Game Stats Game Recap
|Nov 04 NORTH vs Castle VARSITY Offensive Stats|
|McKINNEY||27||18||67%||181||1||1||1-9yd TD (Harris)|
|HARRIS||5||6||45||9.0||1||14||1-9yd TD (McKinney)|
|* thrown to|
|RUCKER||KO||3||125||41.7||1||97||1-97yd TD (school record)|
|HESS||KO||2||70||35.0||47||1-on sides recovered|
|Player||Total||TD rush||TD rec||TD ret||2pt XP||XP kick||Special|
|Nov 04 NORTH vs Castle SECTIONAL Team Stats|
|4.3||Avg yds per rush||4.9|
|10.1||Avg yds per completion||18.2|
|0 / 0||Sacked / Yards Lost||2 / -12|
|5.5||Avg yds per play||6.0|
|1||Passes HAD intercepted||0|
|0||Points scored off turnovers||7|
|6 / 79||PENALTIES / YARDS||6 / 64|
|3 / 11||3rd down conversions||2 / 9|
|1 / 2||4th down conversions||1 / 2|
|1ST||8:55||Salpietra 29yd TD reception (Bishop)||0 - 6|
|Kotmel XP kick||0 - 7|
|4:37||Bishop 19yd TD run||0 - 13|
|Kotmel XP kick||0 - 14|
|4:23||Rucker 99yd TD kickoff return||6 - 14|
|Renfro XP kick||7 - 14|
|2ND||9:46||Harris 9yd TD reception (McKinney)||13 - 14|
|Mitchell,J 2pt XP run||15 - 14|
|0:14||Renfro 29yd Field Goal||18 - 14|
|3RD||7:11||Purdy 1yd TD run||18 -20|
|Kotmel XP kick||18 - 21|
|0:42||Aigner 39yd TD reception (Bishop)||18 - 27|
|Kotmel XP kick||18 - 28|
|NORTH VS CASTLE 11/04/2022 - DEFENSIVE STATS|
|PLAYER||SOLO||ASST.||T-FL||SACK||C FUM||R FUM||INT||BK||POINTS|
GALLANT HUSKIES FALL TO KNIGHTS 28-18
In a display of determined strength, the North Huskies battled back from a two-touchdown deficit to take the lead on the road at Castle before succumbing to a 28-18 final score.
As so often happens at John Lidy Field, once the Huskies took the lead, there were multiple 20-yard game changing offensive plays that were called back by holding and blocking penalties. On consecutive possessions to start the second half, the Huskies fell victim to illegal blocking and holding calls made 15 or more yards behind the play. These penalties had the net affect of wiping out 20-yard gains with first downs in Castle territory and turning them into second & 23 type situations. A long punt return with the score at 21-18 was negated by a block in the back penalty that film review showed was, to be kind, ‘vaporous’ in its nature and instead of first and ten at the North 43, the Huskies began in front of their own goal posts.
Such is the nature of contests at John Lidy Field, you know it going in, and you come to accept it as a possibility.
Nonetheless, there were moments in which this team could have given up and this gallant Husky squad refused to be intimidated.
FIRST QUARTER BLUES
North’s first play from scrimmage resulted in a 12-yard gain being wiped out by a holding penalty and set them back to facing first-and-23 at their 13. After failing to pick up the first down, the Huskies punted the ball out to midfield and within a few plays, Castle took advantage of a coverage mix-up in the North backfield to score a 29-yard touchdown reception.
The Huskies were unable to move the ball on their ensuing possession and again punted the ball out past midfield. This time, junior linebacker Kaleb Vashon set the tone on first down and dropped a runner for loss. Junior Keonta Barton expertly defended a pass for an incompletion on second down and junior Kasey Hospelhorn dropped a receiver well short of the first down marker to force a Castle punt.
And then disaster struck.
The punt return was ‘muffed’ and Castle came away with the ball at the North 12. Three plays later the Knights led 14-0 and the game was not even eight minutes gone.
HOW LEGENDS BEGIN
In 1974, a thin, slightly built young sophomore sprinter burst onto the scene of Evansville football. The young runner’s name was Cornell Garrett and he became a member of the North Hall of Fame and is remembered as a State Champion sprinter who held nearly every North football rushing and scoring record when he graduated. Garrett announced his presence with a 100-yard rushing game against Terre Haute South and then followed that up in his next game with a school record 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Central. That is how legends are begun.
Sophomore Jason Rucker announced his presence this season with an amazing four touchdown, 250-yard rushing performance against Bosse. And when the chips were down on the road at John Lidy Field, the Huskies were in need of a reason to believe that this time, things could be different in Paradise.
