Cougars dominate time of possession, avenge Week 4 loss
CHARLESTOWN, Ind. – Anything can happen in the postseason, as Charlestown learned the hard way Friday night.
In the first round of Class 3A Sectional 31 play, North Harrison kept Charlestown’s potent offense off the field by way of an effective run game and outlasted the host Pirates 17-14. The Cougars (8-2) advance to a semifinal matchup at home against No. 6 Southridge (9-1) – a 31-28 winner over Heritage Hills (7-3) in overtime – next Friday at 7 p.m.
Charlestown had advanced to the sectional semifinals in each of the past six seasons prior to this year’s early exit. The Pirates (8-2), who entered the North Harrison matchup averaging 489.9 yards per game – good for second in the state – were held to 214 on 41 plays.
The Cougars, meanwhile, churned out 226 yards on 63 plays – 59 on the ground. North Harrison sophomore running back Jaylen Peake carried the ball 43 times for 143 yards, spearheading the Cougars’ clock-draining effort. Junior quarterback Avery Blocker managed the game well for North Harrison. He missed the past three games due to injury.
GALLERY: North Harrison upsets Charlestown
The upset win for North Harrison avenged a 48-14 loss to the Pirates on Sept. 9. North Harrison coach Mark Williamson said he went with an extra lineman on Friday to bolster the running game.
“It wasn’t the things we put in,” Williamson said, “it was just the mind-set of our kids coming here. It’s tough to get beat 48-14 and come back on their same field and beat them. … Unbelievable win.”
In his final game for the Pirates, senior running back Antonyo Gaddie carried the ball 11 times for 55 yards and two touchdowns. Senior quarterback Brendan Lawler, playing through a bruised thigh, accounted for 141 yards and two interceptions. Senior linebacker Bradley Laffoon had a season-high 18 total tackles.
“I think their game plan was the same,” Charlestown coach Jason Hawkins said. “Run the ball, get stops, hold the ball clock-wise – and that’s what they did. They did it a lot better tonight than they did last time.”
North Harrison dodged a bullet on its opening possession, as Peake fumbled on the first play of the game. Charlestown’s Jacob VanMeter recovered the loose ball and gave the Pirates favorable field position at the Cougars’ 30-yard line.
Charlestown’s offense, though, stalled on the ensuing possession. With fourth-and-seven inside the red zone, Lawler’s first-down attempt on the ground fell short. After back-to-back empty possessions for North Harrison and two consecutive turnovers by Charlestown, the Cougars then opened scoring via a 22-yard field goal with 6:07 left in the first half.
It didn’t take long for the Pirates to answer, as a 23-yard touchdown run by Gaddie gave Charlestown a 7-3 lead less than two minutes later. The Pirates managed just 66 yards on 17 plays before Gaddie’s scoring run.
After receiving the second-half kickoff, Charlestown’s quick-strike offense produced a five-play, 65-yard drive less than a minute and a half into the third period, capped by a two-yard Gaddie run to make it 14-3. The Pirates’ two-possession lead was short-lived, however, as the Cougars turned in an uncharacteristically quick scoring drive to cut Charlestown’s deficit to 14-10. North Harrison rushed five times for 17 yards before Josh Kemp’s 42-yard dash up the middle inched the Cougars closer.
After an interception by North Harrison’s defense – that’s played “lights out” as of late, per Williamson – on the ensuing possession, Charlestown regained momentum by stuffing the Cougars on fourth down inside their own one-yard line, but it was a similar drive that put the nail in the Pirates’ coffin late in the fourth quarter.
A blocked punt gave North Harrison prime field position at Charlestown’s 26-yard line with 4:31 remaining. The Cougars then went the distance in nine plays and 3:31 to clinch a three-point lead. On fourth-and-goal from inside the one-yard line, Peake played hero for North Harrison, scoring on a plunge to the right.
Lawler connected with Laffoon twice for 37 yards on Charlestown’s last-ditch drive to move the ball to the Cougars’ 33-yard line, but with four seconds remaining, Lawler’s heave to the end zone was intercepted.
Charlestown rattled off seven straight wins before Friday’s season-ending defeat.
North Harrison: 0 – 3 – 7 – 7 – 17
Charlestown: 0 – 7 – 7 – 0 – 14
N – Ben Waynescott 22 kick, 6:07
C – Antonyo Gaddie 23 rush (Will Paiz kick good), 4:12
C – Gaddie 2 rush (Paiz kick good), 10:39
N – Josh Kemp 42 rush (Waynescott kick good), 7:06
N – Peake 1 rush (Waynescott kick good), 1:00