage we want. Our kids don't tackle well, and we've got to keep working on it."

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North Harrison senior Ryan Rennirt (21) launches Eastern’s Austin Brown into the air to force an incomplete pass and keep the Musketeers from scoring in the fourth quarter. Photo by Wade Bell
The Musketeers' first score came after North Harrison fumbled the ball in the latter part of the opening quarter. On the seventh play of Eastern's second drive, Tyler Albertson ran 37 yards into the end zone. The Musketeers missed the extra-point kick, however, leaving their lead at 6-0.

North Harrison tied things up with 2:28 left in the period after Eastern punted the ball. On the fourth play of the possession, Wyatt Faith threw to Derrick Harter for a 40-yard score. North Harrison also missed its extra-point kick, leaving the score tied at six.

Eastern's first big play of the game came on North Harrison's kickoff. Jacob Portelia took the ball on a Cougar squib kick and ran 70 yards on the left side to the end zone. Cody Hurst threw to Trey Albertson for the two-point conversion, and the Musketeers' lead was 14-6.

North Harrison failed to score on its next possession, but the Musketeers turned the ball over on a fumble.

After two incomplete passes, Faith found Caleb Eskridge from eight yards, and the Cougars scored with 12.3 seconds left. North Harrison failed in the two-point conversion attempt, however, leaving the Cougars with a two-point deficit, 14-12.

That lasted only seconds, however, as Albertson took the kickoff return 65 yards and into the end zone with no time left on the clock. The two-point conversion attempt failed, and the Musketeers went to the locker room with a 20-12 lead.

"Kickoff returns kill us," Burton said. "We've probably given up five or six this year. The worst part was we had them pinned on the other side both times and we couldn't get them."

The Cougars took a heavy blow in the third quarter as the Musketeers scored again and two key players went down in heaps. The Cougars were in the game until Faith got hammered in the knee by a helmet to send him to the sidelines for the night.

North Harrison fumbled on the snap on the next play, and the Musketeers recovered the ball. Five plays later, Albertson went into the end zone for his second touchdown of the night and Eastern had a 27-12 lead.

On the kickoff return, lineman Pat Fonda suffered a game-ending knee injury, sending him to the trainer's table.

"We go from somebody who's played all year to a freshman who's taken five or six snaps," Burton said. "It drastically changed our offense. Not too much longer we lost our senior leader on the offensive line, Pat. I think he's probably got the same thing that Wyatt has. It's not a good thing. It's with their knees."

The Musketeers almost had another touchdown in the fourth quarter when Hurst threw to Austin Brown on the goal line. North Harrison's Ryan Rennirt made a big defensive play, hitting Brown as he caught the ball. Rennirt's hit sent the ball flying, producing an incomplete pass. The score failed, but the Musketeers got the 27-12 win.

"It's a young team, and we've got to keep working on it," Burton said, adding that Faith's and Fonda's injuries could make matters worse. "Right here, where we've got some games, we can compete in. We'll just have to go back to work."

North Harrison finished with 185 yards of offense. The Cougars rushed 38 times but managed just 77 yards. In the air, North Harrison completed 7 of 13 attempts for 108 yards. The Cougars fumbled the ball four times, losing three.

Burton was pleased with the play of Michael Cox and Rennirt.

"Ryan Rennirt probably had 15 tackles tonight," Burton said. "He kept everybody up. We got a fumble and scored before halftime to make it close. Cox, it doesn't matter if we're winning or losing, he's always playing. He got ticked off because I took him off at the end, but there's times to save people for next week, and I thought that was it."

Eastern finished with 174 yards of offense. The Musketeers rushed 40 times for 163 yards and were 1 of 3 in the air for 11 yards. Trey Albertson finished with 106 yards.

"We've got to go back to the drawing board on the quarterback situation," Burton said. "We'll figure something out."

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