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By Mike Scott
On paper, the Highland Cougars, should have defeated the Clark County Indians on Friday evening. Cougar quarterback Drew Mallett picked apart the Indian defense, connecting on 13 of 29 pass attempts for 173 passing yards. The Cougars had 330 yards of total offense, compared to the Indian’s 292.
Sometimes stats don’t reflect the game.
Both teams struggled early. The Indians punted away the opening possession without gaining a first down. Highland got a quick first down on the running of Robert Goehl, who pounded away all evening. A holding call pushed the Cougars back. On fourth and eight, the snap to the punter was low, and he scrambled for yardage, but came up short and Highland turned the ball over on downs on their own 28 yard line.
The Indians move the ball quickly to the 16 yard line, but coughed it up, and the Cougars took over at their own 11 yard line. Clark County’s defense held their ground, and forced a Highland punt.
The Indians started they’re third possession of the game on the Highland 40 yard line. Eight plays later, Indian quarterback scrambled four yards into the end zone to put Clark County ahead 6-0. Zander Johnson’s extra point kick missed, and Clark County led 6-0 with 1:05 left in the first quarter.
The Cougars had a good return on the kickoff, and gained a first down at the 45 yard line before a holding penalty pushed them way back, forcing a fourth and 25 punt.
Clark County went nowhere, and punted to the Highland four yard line. Gabe Hunziker took the handoff from Wheeler and cut into the end zone to score, putting the Indians up 12-20 with 8:05 left in the second quarter. Wheeler connected with a wide-open Layne Sommers for the two point conversion, and Clark County led 14-0.
Highland move the ball well in its next series, with Mallett and Goehl, joined by Brandon Holder, picking up yards for the Cougars. Highland moved the ball to midfield before the Indian defense stopped them. The Cougar punt rolled into the end zone, and the Indians would start their next drive at the 20 yard line.
Clark County found their rhythm, and a big pass to Bode James put the Indians in scoring position once again. But Noah Jones picked off a Wheeler pass in the end zone to end the Indian threat.
On the next play from scrimmage, Clark County got the ball back, as Dylan Bradley picked off a Drew Mallett pass.
Highland would get the ball back with just over minute remaining. A pass interference call in the end zone kept their drive alive, and Mallett connected with Devin Stutsman for a 15 yard touchdown pass with just one second remaining. The Cougar extra point kick was good, and at halftime, Clark County led 12-7.
Highland wasted no time tying the game in the second half, with Mallett connecting with Stutsman again, this time on a 55 yard touchdown. Holder’s extra point kick was good, and the game stood a 14-14 less than two minutes into the second half.
Clark County’s next drive ended with Cameron Bringer interception at the Indian 44 yard line. Fifteen plays later, Clark County’s defense would hold against Highland, stopping them at the seven yard line.
Clark County would score on a 47 yard Wheeler run with just 24 seconds left in the third quarter. The extra point kick missed, and the Indians were on top again, 20-14
On the next possession Mallett showed he could run too, getting a 45 yard gain. Highland turned over the ball when the snap hit the player in motion, and the loose ball was recovered by Clark County’s Logan Schlatter at the Indian 19 yard line.
Clark County fumbled the ball, and Highland had another chance from the Indian 41 yard line. Mallett was sacked, however, and the Cougars had to punt.
The Indians punted their next possession, and Highland would turn the ball over on downs at their own 24 yard line. The Indians added some insurance points on a two yard TD run by Wheeler, and held on for the 26-14 win.
“I was happy that we kept fighting throughout the whole game to get the win. Highland was a much improved team and we handled some negative situations well and did what we needed to do to win,” said Head Coach Ethan Allen.
The Indians host South Shelby next Friday.
“South Shelby has a new head coach so they look very different than what they have in the past. We will have to be ready for another hard fought game.”