ROACHDALE -- North Putnam finally got a chance to play in front of the home crowd three weeks into the season as its hosted Cascade Friday night in their WCC opener for the season.
A week after being defeated by Southmont, it was the Cougars who used the ground game to great effect, rushing for 195 yards en route to a 26-14 win over the Cadets.
The Cougars forced a quick three and out on Cascade's first possession and capitalized six plays later, utilizing Kaleb Belcher on a screen pass for a 21-yard touchdown to take a 7-0 lead.
North Putnam's defense slammed back the Cadet offense a second time and Belcher hit pay dirt a second time with a 26-yard run to push the host's lead to 14-0.
Cascade responded after receiving excellent field position to start their third drive and two major North Putnam penalties.
The Cadets started just shy of midfield and ate up 51 yards in five plays, including 20 yards in Cougar penalties, before Zac Butler took a bootleg in from seven yards out to cut the deficit to 14-7.
The hosts responded in six plays. Converting a fourth down on a Jake Haste run, Trevor Smith hit Jameson Brewer for 38 yards, followed by a 14-yard strike to extend the lead to 20-7.
Cascade missed a 45-yard field goal at the end of the half to keep the scores locked in at 20-7 entering halftime.
North Putnam got back on the board on their second possession of the third quarter.
Runs of 26 yards from Beau Green and 40 yards from Jake Haste set the Cougars up deep in Cadet territory.
A pass interference call against the Cadets set up the hosts on the five yard line. Haste capped the six play, 81-yard drive with a five yard plunge to give the Cougars a 26-7 lead.
North Putnam's offense, while moving the football, stalled due to penalties throughout the contest. The Cougars were flagged 15 times for 111 yards.
Cascade scored with 10:59 to go in the game on a Zac Butler 33-yard run and nearly got a second score on a 67-yard burst that was wiped out due to a block in the back.
Even though the hosts could not find the endzone again, their ground-based attack eventually bled the clock out and the Cougars picked up their first WCC win of the season.
North Putnam head coach Greg Barrett said afterward the squad came out better prepared than against Southmont but found themselves plagued with penalties.
"We definitely came out better. We came out more focused and with more energy. The thing that killed us was the penalties," Barrett said.
"Those kill momentum and kill drives. We can't make those kinds of mistakes and play championship football. Those are things we'll work on.
"We got better at a lot of things tonight and this is a good win for us. Hopefully we'll build upon this and get better as we go," Barrett added.
With starting running back Belcher seeing limited activity due to injury, Barrett said the ability to have multiple players in the offensive attack made the squad harder to defend.
"I think it makes us more dynamic when you have a lot of guys that can touch the ball. It's a matter of those guys not being confused and getting to the right spots," Barrett said.
"Those are things we'll get better at because we move a lot of guys around. One minute they're in the slot; the next their out wide. It's something that comes with experience."
Barrett added that the defense was solid but still has some things to work on with a major WCC and Putnam County clash with rivals South Putnam looming next week.
"We've got to do a better job of containing. Cascade had a good quarterback and running back with good wide receivers to throw to," Barrett said.
"Defensively, we have to shore up the running game. I thought we did decent against the pass at times, but the biggest thing we have to worry about as we prepare for South Putnam is stopping the run."
"Coach (Troy) Burgess does a great job with those guys and they're going to run, so we've got to shore up our front line," Barrett added.
"We've got to be ready for a physical game. We've got a lot of respect for that program while Coach Burgess and I have a great relationship."
"We're both competitors and we get excited for this game. After the game, we're still good friends and that's what's neat about this rivalry," Barrett said.
"We know it's going to be a hard-fought game, especially after last year's sectional final loss. They've battled with us every time and I wouldn't expect anything different next week."
At North Putnam
Cascade 7 0 0 7 -- 14
North Putnam 14 6 6 0 -- 26
NP -- 6:24 Belcher 21-yard pass from Smith (Zaring kick) 7-0
NP -- 3:30 Belcher 27-yard run (Zaring Kick) 14-0
CA -- 1:25 Smith 7-yard run (Bajwa kick) 14-7
NP -- 1:05 Brewer 14-yard pass from Smith (XP no good) 20-7
NP -- 3:45 Haste 5-yard run (XP no good) 26-7
CA -- 10:59 Butler 33-yard run (Bajwa kick) 26-14
Cascade 216; North Putnam 326
Rushing -- Cascade 31-162 (Butler 17-91, Smith 14-71, TD); North Putnam 35-195 (Belcher 10-76, TD, Haste 8-65, TD, Green 3-33, Riggen 2-9, Smith 4-8, Brewer 2-6, Day 5-(-1), Flynn 1-(-1))
Passing -- Cascade -- Smith 6-10-56, INT, Donovan 1-1-(-2); North Putnam -- Smith 10-15-131 2 TD
Receiving -- Cascade -- Bajwa 3-30, Bobadilla 2-15, Smith 1-(-1); North Putnam -- Brewer 6-95, TD, Belcher 2-32, TD, Day 1-6, Haste 1-4
First Downs -- Cascade 9; North Putnam 10
Turnovers -- Cascade 1; North Putnam 0
Penalties -- Cascade 11-107; North Putnam 15-111
Next game -- North Putnam travels to South Putnam Friday at 7 p.m.