Cougars ‘implode’ on road at Charlestown
Alan Stewart, Contributing Writer
With the anything-but-soft rattle of a pair of diesel-powered school buses humming over his left shoulder, North Harrison head coach Mark Williamson lowered his surgical mask, took a swig of water, pursed his lips and told a reporter, “I’ll answer all of your questions with this right here: We imploded.”
On a night when host Charlestown was debuting the new-and-improved Dutch Reis Stadium — a $2.5 million project that’s not fully completed — North Harrison started strong but finished as flat as the Pirates’ new artificial turf field in a 43-26 setback that left the coach scratching his head about what he’d just witnessed.
“We imploded on the sideline. We had a player who wasn’t in the game say something to the official (and get flagged). We can’t tolerate that ever. We had a player who threw a punch. This hasn’t happened in my nine years. We imploded, and we were making mistakes. The holding calls, we’ve got to get our hands inside,” Williamson said. “It’s a frustrating loss because it was game that we could have won. We just weren’t mentally tough enough to do it … and that’s disappointing because I really like this team.”
The Cougars, who suffered their first loss of the season, were hit with 11 penalties for a whopping 125 yards; Charlestown had seven flags for 55 yards. After taking a 26-14 lead with 3:37 left in the first half, North Harrison surrendered 29 unanswered points the rest of the way.
“That’s not who we are,” Williamson said.
The first quarter alone was high on offense for both clubs, with North Harrison running back Aaron Nevil racking up 136 of his game-high 256 yards in the period and scoring on touchdown runs of three and 26 yards and teammate Kaleb Kellems hauling in a well-thrown ball from Colt Beach from 15 yards out. Also in the opening quarter, Nevil took a pitch from Beach and connected with Matthew Nealy for a 27-yard pass.
In a bit of an anomaly, Charlestown took only three snaps in the opening period, with two going for touchdowns by Deven Lukes from 26 yards and 86 yards out.
The Cougars (3-1, 3-1 Mid-Southern Conference) tacked on their final score of the game on Nevil’s third trip to the end zone, this time from five yards out. Nealy’s PAT kick was true for a 26-14 advantage.
From there, Charlestown (2-2, 2-2 MSC) took over and never looked back.
The onslaught started with a 30-yard bomb from Chase Benner to Jake Ottersbach and a two-point run by Deke Brown to end the half at 26-22. After a scoreless third frame, the Pirates got touchdowns from Brown from one yard out, Clay McClelland from 17 away and Terrance Bonner around right end for a 31-yard romp.
“The second half we took a big step back,” Williamson said. “No excuses, but not having Colby (Whittaker) threw us out of our rhythm in different things. Then, Nick Gunther goes down and that throws us off. Then, (Gavin) Bruner goes out because of throwing the punch. We’re thin as can be as it is, but that makes it really tough. We’ve got to do better as coaches making sure we have replacements ready to go. I wouldn’t give us a very good grade as coaches tonight.”
Beach had 29 yards rushing on five attempts, and Wetzel had 15 yards on five attempts. Kellems had three catches for 54 yards and a score to lead the receiving corps. Beach was 3-for-11 passing for 54 yards.
Defensively for the Cougars, Nevil led the way with three tackles and two assists, followed by Wetzel with two solos and four assists and King with a pair of solos and three assists. Combs racked up 10 assists, and Marrs notched five assists.
Neither team was especially efficient through the air with North Harrison passing for 81 yards and Charlestown passing for 49. The Cougars rushed for 301, while the hosts churned out 244 rushing yards, led by Lukes’ 140.
North Harrison was 5 of 13 on third downs while holding Charlestown to 1 of 6, and the Cougars were 5 of 7 on fourth downs. Charlestown was a perfect 2 for 2.
“I’m disappointed in a lot of things,” Williamson said. “Things are going to get cleaned up. I don’t know how it got to where it was because we’ve never been like that. Ever. It’s disappointing. It’s disappointing for our seniors. We really thought we could do it.
“Then I heard that Brownstown lost,” he said. “That would have put us and Silver Creek there together.”
The Cougars fell to 8-35 overall against the Pirates in the past 36 seasons and haven’t won at Charlestown since Sept. 1, 2006.
“We’ve never played well here for whatever reason,” Williamson said.
North Harrison will host Brownstown (2-1, 2-1 MSC) on Friday. The Braves are coming off a surprising 14-12 loss on the road at Salem. The Braves hold an equally lopsided advantage — 28-6 — against the Cougars during the past 3-1/2 decades.
North Harrison 19 7 0 0 – 26
Charlestown 14 8 0 21 – 43
North Harrison – Aaron Nevil, 3, run (kick fail); Charlestown – Deven Lukes, 26, run (kick fail); North Harrison – Kaleb Kellems, 15, pass from Colt Beach (Matthew Nealy kick); Charlestown – Dukes, 86, run (Clay McClelland run); North Harrison – Nevil, 26, run (run failed); North Harrison – Nevil, 5, run (Nealy kick); Charlestown – Jake Ottersbach, 31, pass from Chase Benner (Deke Brown run); Charlestown – Brown, 1, run (McClelland run); Charlestown – McClelland, 17, run (Jaron Almeciga kick); Charlestown – Terrance Bonner, 31, run (kick failed).