Until a 72-second span of the second quarter Friday night, visiting Terre Haute South was in danger of suffering a disastrous opening night of high school football at Evansville North.
The result still wasn’t positive — a 37-20 loss — but the Braves’ sudden and unexpected explosion made the second half a competitive one.
It was a frustrating opening night for Tim Herrin, in his first game as a head coach after 16 years as an assistant. His team had moments of dominance, only to nullify them by allowing big plays defenively and leaving some plays on the field offensively.
“Too many mistakes,” Herrin said after the game, “and seven or eight of the mistakes we made, [the Huskies] capitalized on.”
After two good series defensively, the Braves gave up a score late in the first quarter when North quarterback Jesse Millikan ran the read option for a 31-yard gain and Chase Whitler scored on a 12-yard double reverse.
The Huskies opened their next offensive series with Millikan throwing a slant pass to Whitler for a 55-yard gain that set up a field goal. Then came a 62-yard bomb — to Whitler again — over the top of the South defense, and finally a 36-yard scoring drive. With just 2:26 left in the half, South trailed 24-0.
“Some of our players were too aggressive and got out of position [defensively],” Herrin explained later.
The Braves were far from finished, however. A 37-yard kickoff return by Johnathan Rogers set them up in good field position, two runs by Logan Deady got them in scoring range, and quarterback Timmy Herrin found Jacob Johnson for a 29-yard touchdown pass with 1:22 left in the half.
Using their timeouts on defense, the Braves got the ball back with 51 seconds left. On a third-and-19 play they scored again, Deady taking a screen pass and weaving his way down the sideline for 53 yards and a score, Johnson clearing out the last defender with a textbook block. With 9.5 seconds left in the half, it was suddenly a football game again.
“I think both teams were really tired at the end of the first half,” coach Bret Szabo of the Huskies said afterward. “I know we got a little sloppy, and [the Braves] made a couple of great plays.
“They didn’t quit, that’s for sure.”
“I’m proud of our players,” coach Herrin said. “Down 24-0, I said we could go one of two ways, and they came back and gave themselves an opportunity to win a football game.”
South got the second-half kickoff and came tantalizingly close to cutting the lead even further. Timmy Herrin hit Johnson for a 33-yard gain, but a fourth-down pass was just out of reach in the end zone.
A trade of punts after each team picked up a couple of first downs had Evansville North on its own 35-yard line, and this time it was Ryan Wargel — already a pest from a linebacker spot — who burst up the middle for 48 yards. Millikan scored four plays later and South was again three scores behind.
The Braves responded with a 66-yard, 11-play drive, Junior Berry scoring from the 2. But again Millikan found Whitler over the top for 68 yards on the very next play, and Millikan sneaked over for the clinching score on the next play.
Whitler had 202 yards receiving and ran for a score for the Huskies. Timmy Herrin passed for 212 yards, 94 of them to Johnson, to lead South.
Evansville North 37, TH South 20
Terre Haute South 0 13 0 7 — 20
Evansville North 7 17 0 13 — 37
EN — Chase Whitler 12 run (Zac Turi kick), 3:19 1Q
EN — FG Turi 25, 11:06 2Q
EN — Whitler 62 pass from Jesse Millikan (Turi kick), 9:07 2Q
EN — Millikan 7 run (Turi kick), 2:26 2Q
THS — Jacob Johnson 29 pass from Timmy Herrin (Carter Hall kick), 1:22 2Q
THS — Logan Deady 53 pass from Herrin (kick failed), 0:09.5 2Q
EN — Millikan 2 run (Turi kick), 9:40 4Q
THS — Junior Berry 2 run (Hall kick), 7:12 4Q
EN — Millikan 1 run (pass failed), 6:44 4Q
First downs 11 14
Rushes-yards 29-112 41-181
Passing yards 212 214
Comp-Att-Int 9-24-0 10-14-1
Return yards 23 -1
Punts-avg 7-31.9 5-28
Fumbles-lost 3-2 2-0
Penalties-yards 8-88 6-50
Rushing: THS — Deady 10-58, Michael Watt 4-18, Herrin 8-17, Dante Johnson 2-7, Ian Newton 1-5, Berry 2-4, Justin Jenkins 1-3, Johnathan Rogers 1-0. EN — Ryan Wargel 7-81, Millikan 17-78, Whitler 3-21, Ford Johnson 5-16, Maalik Butler 4-5, Marcus Northington 2-3, team 3-(-23).
Passing: THS — Herrin 9-24-0 212. EN — Millikan 10-14-1 214.
Receiving: THS — Johnson 3-94, Deady 2-64, Rogers 2-31, Jenkins 1-22, Phoenix Adams 1-1. EN — Whitler 5-202, Justin Lockett 3-7, Mason Jenkins 1-7, Butler 1-(-2).
Next — South (0-1) plays next Friday at Terre Haute North. Evansville North (1-0) plays that night at Henderson, Ky.