TERRE HAUTE —
Unofficially, four minutes and 33 seconds.
That was Terre Haute South’s time of possession in the second half of Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference high school football Friday night at Memorial Stadium, and its one of several statistics explaining how Terre Haute North dominated those two periods on the way to a 27-10 victory.
The Braves led 3-0 at halftime and could have been farther ahead. Then North came out of the locker room with the intent of establishing its ground game and did so — 265 yards for the game, 212 of those in the second half and probably well over 100 of those yards after contact.
“They responded,” coach Chris Barrett of the Patriots said of his team. “We played about as poorly as we could [in the first half] … but we got a great reaction [in the locker room]. Everybody stayed positive.”
“Coach Barrett told us at halftime we were running soft,” said Patriot running back Brother Scank, “and I took that personal.”
Scank finished the game with 110 yards in 20 carries, but had plenty of help. Ricky Brookins added 80 yards on 15 tries, Kai Stratten 55 on 10 attempts.
And as the second half wore on, all of them — but particularly Scank — were knocking defenders backward on first contact, or carrying potential tacklers on their back, or both.
“We executed,” coach Barrett said. “We got into a rhythm and we started going at ’em.”
“We have so much depth in the backfield,” Scank added.
North actually took the lead in the third quarter on a pass play. After six straight runs that took the ball into South territory, the South defenders weren’t ready for a slant pass from Chris Barrett II to Austin Lewis that Lewis took untouched for the final 37 yards.
South actually picked up a first down on its next drive, but a dropped pass and two big defensive plays by Calvin Blank — who knocked down one pass, then circled his blocker and knocked the ball out of quarterback Danny Etling’s hand as he attempted a third-down throw — got the Braves off the field in 63 seconds.
Back down the field came the Patriots, 88 yards in 12 running plays. Both Brookins and Stratten had 20-yard gains, and Stratten went the final yard for a 14-3 lead with 2:57 left in the third quarter.
South sophomore Michael Watt returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards, getting the Braves back within 14-10 and enlivening his team’s sideline. But that 13 seconds of possession also meant the South defense was right back on the field again.
This time it took the Patriots 11 plays to go 55 yards, and they overcame a couple of setbacks in doing so. A penalty was followed by a botched handoff between the younger Barrett and Scank, but lineman Austin Vermillion somehow saved the ball by diving into the pile to recover it.
“We both made mistakes,” Scank said of that play, “but we got it back and we didn’t lose focus … we didn’t let the momentum change.” Indeed not, as Barrett completed a 30-yard pass to Lewis on third-and-19, setting up a touchdown for Scank on the second play of the fourth quarter.
“[The Patriots] were able to control the clock,” coach Mark Raetz of the Braves said afterward. “We were already playing guys both ways … we had a couple guys go out with injuries … and we just got wore down.”
“I really think our conditioning is paying off,” coach Barrett said. “We’ve won the second half both weeks so far.”
With more than 11 minutes left and Etling at the controls, South had plenty of time for a comeback, and got a quick first down helped by a North penalty. But Patriot linebacker Lee Davis, maybe the best player on the field Friday night, had a bull-rush blitz that drew a holding penalty that wiped out a good-sized South gain, forcing the Braves to punt.
Although South’s defense came back to force a punt of its own, the South return man made an ill-advised decision to field a bouncing kick, lost it, and North’s Alan Grayless recovered at the 4-yard line to set up a clinching touchdown by Stratten.
South had taken the opening kickoff and marched quickly down the field, a 31-yard run by Pedro Piloni the big play in a drive from the South 20 to the North 21. Davis sacked Etling after a juggled shotgun snap that stalled the drive, but Adam Kahn booted a 37-yard field goal.
The Braves got a big play on their second possession too, a 37-yard pass from Etling to Logan Steward. But Steward and fellow receiver Jacob Johnson collided on the play, injuring both, and a holding penalty helped the Braves waste that scoring chance.
North had a touchdown pass called back by a penalty, then threw an interception to South’s Jonathan Weakley on the next play. But South’s snaps continued to be shaky — center Zac Harper was discovered to have torn his anterior cruciate ligament last week — and the Braves failed to score on two more drives. North drove to South’s 24 with nine seconds left in the half, but missed a field goal — one a referee said would have been good on high school goal posts (ISU’s are narrower). “We were trying to figure out what we were doing [because of the injuries, particularly at receiver] … but the game goes on,” Raetz said. “Obviously we’re disappointed, but we’ve got a lot of games ahead of us and we’ve got a lot of kids of high character. We’ve just got to get ready to play next week.”
The Braves wound up limited to 136 total yards, with Davis a tackling machine in the first half.
“We did great,” the big linebacker said of the defense — which his father, Clint Davis, coordinates. “We were flying and knocking some heads … we really stepped it up tonight.”
“We preach tempo, technique and toughness,” coach Barrett said. “We had a great game plan tonight. All the coaches did a great job, and the kids believed in it and executed.”
“This is one of the best [games] I’ve had,” said Scank, a statement that had nothing to do with statistics. “Getting [the Liberty Bell] back, instead of protecting it, is so much more dramatic.”
“We got the Bell, that’s all that matters,” Davis added.
TERRE HAUTE —
Unofficially, four minutes and 33 seconds.
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