TERRE HAUTE — Visiting Bloomington North threatened North's attempt at its first-ever regional championship by scoring on back-to-back possessions in the middle of Friday night's game.
But the Patriots never buckled, eventually rolling to a 56-21 victory that sets up a semistate game in Indianapolis somewhere next Friday. The Patriots will play Indianapolis Cathedral at a site yet to be named.
"We expected [the Cougars would play well]," coach Chris Barrett said shortly after his second ice- in as many weeks. "They are a very young team, they are very well coached, and they are going to be very good. They played well – but so did we."
The Patriots built a 21-0 lead Friday by scoring on three of their first four possessions, but the Cougars mounted a 79-yard drive in the waning moments of the .
A defensive stop by the Patriots could have put out the visitors' fire, but instead Drew Ludwig made a diving catch of a 4-yard pass from in the end zone with 37.9 seconds left before intermission.
North took the second-half kickoff and, with the help of two big Bloomington penalties, moved 65 yards in six plays. Ricky Brookins – who had 186 yards rushing for the game – finished off the drive with a typically spectacular 15-yard run.
But the Cougars weren't done. Ludwig had another spectacular touchdown catch left, this time tipping a disputed ball in the air to himself to complete a 35-yard play and a 76-yard drive that cut the lead to 28-14.
Kai Stratten returned the ensuing kickoff 45 yards to midfield, however, and the Patriots kept the pressure on the Cougars with a 50-yard drive in seven plays. Short passes for big gains to both Stratten and Brookins were the keys, and Brookins scored from the 4 with 5:37 left in the third period.