2001 NHS Season Statistics
Evansville Courier Newspaper ALL CITY/METRO Selections
|Aug. 17||Evansville Bosse||Win 40-13|
|Aug. 24||Henderson County (Ky.)||Loss 21-24|
|Sep. 1||Evansville Harrison||Loss 30-37|
|Sep. 7||Evansville Mater Dei||Loss 3-26|
|Sep. 14||Castle||Loss 14-24|
|Sep. 21||Evansville Memorial||Win 42-7|
|Sep. 28||Evansville Reitz||Win 27-16|
|Oct. 5||Owensboro (Ky.)||Win 30-7|
|Oct. 12||Evansville Central||Win 14-6|
|Oct. 19||Jeffersonville (Sectional)||Win 45-14|
|Oct. 26||Castle (Sectional Rnd 2)||Loss 7-48|
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Featuring a nucleus of players who had been part of consecutive sectional championship teams, 2001 loomed bright for the Huskies. Granted, they had lost the most prolific rusher in school history, but they returned QB Matt Becker, highly regarded TE Nick Raben, DE James Bell, OT Josh Gewirtzman, and K Garth Cheek among others.
In addition to that group of seniors, there was a sophomore running back who had distinguished himself during the prior season’s playoffs as a freshman—Kendall O’Donnell. O’Donnell doubled as both a defensive back and a tailback and would prove to be the next in a long line of great North Husky running backs.
2001 would not be without growing pains, however.
In the season opener versus Bosse, it was the Husky air attack that stole the show. Senior quarterback Matt Becker looked every bit the two year starter that he was. Spreading the ball around among six different receivers, he threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns—the longest of which went 32 yards to RB Kendall O’Donnell. The Huskies played near perfect football and won going away 40-13.
If they were perfect in week one, the Huskies were something less than that when Henderson County came calling in week two. North fumbled away three of its first four possessions. Two of those miscues came at the worst possible moment—on kickoffs following Colonel scores. Trailing by three scores before they knew what hit them, the Huskies battled back but could not quite close the gap and lost 24-21.
Against Harrison, everything was going North’s way in the second half. The Huskies had built a 30-13 lead behind the spectacular play of RB-DE James Bell. On offense, Bell had run 87 yards for a touchdown and on defense he had tackled the Warrior quarterback for a safety. TE Nick Raben already had a touchdown reception on the books and RB Lawrence Taylor had run for two scores. It didn’t seem anything could de-rail the Husky victory when in the middle of the third quarter the Warriors suffered an injury.
Harrison’s team captain sustained a neck injury and had to be carried off the field by an ambulance. The East-siders watched in silence as their team leader went to the hospital. They gathered on their sideline for a team meeting and promptly came out and scored 24 unanswered points. Picking off two passes and forcing a fumble, Harrison pulled out a fourth quarter 37-30 victory.
It was shaping up to be a season wherein the Huskies were their own worst enemies and week four versus Mater Dei proved the rule. After a storm delayed the start of the game by an hour, North committed six fumbles in the mud en route to a 26-3 beating by the Wildcats.
Playing Castle, the #3 ranked team in Indiana’s 5A division, the Huskies came in determined to stop the Knights’ powerful running game. North battled Castle evenly on the ground matching gain for gain. The problem arose when the Knights went to the air. Castle only attempted two passes in the entire game but both went for long touchdowns. The two airborne scores proved to be the difference in the game and North sunk to 1-4 and was experiencing its worst start since 1998.
Like 1998, the 2001 club would hold some surprises down the stretch that no one could have forecasted at mid-season.
Traveling to Enlow Field to face a Memorial club that was fresh off an upset win against Central, the Huskies once again played mistake free football. 35 first half points settled the issue before the break. Matt Becker’s efficient 3 of 4 passing for 70 yards had yielded a 24 yard touchdown pass to WR Jeff Stinson and a 24 yarder to WR Corrie Gregory.
