BAINBRIDGE -- With a win against visiting Cloverdale, the North Putnam Cougars concluded their second perfect regular season and secured sole possession of the West Central Conference championship.
North Putnam defeated the Clovers 35-0 and enters the post-season with a full head of steam.
"I was pleased with what our kids did," Cougars head coach Dave Pasch said.
"I think the kids wanted to show they could play with the No. two team in the state," Cloverdale head coach Kyle Winkler said. "I think the intensity was a little more than what I expected, which is great. That's what I want it to be. The seniors really stepped up this week."
Early on, the Clovers showed they would not bow down to the second-ranked Cougars, holding North Putnam to a scoreless first quarter.
Midway through the quarter, the Clovers faked a punt to gain a first down and looked ready to begin a push toward the end zone, but the Cougar defense stopped Cloverdale three plays later.
When the Cougars got the ball back, Griffen Dahlstrom completed a long pass to J.T. Francies for a first down, and then completed another to Rooker for another gain down to the Cloverdale nine-yard line. On the next play, Dahlstrom took the ball in and put the Cougars up 14-0 going into the half.
The second half saw a fired up North Putnam squad take the field and kick it into another gear.
Both teams intensified their physical play in the second half, but North Putnam took the upper hand as Rooker powered his way through the Clover defense. A huge run from Francies set up a 1-yard sneak by Dahlstrom, extending the Cougar lead to 21-0 with 3:37 remaining in the quarter.
The Clovers showed their fight with their next possession as Aaron Dayhuff slashed his way outside and raced the ball down the field for a 49-yard pickup. But after the Cougars forced them into a fourth and eleven, the Clovers pass attempt fell short, returning possession to North Putnam.
Proving they had plenty of tricks up their sleeves, the Cougars sent Jerrett Ban around the right side on a reverse and watched as the junior slipped between Cloverdale defenders on his way to a scoring on a 39-yard run. After a Rob Ford extra point, the Cougars were up 28-0 with the clock winding down.
"We actually put in a couple of new things in tonight that we're hoping we can expand on and use in the tournament," Pasch said.
The Cougars scored for the final time with 4:00 on the clock when Darr Boruff took the ball five yards in for a touchdown.
"We were on defense a lot. We've got a lot of experience this year of being on defense a lot," Winkler commented. "Our kids played with great heart tonight, which I'm happy with."
Defense is an area of pride for the Cougars and, on Friday night, Pasch liked what he saw.
"We only had one breakdown tonight. We had a guy go to the wrong place on a stunt and they ran the ball right where he wasn't. Outside of that play, I thought we were pretty solid defensively," Pasch responded.
The offensive side of the ball has been equally impressive for the Cougars as it has scored seemingly at will all season. Pasch believes if the team sticks to its gameplan, the pieces will fall into place.
"We're just trying to keep it simple and do what we do," Pasch noted. "Our kids have done a good job of being patient. It goes back to having the confidence that our defense isn't going to give up a lot of points. So we can be really patient with what we want to do on offense."
Up next for the Clovers will be Cascade, a team they defeated earlier in the season. But even with the win, Winkler is setting his team's focus on the Cadets and hopes to use them as a stepping-stone to the sectional final.
"We know they're (Cascade) not going to roll over for us. Their seniors don't want to go out to Cloverdale in the first week of sectional, so they're going to go all out for four quarters and play with heart. Those kids have great sectional experience.
"We have to come mentally prepared and healthy throughout the week to be ready for Cascade," Winkler said. "The kids know they can beat -- and want to beat -- Cascade. I think the fact they could redeem themselves against South Putnam or Monrovia is sitting on their minds pretty heavy.
"If we can, we're playing for a sectional championship at home, but it all starts tomorrow morning getting ready to beat Cascade," Winkler commented.
Staying healthy was also on the mind of Pasch as the Cougars enter their first-round sectional game against South Vermillion.
"At this point in the season, it's all about trying to heal. Make sure your legs are fresh and your body feels good. Make the adjustments we need to make to be competitive and try to get better," Pasch concluded.
The Cougars will host South Vermillion at 7 p.m. Friday, while Cloverdale will host Cascade at 7 p.m. Friday.
At North Putnam
North Putnam -- Rooker 10 run (Ford kick) 7:41
North Putnam -- Dahlstrom 9 run (Ford kick) 0:48.7
North Putnam -- Dahlstrom 1 run (Ford kick) 3:57
North Putnam -- Ban 39 run (Ford kick) 10:37
North Putnam -- Boruff 5 run (Kick failed) 4:00
First Downs -- North Putnam (16), Cloverdale (4)
Punts-Yards - North Putnam (2-77), Cloverdale (5-157)
Fumbles-Lost - North Putnam (2-0), Cloverdale (5-2)
Penalties-Yards - North Putnam (6-65), Cloverdale (5-35)
Rushing - (46 Carries, 299 yards) -- Dahlstrom 11-46, Rooker 14-95, Vondersaar 12-49, Ford 3-11, Francies 3-48, Ban 1-39, Boruff 1-5, Watson 1-6.
Passing - (3-8-0-0, 51 yards) -- Dahlstrom 3-8, 51 yds., 0 TD, 0 INT.
Receiving - (3 catches, 51 yards) -- Rooker 1-21, Vondersaar 1-15, Francies 1-15.
Rushing - (35 Carries, 105 yards) -- Gray 6-5, Dayhuff 11-67, Spinks 3-6, McCallie 3-6, Morgan 2-(-3), Boller 3-3, Osburn 3-14, Looper 1-2, Pagel 1-5.
Passing - (1-5-0-0, 4 yards) -- Hayden 1-5, 4 yds., 0 TD, 0 INT.
Receiving - (1 catch, 4 yards) -- Cummings 1-4.
Next game -- The Cougars will host South Vermillion at 7 p.m. Friday, while Cloverdale will host Cascade at 7 p.m. Friday.