Fielding the ensuing kickoff at the three-yard line, very nearly out of bounds in the northwest corner of the field, Rucker tucked the ball under his arm, gamely started up field, and received an initial well-timed block in front of him by senior Jeremiah Thomas. Angling to his left, Rucker headed back into the center of the coverage where Hospelhorn and sophomore Avier Mitchell combined to take out a pair of defenders.
Mitchell then spun 180 degrees off his first block and made a second screening block that Rucker read perfectly. With a glimpse of an opening now in the Castle coverage, the young sprinter accelerated even further to his left toward the Husky sideline.
With a blaze of pure speed that was reminiscent of Cornell Garrett to anyone who saw him play, Rucker simply ran away from the hapless kicker who remained between him and the goal line. Streaking away down the sideline, no one could make up ground on Rucker as he crossed the goal 15 yards ahead of his closest pursuer—breaking a 48-year-old school record in the process with a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
That is how legends are begun.
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
As is typically the case in movies, just because the good guys experience some success, the bad guys don’t give up. In this case, Castle took over after the kickoff and began moving the ball back downfield against the Husky defense. Another long pass had them with first down at the North 22 and it appeared that the ray of hope that Rucker’s historic return had provided might be snuffed out by the omnipresent ‘Death Star’ of Castle.
Answering the call for “someone needs to make a play”, in stepped senior Cale Johnson who along with Hospelhorn dropped a runner for a four-yard loss on first down. Sophomore linebacker Luke Grayson and junior Cainen Northington stopped a runner to set up third and ten and Northington solo tackled a runner to set up fourth and eight. Barton made his second sensational pass defense of the game when Castle passed on fourth and eight—very nearly coming up with a ‘pick six’—and suddenly, the momentum began to swing in North’s favor.
THE OFFENSE STARTS TO HUM
Deploying a consistent three wide receiver set to try and spread out the Castle defense, the Huskies began to move the ball with quick passes from junior Sam McKinney to senior Jaylonn Mitchell. Screen type passes with a pair of blockers in front of him allowed the speedy Mitchell to move the ball out past the 40-yard line after two receptions.
Of course, when the Huskies’ well-oiled machine gets to humming, it is the offensive line opening holes for the conference’s best running back that gets the ‘big’ yards.
With first down at the North 41, center Landon Caswell snapped the ball and pulled out of line and to his left. McKinney, in a zone read play, read the defenders to his left, made the correct decision, and slipped the ball into senior Angelo St. Louis’ waiting arms. Caswell hit the end with a full head of steam and bowled him over. St. Louis cut behind Caswell’s block and came across the wreckage of a crash between junior Timothy Dixon and a Castle linebacker. The Knight was on the ground and not getting up any time soon as St. Louis accelerated into Castle territory.
15 yards downfield, he had to have been surprised by the presence of sophomore ‘Big’ Ben Brasher to effectively block Castle’s All-State linebacker. Given Brasher’s size and full head of steam, the Knight wisely chose to avoid contact and moved away from St. Louis’ route giving the runner a clear path to the end zone.
Only a leaping capture of the back of St. Louis’ shoulder pads by a desperate safety could stop the senior’s momentum. Yanking heavily on St. Louis’ equipment, the Knight defender pulled him down from behind to prevent the touchdown. Film review showed this to be an undeniable penalty known commonly as a ‘horse collar’ but at John Lidy Field such determinations are never so clearly visible even to officials standing three yards away. Nonetheless, the Huskies had a first down at the Castle 13 after St. Louis’ 42-yard run.
Three plays later, junior Kaleb Harris was split wide right and, on the snap, came back off the line of scrimmage and toward the quarterback to receive a ‘bubble’ screen pass. As he caught the ball, the sheer physical presence of North’s offensive line again came into play. Timothy Dixon may be an offensive tackle, but he is nimble enough that he dashed from his tackle position to nail the cornerback who had lined up on Harris at the snap. Taking the pass and cutting back into the center of the field behind Dixon’s big block, Harris quickly had Brasher and Caswell in front of him to clear a way into the end zone. The big men were running full tilt and laying out defenders like a line of tanks clearing the way for the infantry. Harris ran into the end zone and the Huskies were just an extra point away from tying up the game.
There are moments when it pays to have an experienced player in position to make a split-second decision. As a three-year starter at multiple positions, Jaylonn Mitchell is probably the player on this club you would most like to have to deal with a crisis.