DB Kendall O’Donnell, who had already scored touchdowns in 2001 by both rushing and receiving for scores, returned an interception 55 yards lacing his way between scurrying Tigers and put the exclamation mark on the rout. Three different running backs (Lawrence Taylor, James Bell, and Chris Clark) found pay dirt and helped run the score to 42-7.
Week seven saw Reitz’ Panthers enter Central Stadium with a 5-1 record and a state ranking. In 2001, they would go on to win the 5A regional later in the season, but on this night, they ran into a better team named the North High Huskies.
RB Kendall O’Donnell took the opening play from scrimmage and ran towards right end. Not seeing an opening, he reversed his field and headed toward the left sideline. Finding a seam in the defense, he pointed up field and streaked 80 yards for a touchdown. 16 seconds into the game, North led 7-0. On the night O’Donnell would run for 162 yards on 15 carries in the first of what would be four career one-hundred yard rushing games against the Panthers.
DT Josh Gewirtzman provided the next fireworks in the game. With the ball on the Reitz 20 yard line, the 6’2”, 290 lb. tackle burst through the Panther line with such speed that the surprised quarterback did not have time to pull the ball back in as he went to hand it to his halfback. Gewirtzman retrieved the ball from the quarterback’s extended right hand and dashed untouched into the endzone for a touchdown. The radio broadcast of the game declared the play an interception return and the newspaper called it a fumble recovery. The scoreboard called it a 14-0 North lead.
With two Garth Cheek field goals (30 and 39 yards respectively) in the books and James Bell contributing another rushing touchdown, North ruined Reitz’ chances at either a city or SIAC title with a 27-16 upset.
The game against Owensboro Senior proved to be a game of two distinctly different halves. The first half was played during a rain storm that the newspapers reported as blowing rain “horizontally” during the first quarter. A dramatic Husky goal line stand just before half kept the score at 0-0 for intermission.
With the rain having diminished during the break, it was the Huskies who caught fire. After DE James Bell ran 44 yards with a fumble recovery, the flood gates opened and North scored thirty points in the second half. Bell added 42 yards on just 4 carries including a one yard plunge for a touchdown and Kendall O’Donnell ran one in from 19 yards out on his way to 98 yards rushing. QB Becker even managed a TD pass to Peter Knoll in the slop from 11 yards away.
In the season finale against arch-rival Central, the defensive line once again emerged as the star of the game. North held Central to just four yards rushing for the entire game. Miscues and breakdowns nearly cost the Huskies the game, however, as they trailed the Bears 0-6 entering the 4th quarter of play. In spite of Kendall O’Donnell and Lawrence Taylor both generating 100 yards rushing, it was FB James Bell who again provided the spark that lifted the Huskies to victory. His 42 yard touchdown run with 8:49 to play provided the second score that put North ahead to stay. The victory wasn’t assured until O’Donnell picked off a Bear pass with just two minutes left on the clock.
North continued a tradition when for the fourth straight season the Huskies were forced to play the Sectional opening round game on the road. Traveling two hours to play Jeffersonville, the Huskies were up to the challenge.
The Red Devils had won three of their last four games and appeared on paper to be an even opponent. North, however, extended its winning streak to five games with a 45-14 pasting of the home team.
With the Huskies playing turnover-free football, it was once again James Bell who spurred the team to victory. With Bell getting three TD’s, the Huskies scored a total of six rushing touchdowns and rang up over 300 yards on the ground against a team reputed to have a strong defense. Feeding off the strong ground game, QB Matt Becker also completed 6 of 9 passes for 114 yards and zero interceptions. North led 35-0 at halftime and when K Garth Cheek added a field goal in the second half, he set a school record for most field goals in a season (3).
Four turnovers that led to opposition scores kept North out of a fourth-straight sectional final. #6 ranked Castle took advantage of Husky miscues and settled the outcome of the game early. The 2001 Huskies, however, had made their mark as the first Mike Wilson coached North team to produce three consecutive winning seasons and the first Husky football team to do so since the ’75-’77 seasons.
DEFENSE-- 2 pts each for solo, cause or recover fumble, sack, int, blk kick; 1 pt each for assist and tackle for loss
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