ROACHDALE -- The Greencastle Tiger Cubs took advantage of the storm delay on Friday night, regrouped and earned their first varsity football victory over the North Putnam Cougars since 2004 on Saturday afternoon at Cougar Stadium.
The undefeated Class 3A No. 7-ranked Tiger Cubs intercepted five Cougar passes, and Brett Gierke returning one for a touchdown, en route to the 18-7 West Central Conference win.
It is the first time the Greencastle seniors have beaten North Putnam in varsity football. The 6-0 Tiger Cubs are 3-0 in the WCC.
"This is awesome," senior Mac Shuee said. "The feeling is just perfect. We practiced hard all week. We practiced hard for South Putnam and we see the WCC (championship) right there."
It's the third straight loss for North Putnam, now 2-4 and 1-2 in the WCC.
"Turnovers have killed us the whole year," North Putnam coach Greg Barrett said. "I'm not real pleased with the way our offense played today. I really thought our defense played great. I thought we had some great effort. It wasn't like they weren't trying. Greencastle is a good team and you can't have five turnovers and expect to make things happen."
This was not a game for big offensive numbers. Greencastle tallied just 170 yards of total offense and North Putnam just 141, as both defenses made big plays.
The beginning and end of this contest was literally and figuratively like night and day.
On Friday night, with storms approaching and rain falling, the Cougars accepted the opening kick off and used the emotion of homecoming and playing their county rival to dominate play. NPHS had the football for 7:47, running the football right up the middle of a Greencastle defense that was obviously still adjusting to the absence of linebacker Carter Lewis, who is out with an injury.
NPHS finished the game with 83 rushing yards, and 33 yards of that came on the opening drive.
Then came the lightning and the game was postponed to Saturday.
Greencastle's defense was dominant on Saturday, intercepting five passes, while holding North to 93 yards of total offense. And while the Tiger Cubs never sacked the Cougars quarterback, Gierke, Alec Pettit, Cody Mundy, Nate Christy and Tanner Nicholson all intercepted passes.
"(The postponement) definitely helped that we got a little break," Shuee said. "(The Cougars) were kind of running all over us, but we got it together and came out today and we showed them Greencastle football."
Buis gave the Greencastle seniors credit for the night and day performance on defense.
"It was nothing the coaching staff did. It was those seniors getting together in the locker room last night and getting together in our walk through today and saying, 'Enough is enough. Let's go out there and play Tiger Cub football,'" Buis said.
It's the second time this season NPHS had to complete a game on Saturday and with the same result.
"We started off really good (Friday) night. This is the second time this has happened to us. The same thing happened in
the South Putnam game. I'm speechless right now," Barrett said.
Defense, a good punt and a strong wind combined to set up Greencastle's first touchdown.
With the wind to his back, Greencastle's Pettit got off a 48-yard punt to the North 6-yard line.
Then, on North's third down and two yard to go for a first down, Greencastle's Gierke made the stop and forced the Cougars to punt into the gusting winds out of the northwest. The punt traveled 12 yards and Greencastle took possession on the NPHS 25-yard line.
Just four plays later, after the second quarter began and with the aid of a grabbing-the-facemask penalty, Pettit took a shovel pass from Tyler Scott for a three-yard touchdown play. The point-after touchdown kick into the wind failed.
Greencastle chewed up eight minutes of the second quarter with a 15-play drive.
Scott, who was 6-9 passing for 78 yards and one touchdown, threw a near perfect pass over the outside shoulder of Seth Brown, who pulled in the ball against two Cougars defenders for 28 yards.
But at the NPHS 5-yard line, a high center snap went through Scott's hands and the Cougars recovered the ball at their own 17-yard line.
Greencastle's defense stepped up at the right time. On the next play from scrimmage, Gierke intercepted the Cougars' pass and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown and 12-0 Tiger Cubs lead with 1:32 left in the first half.
"That was a big touchdown," Buis said. "Brett Gierke, our defensive end, did a great job tracking the ball in the air. That was a huge play, a turning point in the game."
That touchdown was huge because in the third period the Cougars snapped Greencastle's defensive string of 19 straight scoreless quarters (they played only two quarters against Indianapolis Arlington).
Taking possession at the Greencastle 44-yard-line, NPHS scored in just five plays. Facing a third down and six, Kaleb Belcher, the game's leading rusher with 55 yards, completed a halfback pass to Jake Haste for 11 yards and a first down.
With the Tiger Cubs keying on Belcher, Smith threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Jameson Brewer.
It is the first touchdown scored against Greencastle since the opening quarter of the season against Monrovia.
"I'm disappointed with the touchdown we gave up, especially when everybody in the stands and both sides of the ball, including the coaching staff and all the players, knew who they were going to throw it to. (Brewer is) really a talented young man," Buis said.
But in the fourth quarter the Tiger Cubs defense redeemed itself with three pass interceptions.
With North Putnam facing a third down and six, Greencastle's Mundy picked off a pass to give the Tiger Cubs possession at the Cougars' 18-yard line. Pettit carried the football three straight downs, scoring from the 11-yard line to put the Tiger Cubs on top, 18-7.
Interceptions by Christy, and on the final play of the game, by Nicholson, closed out Greencastle's sixth win of the season.
At North Putnam
Greencastle 18, North Putnam 7
North Putnam 0-0-7-0--7
G -- Alec Pettit 3 pass from Tyler Scott (kick failed), 11:50, 6-0.
G -- Brett Gierke 18 interception return (run failed), 1:32, 12-0.
NP -- Jameson Brewer 19 pass from Trevor Smith (Taylor Zaring kick), :08, 12-7.
G -- Pettit 11 run (kick failed), 5:55, 18-7.
First downs 8 7
Rushes-yards 41-92 34-83
Passing yards 78 58
Comp-Att-Int 6-9-0 5-17-5
Total offense 50-170 51-141
Return yards 79 29
Punts-Avg. 4-27.2 5-27.8
Fumbles-lost 3-2 1-0
Penalties-yards 8-76 6-35.5
Rushing -- Greencastle: Christy 18-48, Pettit 12-31, Scott 9-7, Shuee 2-6. North Putnam: Belcher 22-55, Haste 3-8, Green 3-7, Quates 3-(-5), Brewer 2-14, Murray 1-3.
Passing -- Greencastle: Scott 6-9-0--78. North Putnam: Smith 4-16-5--47, Belcher 1-1-0--11.
Receiving -- Greencastle: Brown 2-41, Christy 2-5, Shuee 1-29, Pettit 1-3. North Putnam: Haste 2-17, Brewer 1-19, Belcher 1-15, Murray 1-7.
Next game -- Next Friday, Greencastle (6-0, 3-0 in WCC) travels to Cloverdale (0-6, 0-3), while North Putnam (2-4, 1-2 in WCC) visits Monrovia.