A crisis arose on the extra point kick. The snap was low and could not be put in place before senior Mitchell Renfro could kick it. Mitchell was immediately aware of the situation, picked up the ball, and then motioned to Renfro to run ahead of him as a ‘lead blocker’ instead of a kicker. Renfro complied and hit the biggest defender he could find. Jaylonn then motioned his little brother Avier to block another defender as the elder Mitchell made a last-ditch effort for the goal line.
Despite having run into what was essentially a Castle team picture, Jaylonn kept his feet moving forward and was soon joined by Cale Johnson and a host of other green clad blockers in what became a huge scrum at the goal line—a scrum in which the green and white kept pushing harder until Mitchell was in the end zone. The gallant Huskies had ‘made their own luck’ and took a 15-14 lead on the conversion run.
BIG PLAYS AT JUST THE RIGHT MOMENT
Having fallen behind at home after squandering a two-touchdown lead, the Knights became serious about their running game and battled their way back into Husky territory. Running ‘downhill’ they looked to be intent on regaining the lead. With a first down at the North 42 and nine minutes to play in the half, things looked rosy for the Knights.
What they didn’t take into account was that, if you are intent on passing, you have to have two guys blocking “Number Nine”.
After a steady dose of runs, Castle was set to go to the air on first down with a pass and they left a single blocker in front of Cale Johnson. Having been double-teamed throughout the night, Johnson realized his opportunity on the snap and used his great speed to simply shuck the blocker to his left in order to gain a clear path to the quarterback.
Castle had set up in an ‘empty’ backfield formation with no back to provide pass protection for the quarterback. The Knights’ quarterback quickly recognized his peril and treated Johnson like a heat seeking missel and took evasive maneuvers.
They were ineffective.
North’s amazing senior defensive end had his eleventh quarterback sack of the season and broke the school record for most tackles for loss in a season.
And he wasn’t through.
On second down and 20, he solo tackled a runner after a three-yard gain.
On third down he chased the quarterback all the way to the sideline and tackled him just as the Knight threw the ball away out of bounds.
The Castle scoring threat had been averted by big plays at just the right moment the Huskies needed them.
ONE MORE SCORE
After an exchange of punts, the Huskies got the ball back with 1:26 to play in the half at the Castle 46. If the Huskies were to extend their lead, they would need a long gain and a running play would eat up too much clock. They needed to pass to get into scoring position.
They got their what they needed when Jaylonn Mitchell lined up in the slot to the right between two other receivers.
The senior receiver had entered the game with an opportunity to complete his career as North’s All-Time leader in pass receptions. Before the season, such an accomplishment had seemed like a cinch, easily within his grasp based upon his last two season’s performance.
And then his team needed him to play quarterback to start his senior season.
Mitchell gave up the pursuit of the record for the good of the team and gave his teammates his best effort wherever he was needed on the field.
As he lined up in the slot, Castle matched him up with a safety well off the line of scrimmage. On the snap, Jaylonn headed downfield and faked an inside move as though he were going to run a post pattern to the goal line. The safety quickly stepped to his right to counter the measure, but Jaylonn had only faked his move in that direction and quickly angled toward the sideline.
In the North backfield, a Castle defender had penetrated nearly directly into quarterback Sam McKinney’s face—as a result, McKinney was forced to sail the best pass he could in Mitchell’s direction and it was going to be high and very near the out of bounds line.
Mitchell, being a tremendous athlete with excellent vertical leaping ability and even better hands, recognized the trajectory, leapt what looked to be four feet in the air, stretched his body out, and came down with a 26-yard reception at the Castle 19.
If you are going to break a school’s all-time record for receptions in a career, Jaylonn Mitchell could put his catch on a post card and sell it. It was a singular effort that captured his years of giving his all to provide his team with whatever it needed whenever it was asked of him.
Senior Mitchell Renfro came on shortly thereafter and converted a 29-yard field goal for the ninth such kick in his career, good for second place on the all-time North list for field goals. The kick tied 2015 graduate Zac Turi for Most Field Goals in a single season. North had not only battled back from adversity and a two-touchdown deficit, but they had done it with a mixture of youthful promise and senior leadership that represented gallantry in its finest form.
Such was not to be said for the hosts in the second half of the game.
As mentioned earlier, there is a pallor that hangs over the visitor sidelines at John Lidy Field and it seeps into the air whenever ‘The Empire’ is caught trailing in a big game. Things like judgement calls and late penalty flags all seem to begin to fall the way of the home team.
Friday night was no different. When sophomore Matthew Pegram recovered an onsides kickoff to start the second half (a brave move on the part of the coaching staff and one that should have been a dagger in the heart of ‘The Evil Empire’), the Huskies had the ball at the Castle 46. A second down pass to St. Louis picked up 18 yards to carry the ball inside the Castle 30. A block-in-the-back call 15 yards behind the play resulted in North facing second and 23 in their own territory instead.
