ROACHDALE -- On Friday, fans of North Putnam football got to see their squad at home for the first time since the semi-state win over Evansville Mater Dei last year.
Opposite them was an underrated Southmont squad that had the unenviable task of taking on two state runners-up from last year in the first two weeks.
A tight first three quarters of play exploded into life in the final frame, with the host Cougars able to run out with a 33-12 win.
Had the first drive of the game been a measure of the whole game, it would not have been very close at all.
North Putnam needed only three plays and 33 seconds to march 70 yards and score. Kolten Everts started off with a 35-yard run, followed by a 26-yard pick-up by Tyler Shorter.
Jake Smerage capped off the drive, taking an option pitch from Everts 22 yards for the score, though Stephen Freund's extra point was no good and the Cougars led 6-0.
A trade-off of turnovers late in the first quarter would lead to the next score. Two plays after Cougar linebacker Nate Bryan recovered a fumble, Everts was picked off by Austin Burton.
The Mounties proceeded to go on a nine-play drive that resulted in six. Key to the series was a 59-yard run by Southmont flanker Devon Burton, who evaded multiple Cougars and turned what would have been a loss into a play that ended at the North Putnam four yard line.
Southmont would need all four plays from there, but on fourth down, Blaine VanCleave ground out a tough final yard to tie the score at 6-6, with a two-point conversion no good.
North Putnam responded by going on a scoring drive of its own. From the Cougar 28, Everts started off with a 37-yard run. Everts and Hank Spencer then took turns pounding the Southmont defense until Everts nearly broke through, going on a 24-yard run that brought the Cougars to the Mountie six yard line.
Spencer then took two stabs at the end zone, scoring from four yards out , making it 13-6 Cougars after the Freund kick.
With five minutes left in the half, Southmont took over and provided one of the key moments of the night. After securing a fresh set of downs on their own 44 yard line, Burton threw to younger brother Devon who, having a step on a Cougar defender 25 yards downfield, appeared to haul the pass in, only to lose it over his shoulder.
After forcing Southmont to punt with its first possession of the second half, North Putnam caught a break on its own punt attempt. A high snap to Everts saw the senior break to the sideline and pick up a first down after a 19-yard scramble.
The good vibes were short lived, though, when on the next play Smerage, attempting to fight for extra yards, fumbled and Jeremiah Sparks of Southmont recovered.
North Putnam scored on its next possession. Starting from their own 45, Everts connected with Jameson Brewer for 30 yards. Everts picked up three yards two plays later before hitting Tim Wiltermood with a delayed screen pass that went for 22 yards and a score, putting North Putnam up 20-6.
North tacked on more points on its next possession, an 8-play drive that went through the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth quarter and covered 76 yards, 62 of them on back to back plays from Smerage.
Everts hit the senior for a 30-yard pass before Smerage nearly broke an option play for the score, tackled just shy of the goal line. Everts finished the job on a 1-yard sneak to push the lead to 26-6, with the extra point blocked.
Southmont roared back and within two minutes had cut the deficit. Starting from their own 44, Burton completed four consecutive passes for gains of five, six, 15 and then 30 for a score, finding Drake Cooksey in the end zone to cut the lead to 26-12.
Three huge pass plays by Southmont saw them move from their own seven to the Cougar two in under thirty seconds late in the game. Burton hit Dan Barrett for gains of 38 and 33 before hitting Devon Burton for 26 yards and unsettling the Cougar defense.
The Mounties failed to break through, though, when Shorter picked off Burton in the end zone and sprinted 102 yards for a pick-six that sealed the game 33-12 in the Cougars' favor.
Afterwards, North Putnam head coach Brian Crabtree was impressed by the verve of Southmont.
"It unfolded kind of the way I thought it was going to. Watching them on film, they're a good football team. They're 0-2 right now but their losses are to the Class A state runner-up Fountain Central and the 2A state runner-up North Putnam," Crabtree said.
While Southmont did rack up 361 yards of offense, Crabtree felt the defense did what it needed to do.
"I think the defense keeps getting better every week. We've got some fresh faces over there that are learning as they go along. I see improvement from them every week," Crabtree said.
"It was kind of like this last week, too. Edgewood hit us on a couple plays, got down inside our 10, but we played pretty tough goal line defense for the most part. The biggest thing is stopping them from scoring."
"Do we need to get better? Yeah, but they're getting the job done," Crabtree added.
The offense had a bit of challenge in dealing with the defensive tackles of Southmont, who forced the Cougars to adapt as the game progressed.
"It's hard to gripe if you score four times in a football game. Typically, if you've got a good defense, that's usually enough to win," Crabtree said.
"We knew coming, after watching them on film, that they were going to be tough to move. I felt like our guys did a pretty good job, all things considered, them being behemoths like they are."
"We weren't as big as them up front but we still got a push and our adjustments were to work more off the edges, off-tackle stuff. Our offensive line did a good job on that," Crabtree noted.
"I could have called a better game. It came along later, but I don't fell I called that great of a game as a coach either. Our offense will be better in the future," Crabtree added.
Next for the Cougars is a trip to Cascade, who fell to 0-2 after losing to Monrovia Friday. For Crabtree and the Cougars, it's another week to get things right.
"I'll get the film tonight and look at it, but you've got to expect the unexpected. They'll be up for this game because, sometimes for a program that is struggling, if they knock off one of the better teams in the area, that makes a season for them," Crabtree said.
"This week of preparation is just as much about us as it is them. We've got some things we've got to fix and if we do we'll be fine next week."
At North Putnam
Southmont 0 6 0 6 -- 12
North Putnam 6 7 7 13 -- 33
NP -- 11:21 Smearge 22-yard run (Freund kick no good) 6-0
SM -- 9:03 VanCleave 1-yard run (Two point conversion failed) 6-6
NP -- 5:43 Spencer 4-yard run (Freund kick) 13-6
NP -- 3:47 Everts 22-yard pass to Wiltermood (Freund kick) 20-6
NP -- 9:50 Everts 1-yard run (Freund kick blocked) 26-6
SM -- 8:06 A. Burton 30-yard pass to Cooksey (Two point conversion failed) 26-12
NP -- 0:27 Shorter 102-yard interception return (Freund kick) 33-12
North Putnam -- Everts 11-114, TD; Spencer 18-58, TD; Smearge 4-58, TD; Shorter 4-26; Belcher 2-3
Southmont -- D. Burton 3-78; A. Burton 12-69; Brown 15-40; VanCleave 6-5, TD; Dove 4-8; Barrett 1-(-1)
Passing and Receiving
North Putnam -- Everts 5-8-90, TD, INT; Shorter 0-1-0; Smearge 1-30; Brewer 1-30; Wiltermood 1-18, TD; Shorter 1-11; Smith 1-4
Southmont -- A. Burton 12-20-152 , TD, INT; Barrett 5-84; D. Burton 3-37; Cooksey 1-30, TD: VanCleave 1-5; Dove 2-(-3);