“I’m about as proud as I’ve ever been after this game,” coach Chris Barrett said late Friday night.
His Terre Haute North team had just gotten a Conference Indiana high school football game under control in the second half Friday night at Perry Stadium, holding host Perry Meridian to one second-half score and winning 42-28.
The Patriots overcame their own dropped passes to mount a 69-yard scoring drive after the second-half kickoff that tied the score 21-21, then forced a punt and scored again, a 45-yard pass reception by Kai Stratten setting up the go-ahead score.
Ricky Brookins had the last two scores, an 8-yard burst after Perry Meridian’s only second-half touchdown had tied the game, then bouncing a short-yardage run outside for 44 yards and the clinching touchdown with 2:37 left.
Brookins finished with 178 yards in 25 carries, while Stratten added 120 more plus 65 yards receiving.
But it was his defense that coach Barrett liked best.
“We had such a makeshift defense out there,” he pointed out. “We had several JV kids, and they settled down and answered the call.
“Perry Meridian has a great offense.”
The high-tempo home team had taken an early 21-7 lead, but North got that touchdown back immediately and held the Falcons scoreless the rest of the first half.
Perry Meridian’s first score came after an unfortunate trade of turnovers. Trey Grim recovered a Falcon fumble for North, but three plays later a pass off the hands of a North receiver was returned 55 yards into Patriot territory.
Conner Smith passed to Collin Timmons for the touchdown, and after North drove into Falcon territory but missed a field goal, Perry Meridian marched 80 yards in 15 plays with Smith throwing a short touchdown pass to Andrew Robinson.
North got its ground game going and came back 65 yards in six plays, Brookins carrying 18 yards to the 1 and Stratten scoring from there.
“Our counter [running play] was working very well,” said Stratten, who had 86 yards on eight carries in the first half alone. “We just gashed [the Falcons] over and over … but I couldn’t have done it without my line, or without Ricky pulling through the hole.”
Less than a minute later, the Falcons’ Jaquan Keys broke loose for a 64-yard scoring run and a second two-touchdown lead for the home team, but Jordan Moothery returned the kickoff 54 yards to set up North’s score. Stratten burst 22 yards, then Chris Barrett II scored on a 12-yard option run.
A second turnover by Trey Grim, this one an interception, helped keep Perry Meridian off the scoreboard the rest of the half.
North’s opening third-quarter drive got big help from a Perry Meridian penalty, and despite two dropped passes the Patriots tied the game on a Brookins run.
Stratten’s big catch set up another Brookins score with 4:02 left in the third quarter.
“The screen passes caught [the Falcons] off guard,” Stratten said.
Near the end of Perry Meridian’s next drive, Smith was replaced at quarterback. Sophomore Matt McCloskey was picked off by Ryan Moshak on his first play, but North couldn’t take advantage of the turnover.
McCloskey — a better runner than Smith, which bothered the Patriots for awhile — led a 58-yard, 12-play drive, completing a fourth-down touchdown pass to Timmons to tie the game with 8:43 left.
North responded with a 53-yard, 10-play drive, Barrett picking up a fourth-down situation with a quarterback sneak and Brookins putting his team ahead to stay.
After stopping the Falcons with less than three minutes to go, the Patriots were trying to run out the clock. Perry Meridian used its timeouts, but Brookins foiled that strategy with his breakaway and Austin Bishop intercepted a pass at the goal line to further clinch the win.
“We’re just battling. Kind of the walking wounded,” said coach Barrett, noting that Trey Grim’s injury late in the first half could cost him some time out of the lineup too. “The offensive line got rolling and bailed us out — we ate up clock and scored some points. That last score was a big one for me — I could finally breathe.”
“This was a huge win for us,” Stratten agreed. “Next we’ll push for seven wins [more than he and his teammates have experienced in a season], then make a run into the sectional.
Terre Haute North 42, Perry Meridian 28
Terre Haute North 0 14 14 14 — 42
Perry Meridian 7 14 0 7 — 28
PM — Collin Timmons 11 pass from Conner Smith (Cameron McSorley kick), 6:40 1st
PM — Andrew Robinson 4 pass from Smith (McSorley kick), 10:26 2nd
THN — Kai Stratten 1 run (Zach Potter kick), 8:38 2nd
PM — Jaquan Keys 64 run (McSorley kick), 7:41 2nd
THN — Chris Barrett II 12 run (Potter kick), 6:30 2nd
THN — Ricky Brookins 8 run (Potter kick), 7:40 3rd
THN — Brookins 14 run (Potter kick), 4:02 3rd
PM — Timmons 2 pass from Matt McCloskey (McSorley kick), 8:43 4th
THN — Brookins 8 run (Potter kick), 4:38 4th
THN — Brookins 44 run (Potter kick), 2:37 4th
First downs 22 17
Rushes-yards 48-312 31-168
Passing yards 91 286
Comp-Att-Int 7-15-1 28-44-3
Return yards 28 70
Punts-avg 3-41.3 1-38
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-1
Penalties-yards 5-26 5-37
Rushing: THN — Brookins 25-178, Stratten 15-120, Barrett II 4-20, Team 4-(minus 6). PM — Keys 11-106, McCloskey 7-32, Robinson 10-24, Smith 3-6.
Passing: THN — Barrett II 7-15-1, 91 yards. PM — Smith 21-29-1, 202; McCloskey 7-15-2, 84.
Receiving: THN — Nate Carson 3-18, Stratten 2-65, Brookins 2-8. PM — Devon Parrish 8-70, Daymeon Hamilton 7-71, Timmons 5-45, Keys 3-72, Ben Fleet 2-14, Robinson 2-6, Clayton Carter 1-8.
Next — North (6-2, 4-2 Conference Indiana) completes its regular season next Friday at home against Franklin Central. Perry Meridian (4-4, 2-4) plays at Bloomington South that night.