North punted and yielded to Castle a 60-yard drive for a score—their lone long drive of the game and the Knights led 21-18. North had the ball at their 25 after the kickoff and handed the ball to St. Louis who promptly gained eight yards. Film review from multiple angles could not discern the phantom holding penalty that was called well after the whistle blew. The Huskies now faced second-and-21 from in front of their goal posts.
An exchange of punts could have worked to North’s favor when Hospelhorn fielded a punt and zoomed up the Castle sideline before being run out of bounds at the 40-yard line. A flag for a block in the back was thrown well behind the play and film review from multiple angles showed that no physical contact was made between the blocker and the defender. The result was that the Huskies were again bottled up on their ten-yard line. The net effect of the penalties was forcing North to start every possession in the shadow of their goal posts and eventually that sort of field position will catch up with a team.
ANOTHER MIX UP
The coup de grace occurred after Castle took over at the North 39 after a punt. Another mis-read by the Husky defensive backfield resulted in a blown coverage that left a receiver open in the middle of the field and, given the short distance the Knights needed to cover in order to score, the result was a touchdown that made the score 28-18.
The Huskies battled back until the game’s final moments and perhaps the high-water mark occurred with 7:30 to play when they faced fourth-and-one at the Castle six-yard line. Having driven 74 yards after the final Castle score on 11 plays, the Huskies had to convert and put the ball in the end zone if they were to overcome the deficit.
They did not.
Castle took over on downs and ate up nearly five minutes of clock with a steady dose of running plays. North got the ball back with 2:34 to play, streaked downfield on passes from McKinney to Mitchell and Kaleb Harris, but with time running out, a desperation pass was intercepted at the five-yard line. Castle ran out the clock and The Empire had indeed Struck Back.
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|Nov 04 NORTH vs Castle Possessions|
|N26||3||1||2||-5||0||2:10||punt||Holding penalty calls back long run||0 - 0|
|N46||3||2||1||46||2||0:55||TD||Salpietra 29yd TD reception (Bishop)||0 - 7|
|Kotmel XP kick|
|N20||3||3||0||3||0||2:00||punt||0 - 7|
|C42||3||1||2||4||0||1:30||punt||Hospelhorn muffs punt @N12||0 - 7|
|N12||2||2||0||12||1||0:45||TD||Bishop 19yd TD run||0 - 14|
|Kotmel XP kick|
|N1||0||0||0||0||0||0:15||TD||Rucker 99yd TD kickoff return||7 - 14|
|Renfro XP kick|
|C36||7||6||1||44||2||3:45||downs||Barton defends 4th&8 pass||7 - 14|
|NORTH--fifth play of drive begins SECOND QUARTER|
|N20||9||5||4||80||3||3:20||TD||Harris 9yd TD reception (McKinney)||15 - 14|
|Mitchell 2pt XP conversion run|
|C37||8||6||2||63||2||3:50||punt||C.Johnson QB sack stalls drive||15 - 14|
|N41||5||2||3||21||1||2:30||punt||15 - 14|
|C20||3||2||1||1||0||1:45||punt||Short punt out of bounds @C46||15 - 14|
|C46||5||2||3||46||1||1:15||FG||Renfro 29yd Field Goal||18 - 14|
|C27||1||1||0||0||0||0:15||half||18 - 14|
|C46||3||1||2||-10||0||1:15||punt||After recovering onsides kick, Illegal block penalty on first down stalls drive||18 - 14|
|C33||10||9||1||67||3||3:40||TD||Purdy 1yd TD run||18 - 21|
|Kotmel XP kick|
|N25||3||1||2||-2||0||1:55||punt||Holding penalty negates long run||18 - 21|
|C43||3||2||1||-3||0||2:50||punt||Block in back penalty negates long punt return||18 - 21|
|N10||3||3||0||3||0||1:30||punt||18 - 21|
|N39||1||0||1||39||1||0:11||TD||Aigner 39yd TD reception (Bishop)||18 - 28|
|Kotmel XP kick|
|NORTH--3rd play of possession begins FOURTH QUARTER|
|N20||11||7||4||74||5||5:15||downs||Harris stopped for no gain on 4th&1 at C6||18 - 28|
|C6||8||8||0||37||2||4:50||punt||18 - 28|
|N23||8||1||7||53||3||2:00||INT||McKinney intercepted at C5||18 - 28|
|C5||1||1||0||0||0||0:30||game||18 - 28|
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