Cougars improve to 4-1 with win over Cloverdale

Saturday, September 15, 2018

BAINBRIDGE — After a meltdown at Sullivan last week the North Putnam Cougars bounced back in quick fashion Friday night, beating the Cloverdale Clovers 49-14 on their own field.

The win keeps the Cougars in fourth place in the WIC West Division with a chance to climb up to first in a three-way tie with wins over Greencastle in week eight and over Northview next week.

“Our offense had been held to three touchdowns over the last two weeks,” Cougar Coach Sam Carnes said. “This Cloverdale team is 0-5 but they’ve played good teams and have played them well. We wanted to come out and establish our offense like we did in week two. We made some blunders but effort really made up for it.”

The start from North Putnam (4-1, 1-1 WIC West) was so quick that on the first play of the game running back Chris Murray sprinted into the end zone from 72 yards out to give the Cougars a 7-0 lead. Murray had three rushing touchdowns and 133 yards rushing on only nine carries.

“We started off the game a little slow,” Clover coach Tom Winders said. “They outran us and outblocked us.”

After a quick drive the Cougars decided to stretch their next drive out over 15 plays that resulted in six first downs and a one-yard rushing touchdown by junior Aidan Baker. The Cougars did get help from two Cloverdale (0-5, 0-2 WIC East) penalties on the drive but it was also impressive because North overcame two holding calls.

Those four penalties were the only ones in the first quarter, which lasted only about half an hour, but a barrage of penalties in the second half stretched out the first half to almost two hours. The Cougars committed 13 penalties in the game for 134 yards while the Clovers committed only nine for 75 yards. All of theirs were in the first half.

North Putnam scored two more touchdowns in the first half on an 88-yard reception by Kevin Barger from Evan Davies and a 30-yard run from Murray before the Clovers finally scored.

James Johnson scored on a 23-yard reception from Parker Watts with 5:17 remaining in the half, which was set up because of two Cougar pass interferences on the drive. Murray scored one more time in the half to make it 35-8 at halftime.

“We’ve been working with Parker,” Winders said. “He’s got a heck of an arm. Each game he feels more comfortable in the pocket. I think we’re seeing more of that, which is a good sign.”

Of the five Cougar scores in the first half, four came on three-play possessions or less. That 15-play drive was by far the longest possession of the night.

“We’ve got great play capabilities because we have so many great athletes,” Carnes said. “When Chris Murray gets through that first line and it’s one on one with the safety, that’s just not fair. Our receivers are some of the fasted receivers as well. We’ve got great speed on the edge and at running back.”

Cloverdale had a bright moment that got the crowd on its feet only to be sat down quickly to start the second half. Johnson caught a reception on the first drive that went 72 yards but he fumbled at the goal line. Senior James Duncan stripped him and recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback.

Watts did make plays for the Clovers, though, making passes like that to Johnson and he also bought time in the pocket allowing his receivers to draw penalties. He threw for 124 yards on the night, completing 6-of-23 passes. He did throw three interceptions, though.

“Our O-line did a pretty good job tonight,” Winders said. “They gave Watts plenty of time in the pocket tonight. I thought we didn’t do bad their but our defense didn’t do a good job at all. We weren’t attacking down hill.”

The quick drives continued for the Cougars, scoring on nine- and three-play possessions on each of their first two drives of the second half.

Baker scored his second one-yard rushing touchdown of the night on the first possession after the fumble recovery from Duncan and Lucius Alexander scored on a 12-yard reception from Davies. This concluded the Cougar scoring before turning things over to the junior varsity.

Cloverdale got on the board late with its junior varsity when Xavier Evans caught an eight-yard pass from Corey Bennett. The run failed on the conversion and that was the final scoring of the night.

A balanced offense has been something the Cougars have struggled with all year but with 238 total rushing yards and 219 rush yards, there was much-needed improvement seen on Friday. Moving further into the season against teams like Northview and Greencastle, this will be a key to victory if they want to have any chance.

“Week one we had 300 yards on the ground and week two we had 260 yards in the air,” Carnes said. “If our kids are locked in, we can do a lot of things well offensively. We take what the defense gives up. Our offense isn’t the easiest out there, but the kids do a good job of staying locked in.”

North Putnam will have one of those tough tests next week when it travels to Northview at 7 p.m. The Clovers will host Brown County at 7 p.m.

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Individual statistics

Rushing -- Cloverdale (29-85): N. Bennett 3-36, Abner 6-18, Smith 4-10, Holder 3-9, Fox 1-8, Watts 8-4, Blevins 1-1, C. Bennett 3-(-1).

North Putnam (30-238): Murray 9-133, Davies 5-62, Baker 10-35, 4-21, Greene 1-(-2), Lawrence 1(-11).

Passing -- Cloverdale: Watts 6-23 124 TD 3 INT, C. Bennett 1-2 8 TD INT. North Putnam: Davies 9-15 219 2 TD.

Receiving -- Cloverdale: Johnson 2-72 TD, Wilkes 3-34, Evans 1-8 TD, Smith 1-5. North Putnam: Barger 1-88 TD, Alexander 4-55 TD, Clifford 2-40, Murray 2-36.