North Putnam has outscored its opponents 138-31 in the final three games of the season and are looking strong entering the tournament. Cougar head coach Greg Barrett said his team's play looks as strong as ever.
"It's very positive," Barrett said. "Last year we were nowhere near this offensively. Defensively, we're better than we were last year, but last year a least we were stable on the defensive side of the ball. It's a brand new team, these guys have formed well together and they understand the things we have to do to get better. They understand about being disciplined and offensively, I tell you what; we've been pretty explosive at time. That's awful nice to see.
"I've been telling them all year, it's nine games to get better for the playoffs. There were a couple penalties I wasn't happy with and those are things we need to correct, but other than that, we came out pretty fast and strong I thought," he said.
On the other side of the field, Kyle Winkler saw both good and bad from his squad on the night.
"Defensively, I'm at a loss. I thought we would be a little more aggressive. We knew they were going to run their jet plays, run that option and our guys were a little hesitant and didn't really figure out their speed was -- they're going outside. Offensively, I thought we moved the ball well at one point and time when we got things rolling and then we went for a field goal and it was a little slow and it got block," Winkler said.
North Putnam got things rolling on its first drive when Jordan Murphy smashed in from one-yard out with 9:40 on the clock. The Cougars added five more touchdowns in the half, the final score coming with less than 2-minutes before the half.
With 1:59 on the clock in the second quarter, Kolten Everts hooked up with Travis Franklin for a 52-yard strike to put North Putnam up 42-0 at the break.
After the half, Winkler decided to sit some of his starters to ensure he had a full healthy squad going into sectional.
Following touchdown runs from Murphy and Mitch Marlow, Cloverdale was able to put up its first score of the night.
Cloverdale junior Donavan Scisney took the Beau Green kickoff and raced up the Cloverdale sideline for an 89-yard return for a touchdown, to make the score 55-7.
North Putnam scored its final score when Kaleb Belcher ran in from six-yards out to give the Cougars its total of 62.
Although the Clovers faced an insurmountable lead, the team wasn't ready to give in and fought its way to two more scores in the game.
Taylor Mescall did the bulk of the running for the Clovers down the stretch, scoring on runs of 48-and 4-yard runs to bring the game to its final tally of 62-23.
Following the loss, Winkler said if anyone has any doubts about the Cougars being for real, they should think again.
"North Put is legit," Winkler said. "I've seen a lot of state championship 2A level teams and they have what it takes. They're going to be the people to beat and if any team comes out like we did, they're going to not have a very good night."
Something that every high caliber team has is confidence in itself and North Putnam is no exception. They displayed such confidence at least twice on Friday when they had plays called back for penalties and turned right around and ran the same play with similar or better results.
After having a Franklin touchdown called back, Barrett called the same play, with the end result being the same. Barrett said it's that confidence that helps his team know that if they run a play the way it's drawn up, the benefits will be huge.
"Those are things we're not going to get discouraged on," he said about the plays. " I tell them and they understand, if the play doesn't work, it's because we didn't block it right. And if we block it right, it's going to happen. One was a penalty, we blocked it right and it was open, so we came right back to it and he score again. That's very positive knowing we can do that. A year ago I might have changed to something totally different, but these guys understand they've put in the time and the effort and we're going to stick to what we believe in and we've done that pretty much all year."
Up first for Cloverdale in sectional action will be Greencastle, a foe they've already defeated, but one they know will be looking to return the favor.
"Our kids are confident about that game," Winkler said. "We beat them once already. Obviously they're going to be a little more ready for our game plan we had last time. We're going to make a few adjustments here and there as needed, but it's going to be who wants the ball more, who's going to be the most physical and who makes the least amount of turnovers. Come tournament play, turnovers and penalties -- you can't have any or your going home.
"That's what we'll focus on all week and special teams as well. All those little things that in a game like this you can see where kids basically forget to line up. So we have to get all of those basic things covered away too," Winkler added.
North Putnam will also battle an opponent who they've beaten in South Putnam, but one Barrett knows is waiting to avenge its loss and one he won't think of overlooking.
"Well, Troy and his staff do a great job, they're well coached kids," Barrett said. "They gotten better and we know we didn't play well, we thought, the first half and they scored on the second play of the game on us. That kind of hurt and kind of left a bad taste in our defense's mouth and we've been preaching that for a long time. I don't think there'll be any problems getting up this week. It's going to be a battle."
Cloverdale travels to Greencastle, while North Putnam travels to South Putnam to begin sectional action Friday at 7 p.m.
At North Putnam
Cloverdale 0 0 7 16 -- 23
North Putnam 14 28 13 7 -- 62
NP -- Murphy 1-yd. run, Summerlot kick 9:40
NP -- C. Vondersaar 4-yd. run, Summerlot kick 6:55
NP -- Franklin 16-yd. run, Summerlot kick 10:50
NP -- Franklin 41-yd. INT return, Summerlot kick 8:30
NP -- Everts 16-yd. run, Summerlot kick 4:15
NP -- Franklin 52-yd. pass from Everts, Summerlot kick 1:59
NP -- Murphy 6-yd. run, Summerlot kick 7:15
NP -- Marlow 1-yd. run, kick failed 4:15
CHS -- Scisney 89-yd. kickoff return, Burdette kick 4:00
NP -- Belcher 7-yd. run, Green kick
CHS -- Mescall 48-yd. run, 2pt conversion good
CHS -- Mescall 4-yd. run, 2pt. conversion good
Rushing -- Spencer 7-54, Franklin 5-36 TD, Murphy 7-26 2TD, C. Vondersaar 1-4 TD, Everts 2-41 TD, Kratt 2-20, Belcher 8-29 TD, Marlow 3-13 TD, Larocque 3-8, Smith 5-(-3), Land 2-11
Passing -- Everts 3-4-1-0 103 yards, TD
Receiving -- Franklin 2-85 TD, C. Vondersaar 1-18
Rushing -- Scisney 18-21, Hall 6-21, Howard 3-8, Wilson 1-(-3), Mescall 6-69 2TD
Passing -- Brinkman 1-5-0-1 3 yard, INT
Receiving -- Hall 1-3