After back-to-back wins to open the high school football season, Terre Haute North saw itself rise to No. 10 in this week’s 5A polls.
Looking to show it deserved that ranking, the Patriots had a chance to make a statement at home Friday night at home against No. 11 Bloomington South in the first Conference Indiana bout for both programs.
And for the first quarter – and much of the second quarter – North matched the Panthers, but the Patriots were blanked in the second half, losing 35-14.
“We stopped executing. We just had way too many plays where at least one guy was doing something wrong and we can’t do that against an outstanding program like Bloomington South,” Terre Haute North coach Chris Barrett said.
“I thought we showed signs of being able to play with anybody in 5A, but to be able to play with anybody in 5A, you’ve got to be able to play four solid quarters and we didn’t do that.”
Offense was the name of the game in the first quarter for both teams, as each seemingly marched the length of field drive after drive to open the night, although there was a vast difference in how they operated.
North, going through the air, scored on two of its first three drives on passes from Matt Gauer.
The first came on a play that saw him be forced out to his left. With pressure in his face, the junior signal caller put just enough behind the ball to float it in between three Panther defenders – one on the left, one on the right and one directly behind – and into the waiting hands of Mahki Johnson to go up 7-0.
Much later in the first quarter, Gauer slung a pass down the left sideline to Eli Moody, who caught the ball in stride and raced past his defender for a 60-yard touchdown pass.
“He looked really good in the first half and looked like the quarterback we know he can be,” Barrett said of Gauer’s first half play.
Sandwiched in between the Patriot scores were a pair of Bloomington South touchdowns that anyone in attendance that left their seat momentarily would have missed, as the Panthers capped scoring drives on the ground in two minutes and then in one minute.
The high-flying offenses were then cooled off significantly in the second quarter until the waning seconds when chaos ensued.
Wanting to run the clock down, while also having a chance to potentially put points up before the break, North elected to use the quarterback sneak on third and one from the Panther’s 44-yard line. It, however, went for -1 yards and forced the Patriots to give the ball back to Bloomington with just over one-minute left to go in the half.
That turned out to be more than enough time, as Panther quarterback Mason David found Sean Azcui over the middle, who took the ball down the right sideline before cutting back towards the middle of the field where he picked up multiple blocks, allowing him to cross the goal line untouched, putting North behind 21-14.
“It was like I told [his team], it was probably more of a momentum building play for them than it was a deflating play for us,” Barrett said of the late first half score. “That was a big, game-changing play, though. There’s no question about that.”
To make matters worse, on the second play of the second half, Gauer’s pass was intercepted near midfield by Maddix Blackwell, who took it down to the North eight-yard line on the return, which was put into the end zone one play later by Maverick Thiery.
Bloomington South then forced North to punt from its end zone, giving the visitors excellent field position that was taken advantage of, as David found Thiery on a swing pass out to the right that went for a 17 yards and another touchdown, making it a three-score game.
North, on the other hand, was not able to jumpstart the offense that had been so strong in the first half. Bloomington South forced a punt or turnover on each of the Patriots’ second half drives, dropping North for the first time this season.
The Patriots will look to bounce back next Friday when they play host to crosstown rival Terre Haute South.
Bloomington South 14 7 14 0 — 35
Terre Haute North 14 0 0 0 — 14
THN — Johnson 2 pass from Gauer (Guptill kick), 5:23 1Q
BS — Chestnut 3 run (Robinson kick), 3:22 1Q
BS — Thiery 13 run (Robinson kick), 1:11 1Q
THN — Moody 65 pass from Gauer (Guptill kick), 1.5 1Q
BS — Azcui 60 pass from David (Robinson kick), 36.4 2Q
BS — Thiery 8 run (Robinson kick), 11:23 3Q
BS — Thiery 17 pass from David (Robinson kick), 8:08 3Q
First downs 15 12
Rushes-yards 36-170 22-50
Passing 185 251
C-A-I 11-17-0 17-36-1
Return yards 41 61
Punts-avg. 6-26.6 6-29.3
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 12-107 4-25
Rushing — Bloomington South, David 8-17, Thiery 15-93, Chestnut 5-35, Bledsoe 4-15, Tolden 3-10, Bull 1-0. Terre Haute North, Gauer 7-4, Russell 14-46, Winchell 1-0.
Passing — Bloomington South, David 11-17-2 185. Terre Haute North, Gauer 17-36-2 251.
Receiving — Bloomington South, Meeks 5-55, French 1-7, Azcui 3-94, Thiery 1-17, Johnson 1-12. Terre Haute North, Stillwell 1-7, Moody 2-72, Humphrey 7-61, Johnson 2-34, Russell 5-77.
Next — Terre Haute North (2-1, 0-1 Conference Indiana) hosts Terre Haute South and Bloomington South (2-1, 1-0 Conference Indiana) hosts Bloomington North Friday.