TERRE HAUTE —
The scoreboard said otherwise, but when Brother Scank said Saturday afternoon, “We beat the No. 6 team in the state,” it was hard to argue with him.
Scank and his Terre Haute North teammates had indeed dominated visiting Center Grove for all but about six minutes of Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference high school football, but failure to finish off scoring drives and a disastrous start to the second period enabled the Trojans to escape by a 17-15 score.
Limited to a trio of Zach Potter field goals for the first three quarters, the Patriots mounted a 21-play, 80-yard drive that took up most of the fourth quarter. Scank’s 6-yard touchdown run with 59.8 seconds left was North’s third fourth-down conversion in the drive — including a 12-yard pass from Chris Barrett II to Austin Lewis on fourth-and-10 near midfield — but the 2-point conversion to tie the game was stopped and the visitors ran out the clock after recovering the onside kickoff.
“It was a slugfest, like we told [the Patriots] it was going to be,” coach Chris Barrett of North said afterward. “We had some mistakes the first half that cost us … but man, what an effort.”
After stopping a fourth-down try by the visitors on the first possession of the game, North mounted a 15-play drive. A holding penalty on a run by Scank to the 1-yard line stopped its momentum, but Potter kicked his first field goal with 2:42 left in the first period.
North began its second drive in Center Grove territory, but another holding penalty wiped out a run that picked up a first down, an intential grounding call set up third-and-33, and a quick kick try went just seven yards.
That was the start of North’s downfall. The Patriot defense moved Center Grove backward, but a Trojan punt was fielded unnecessarily inside the 5-yard line. A North punt into the wind three plays later actually went for negative yardage, and the Trojans had to go just 8 yards to score their first touchdown.
A three-and-out series led to another Patriot punt, this returned for a touchdown by Center Grove’s Alex Aukerman — a play that appeared to be blown dead, and a subsequent return that included at least one uncalled illegal block. Although its defense hadn’t allowed a first down since the first series of the game, North was suddenly two scores behind.
The Patriots regrouped and mounted a 12-play drive, but it stalled at the 10-yard line to set up Potter’s second field goal. And the Trojans matched that after hitting a long pass in the waning seconds of the second quarter.
A 59-yard kickoff return by Ricky Brookins got North off to a good start in the second half, but a holding penalty inside the 10-yard line forced another field goal try, and it was blocked. After a three-and-out defensive series, the Patriots completed back-to-back passes, only to fumble away the second one.
The break the Patriots needed came when the Trojans fumbled a double-reverse handoff and North linebacker Vasco Billberry picked the ball up and returned it to the 17-yard line. That set up Potter’s third field goal, and yet another defensive stop moments later led to the long touchdown drive.
North’s defense held Center Grove to 156 yards — just 40 after halftime — and eight first downs, three of them on the very first series of the game. Inside linebacker Wyatt Stoelting seemed to be on a personal mission to shut down Center Grove’s vaunted jet sweep, but all the Patriot run defenders were outstanding.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better defensive effort,” coach Barrett said later. “The offensive effort was outstanding too, but we had too many penalties.”
“North is doing a great job, and they really played smart football,” said coach Eric Moore of the Trojans. “Credit our defense for only giving up field goals early, and getting a block on a field goal … but the quality of [North’s] tackling was superior and they did a good job blocking. Our defense had to make plays when it counted.”
“We had some bad calls [go against us], but we can’t blame the refs,” Scank said. “We’ve got to take responsibility and keep fighting. We’ve got to feed off this. We played a heck of a game … and we’ll definitely be back next week against Ben Davis.”
“I want these guys to win so bad,” coach Barrett concluded, “because they deserve it.”
Center Grove 17,
Terre Haute North 15
Center Grove 0 17 0 0 — 17
Terre Haute North 3 3 3 6 — 15
THN — Zach Potter 32 FG, 2:42 1st
CG — Luke Calvert 1 run (Ben Wheeler kick), 7:59 2nd
CG — Alex Aukerman 58 punt return (Wheeler kick), 6:48 2nd
THN — Potter 27 FG, 1:03 2nd
CG — Wheeler 35 FG, 0:00 2nd
THN — Potter 29 FG, 0:09.5 3rd
THN — Brother Scank 6 run (run failed), 0:59.8 4th
First downs 8 16
Rushes-yards 31-42 47-159
Passing yards 114 120
Comp-Att-Int 7-12-0 11-24-0
Return yards 58 10
Punts-avg 5-37.4 4-16
Fumbles-lost 2-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 6-55 6-60
Rushing: Center Grove — Lane Morris 14-35, Kevin Watson 3-8, Logan Hutson 8-7, Calvert 3-minus 3, Team 3-minus 5. North — Scank 29-113, Ricky Brookins 8-28, Chris Barrett II 7-11, Kai Stratten 1-4, Lee Davis 1-3, Austin Lewis 1-0.
Passing: Center Grove — Calvert 7-12-0, 114 yards. North — Barrett 11-24-0, 120.
Receiving: Center Grove — Kyle Buchanan 4-58, Nate Wozniak 1-24, Morris 1-19, Hutson 1-13. North — Calvin Blank 4-33, Charles Dillahunt 3-50, Lewis 3-25, Brookins 1-12.
Next — North (2-2, 1-1 Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference) plays Friday at Ben Davis. Center Grove (3-1, 1-1) hosts Terre Haute South that night.