INDIANAPOLIS -- The North Putnam varsity football team put up a fight Saturday, but couldn't get the job done in the opening game of the West Central Conference "Day at the Dome."
The Cougars lost to defending WCC champions Speedway, 28-7, at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.
The game got off to a fast start, as the Sparkplugs' running back Kevin Ford showed why he is the leading rusher in the WCC. Ford exploded in the first drive with 50 yards rushing and 17 yards receiving. Fullback Corey Euliss capped the drive, punching in a three-yard run for the first score of the game.
North Putnam looked alert to respond quickly, with running back Adam Vondersaar running the ball 15 yards on the Cougars first play from scrimmage. However, the momentum was halted soon thereafter, when North Putnam was forced to punt four downs later and fumbled on its next drive.
Although the Cougars stood strong on defense throughout most of the game, they struggled to get anything going offensively.
The rushing attack that pounded Monrovia for 320 yards the previous week only managed to gain 83 yards on the ground Saturday. Quarterback Brayden Dahlstrom was consistently being hassled by a strong Speedway rushing attack and forced to make throws on the run. Dahlstrom went into the game averaging 150 yards passing, but managed only 93 yards in the contest.
While Speedway went into the game averaging 397.9 yards a game, the Cougars held them to 284 yards on offense. Ford looked strong on the first drive, but was contained for the most part of the game. Ford came into the game averaging 158.9 rushing yards a contest, but only gained 113 rushing yards Saturday.
Speedway quarterback Eric Emerson was contained to 115 yards and one touchdown and looked vulnerable at times. He started the game 2-for-8 passing before settling down.
Dahlstrom also appeared to be getting stronger as the game progressed. Down 14-0 with under one minute remaining in the first half, he connected with wide receiver Tyler Trent of a 46-yard bomb. Trent made an amazing grab, jumping up and reaching over a Speedway defender to snag the ball. Set at the Sparkplug 34-yard line the Cougars looked destined to score.
However, a 15-yard penalty two plays later halted momentum and the Cougars went into halftime scoreless.
Speedway came out in the second half fired up, putting up seven points on its first drive. Ford displayed an impressive assortment of cuts and slashes on a 23-yard run that put the Sparkplugs up 21-0.
North Putnam managed to get on the board early in the fourth quarter, when Dahlstrom connected with J.T. Francies for a five-yard touchdown pass. The drive was a long, 16-play drive, draining the clock for the Cougars.
Although they forced the Sparkplugs three-and-out in their next possession, it proved too little to late.
North Putnam is now 4-4 on the season, while Speedway is now 7-1. The Cougars host Cloverdale Friday at 7 p.m. in the final county matchup of the season.
At the RCA Dome
Speedway 7 7 14 7 -- 28
North Putnam 0 0 0 7 -- 7
Speedway - Euliss 3 run (Walton kick) 8:05.
Speedway - Euliss 1 run (Walton kick) :27.
Speedway - Ford 21 run (Walton kick) 8:25.
Speedway - Pedigo 5 pass from Emerson (Walton kick) 3:11.
North Putnam - Francies 5 pass from B. Dahlstrom (G. Dahlstrom kick) 9:21.
First Downs: North Putnam 9, Speedway 14.
Penalties - yards: North Putnam 3-40, Speedway 7-50.
Fumbles/recovered: North Putnam 2-1, Speedway 2-2.
Total Yards: North Putnam 176, Speedway 284
Passing - B. Dahlstrom 6-14, 93 yds TD INT.
Rushing (31-83) - Vondersaar 9-43, B. Dahlstrom 12-18, Diebold 5-18, Trent 2-3, Francies 3-1.
Receiving - 2-65, Ensor 1-19, Francies 3-9.
Passing - Emerson 9-18 115 TD
Rushing - Ford 25-113, Euliss 5-18, Avance 2-17, Hurse 3-12, Emerson 2-4, Cork 1-3, Sullivan 1-2.
Receiving - Ford 4-58, Walton 2-33, Cork 1-12, Pedigo 1-12, Kenworthy 1-2.
Next game - North Putnam hosts Cloverdale Friday at 7 p.m.