The margin of a missed extra point might have determined Friday’s Conference Indiana high school football game between Terre Haute South and Columbus North, which ended 21-20 in the Bull Dogs’ favor.
But it wasn’t the reason the Braves lost the game. South had chances to overcome the point, but couldn’t cash in on them.
And South felt aggrieved when another fourth-quarter chance — a turnover it thought it had created off a Columbus North fumble — was whistled dead at the scrimmage line.
South (2-3, 1-2) dropped its second consecutive conference game. Conversely, Columbus North (2-3, 2-1) won its second straight Conference Indiana tilt.
“It was the game we thought it was going to be. We knew it would be a close game. We didn’t make the plays we needed to make to give ourselves a chance to win,” South coach Tim Herrin said.
South won the total offense battle by a 302-283 margin, but Columbus North gained 209 of its yards in the second half as its running game cut swatches out of the game clock. South also had trouble sustaining a passing game. Quarterback Timmy Herrin completed just 9 of 25 passes for 128 yards.
An unusual first half had a sharp contrast in the two quarters that led to a deserved halftime stalemate.
South controlled the opening period as its defense smothered the Bull Dogs. Columbus North had one yard of total offense and had no first downs in the opening period.
The Braves had trouble moving the ball too — the wet conditions affected Timmy Herrin’s ability to throw — but with the Bull Dogs unable to move the ball, field position eventually tilted South’s way.
South took a bite of the apple on its fourth chance in the first quarter, as it cashed in on a 30-yard drive. On third-and-6, Herrin anticipated a Bull Dog blitz from the left side. He drew the rush in and then lobbed a screen over the top of it to running back Logan Deady. He scored from 15 yards out to make it 7-0.
When the first quarter ended, South’s mojo went with it. Columbus North found its legs with a power-running, 62-yard scoring drive to start the second quarter. All but eight yards were gained between the tackles for the Bull Dogs, capped by a 1-yard Josh Holt touchdown run with 7:35 left in the half.
South was then given two golden opportunities to pull in front by Columbus North mistakes — but couldn’t cash in on either chance.
Columbus North muffed a punt at its own 21-yard line at the 6:15 mark, but South went nowhere and Carter Hall missed a long field goal. Later, Jacob Johnson intercepted a Michael Vogel pass and returned it 34 yards into Bull Dog territory. South promptly went backwards seven yards and had to punt the ball away.
A defensive first half gave way to an offensive third quarter.
South would not let a good chance slip away again in the second half ... and it started with Hall.
He sent a line drive squib kickoff into the first line of Columbus North upmen. The ball ricocheted off one of the Bull Dogs and went backwards to Hall, who fell on it for an unusual onside kick.
One play later, Michael Watt hit the still shell-shocked Bull Dogs with a burst of speed on the left side. He raced 57 yards for a go-ahead touchdown just 14 seconds into the half to make it 14-7.
South then gave Columbus North a chance with its own muffed punt at the 30-yard line. Six plays later, Holt scored from four yards out to tie it at 14.
“Both teams made a lot adjustments tonight and took advantage when they made adjustments. Different quarters, offense and defense, it was a lot of both sides making plays, but then not making them later,” coach Herrin said.
The teams then traded long touchdown passes characterized by poor tackling in each secondary, but crucially, didn’t trade extra points.
Johnson scored on a 50-yard connection from Herrin, but Hall missed the point after to make it 20-14 in South’s favor. Columbus North answered with a 40-yard connection from quarterback Michael Vogel to Weston Moore. The Bull Dogs did convert their PAT to take a 21-20 lead with 5:15 left in the period.
“I credit our kids. They gave a yeoman’s effort. It was tough sledding at the beginning. Terre Haute South had a good defensive game plan and knew what we wanted to do offensively. We stayed the course,” Columbus North coach Tim Bless said.
South never overcame the deficit. South was driving for the go-ahead score, but Herrin was intercepted at the 5-yard line by Columbus North’s Logan Fox late in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, South was prepared to go for it on 4th-and-inches from its own 40 with 7:46 left and had big Junior Berry in the backfield to bulldoze the needed yardage.
But as Herrin barked signals, Berry leaned in the backfield and was called for illegal procedure. South was forced to punt. Columbus North was able to take more than five minutes off the clock after the punt.
“We had a lot of mental mistakes and I don’t know why. We’re going to fix that this week,” coach Herrin said.
South felt it had created its chance with four minutes to go as the Bull Dogs approached midfield. Vogel kept the ball up the middle and appeared to lose the handle. South’s Aaron Wells came up with the loose ball and had an open path to the end zone.
But the play was whistled dead and the fumble was not given as Vogel’s progress was deemed to have been stopped.
It was a bitter pill, especially since South couldn’t move the ball on its final drive in the final minutes, but Tim Herrin knew it wasn’t the only chance the Braves had.
“[The official] said progress was stopped. I’ll have to look at film, that’s all I really know,” said coach Herrin on the call. “It was a momentum switch, but we just didn’t execute as well as we needed to. We’re still a young team. We need to learn to travel and win games on the road when we have opportunities.”
The Braves return home next Friday for just its second home game of the season as Bloomington South visits.