North Rallies in Second Half
J. C. Tilton
TriCounty North matched up against the Bethel Bee's for their last home game of the season. Both teams were playing for pride. The CCC championship was out of reach for both teams and neither netted enough computer points to make the playoffs. For North it was a chance to improve on last years record and finish with a winning season. A loss would mean the repeat of another .500 season. But for the Panthers to win they would have to contain running threat Derek Goins who is the main scorer for Bethel.
It was a cool, crisp night and although it was dry and windless, the cold air must have made it difficult to handle the ball. Both teams had turnovers in the first half, and neither team could generate much offense. It was turning into a defense struggle as North kept Goins from breaking outside, but on the other hand Bethel held when they had to and denied North from scoring. In the second quarter Bethel took to the air and connected on a pass play from midfield for the sole touchdown of the first half. They went to the locker room with a 7-0 lead.
TCN took control of the ballgame in the second half. The game plan was simplified, they drove the ball into the teeth of the Bethel defense and used Matt Zumstein to hammer the ball in between the tackles. The offensive line for TCN wore down the Bee Defense as they opened holes for the North running attack. But the opening drive of the third quarter stalled in the red zone. On a 4th and 4 play on the Bethel 15, North quarterback Ty Dunham drove thru the line behind Zumstein and didn't stop until he crossed the goal line for North's first score of the night. The PAT attempt failed, so Bethel still retained a slim 7-6 lead.
Both teams exchanged possessions, with neither managing a threat. Late in the 3rd quarter and in the early part of the 4th quarter, North repeated their formula for success. Zumstein had a nice 25 yard gain to put the ball into Bethel territory. The team was pounding the ball down field only to stall again in the red zone. On another 4th down play, it was Dunham who again found running room and beat Bethel defenders to the corner of the endzone for a score. The PAT run attempt failed, it was 12-7 North, but would the failed extra points come back to haunt the team down the stretch?
The ball game was in the hands of the North defense. A determined Bethel offense began to march the ball downfield. In North territory the drive appeared to stall, but Bethel converted a 4th and 1 play and advanced on into the red zone of TCN. Here the defense dug in their heels. It was 4th and 9 when a Bethel pass was swatted away and North took over on downs. North managed a first down, but could not generate another and had to punt.
Time was winding down, and Bethel had just 4 minutes left on the clock. They opted to go to the pass. Matt Ferguson who had sacked the quarterback earlier in the game, pressured the passer and managed to get a hand on the ball as it left the quarterbacks hand. The errant ball went straight to AJ Summers who hauled in his second interception of the night. North had good field position but could not march the ball any closer to the goal line and opted for a field goal attempt. The ball went wide right and Bethel got the ball back on the their own 20 with a little over a minute left in the game. A desperate Bethel team went to the air again. This time North linebacker John Heeter dashed any hopes of a last minute comeback when he picked off a pass. The North defense had stopped Bethel. As the clocked ticked down to zero, North went to the victory formation and took a knee to seal a victory. I watched parents and fans leave the stands to gather around the team celebrating victory at midfield, I thought what a way for North seniors to finish their season - coming from behind to win a close game at home against a tough opponent to seal a 6-4 Panther record. It was a moment when playing for pride had meaning. Comments: email: Chris Tilton