Cougars win sectional title
Add two words to the phrase "Undefeated No. 3-ranked North Putnam Cougars."
The Cougars remained undefeated on the season and claimed their first sectional championship since 1990 with a 34-33 victory over Cascade at home Friday night.
North Putnam entered the fourth quarter trailing 33-27, and it looked briefly as though the Cougars' perfect season was about to be undone.
But Griffen Dahlstrom capped off a 48-yard drive for North Putnam when he carried the ball into the endzone from two yards out to knot the score at 33.
The extra point from NPHS quarterback Brayden Dahlstrom, and the Cougars had a one-point lead with 2:10 remaining in the game.
The Cadets had their opportunities on the final drive of the game, but they could get no closer than the North Putnam 12-yard line, and the clock expired, giving North Putnam a taste of sectional gold.
"It takes 48 minutes," North Putnam coach Dave Pasch said. "It takes every play of all 48 minutes to beat a team like (Cascade) and that's what we did."
Cascade (10-2) jumped out in front early in Friday's game, taking a 7-0 lead with 8:12 to go in the first quarter after Travis Short of the Cadets recovered his own fumble in the endzone.
Less than four minutes later, Cascade quarterback Jordon Stephenson found Brad Suter in the endzone for a 16-yard pass, and suddenly the Cadets were leading the Cougars 13-0 -- the same lead they held over the Cougars in the two teams' regular season meeting.
But North Putnam scored a touchdown with 1:01 to go in the first half when Jake Mullis recovered a Cougar fumble in the endzone to make it a 13-6 contest.
However, just 16 seconds into the second quarter, Stephenson hooked up with Michael Galyan for a 70-yard touchdown to put the Cadets ahead by 13.
The Cougars cut that deficit to six when Adam Vondersaar ran the ball in from 39 yards out to make it a 19-13 contest.
Cascade answered again with a two-yard carry from Short that made the score 26-13.
NPHS closed the gap once more on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Brayden Dahlstrom to Mullis with 4:02 to go in the half, making it a 26-20 ball game.
The Cougars took the lead with 2:14 to go in the second quarter when Vodnersaar ran the ball in from three yards out to score a touchdown, and the extra point from Dahlstrom was good.
Cascade recaptured the lead with 7:57 to go in the third quarter when Short had a one-yard carry, and the extra-point kick from Joel Fisher found its mark, giving the Cadets a 33-27 advantage.
In the end, though, the Cougars came out on top.
Although Cascade bettered the Cougars in total yards, 303-242, Coach Pasch didn't seem too concerned with what his stat sheets would tell him.
"There's only one stat in football that matters, and that's what it says up on the scoreboard," Pasch said.
Pasch gave a good deal of credit for the win to the unity his team has displayed time and time again this season.
North Putnam played all 55 players on its roster multiple times this season.
"I don't know in all my years of playing football and coaching it now that I've ever seen a closer group that has more faith in the guy standing next to him than these guys wearing these blue jerseys right here," Pasch said. "It was the same thing we've done all year. A team finds a way to make plays."
Pasch continued, "This is what the game of football's all about. The team that figures out how to do it together always finds a way."
The atmosphere on the field after the game seemed more like a party than the aftermath of a football game, as the Cougars and their fans celebrated their sectional championship.
But for Coach Pasch and the Cougars, the party will be short-lived.
Pasch said that the Cougars would begin its preparation to face Speedway in the regional championship on the road next week.
"Everything stays scheduled as usual," Pasch said. "All this means is that we're back to 0-0."
Dahlstrom passed for 104 yards, converting on 8-of-16 attempts.
He also paced the Cougars' running game, gaining 58 yards on 11 carries.
The Cougars (12-0) will take on the Sparkplugs at Speedway beginning at 7 p.m. Friday.
At North Putnam
Cascade 13 13 7 0 -- 33
North Putnam 6 21 0 7 -- 34
Cascade -- Short fumble recovery (Fisher kick) 8:12
Cascade -- Suter 16 pass from Jor. Stephenson (pass failed) 4:23
North Putnam -- Mullis fumble recovery (kick failed) 1:01
Cascade -- Galyan 70 pass from Jor. Stephenson (kick blocked) 11:34
North Putnam -- Vondersaar 39 run (B. Dahlstrom kick) 9:15
Cascade -- Short 2 run (Fisher kick) 5:44
North Putnam -- Mullis 12 pass from B. Dahlstrom (B. Dahlstrom kick) 4:02
North Putnam -- Vondersaar 3 run (B. Dahlstrom kick) 2:14
Cascade -- Short 1 run (Fisher kick) 7:57
North Putnam -- G. Dahlstrom 2 run (B. Dahlstrom kick) 2:10
First Downs -- Cascade 18, North Putnam 11
Passing Yards -- Cascade 71, North Putnam 104
Rushing Yards -- Cascade 232, North Putnam 138
Total Yards -- Cascade 303, North Putnam 242
Cascade --Jor. Stephenson 6-7-71
North Putnam -- B. Dahlstrom 8-16-104
Cascade -- Short 18-44, Suter 1-15, Jos. Stephenson 16-125, Jor. Stephenson 6-19, Hammond 2-29
North Putnam -- Rooker 10-3, Ban 1-35, B. Dahlstrom 11-58, Vondersaar 2-42
Next Game -- North Putnam will travel to Speedway next week to challenge the Sparkplugs for a regional championship.