BY AARON PATTERSON firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — CAYUGA, Ind. — One of the biggest challenges for the North Vermillion Falcons football team might be remaining humble.
It’s not that head coach Brian Crabtree has issues with his team’s character, but too much success can sometimes have a reverse affect.
So far, Crabtree has had his team under control. In his 19 games as head coach at North Vermillion, he has yet to lose a regular season contest, and his teams have won 17 consecutive regular season games in a row. The latest came on Friday in a 39-0 win over Rockville.
“I think our kids believe in our team,” Crabtree said. “We all believe in each other. Any time you are in that kind of situation, the real battle is to maintain humility. Nights like tonight helped that a little bit because it wasn’t a runaway, and we had to work really hard.
“I think we were reminded how vulnerable we are every time we step onto the field, potentially. We’re grateful every time we win, but we have to remain humble. Just stay humble.”
Though the win didn’t feel like a runaway to the North Vermillion coaching staff, the Falcons did little wrong. They never turned the ball over and racked up 433 yards behind the offensive line of Zeth Jumps, Kaleb Hill, Robbie Davis, Ethan Kunkle, and Lucas Clark. On defense, the Falcons forced Rockville (5-2 overall, 4-1 in the Wabash River Conference) to cough the ball up twice and turn it over on downs two times.
“I thought the defense overall did some nice things,” Crabtree said. “I think we can play better. I think on the offensive side, as well, I think we can play better than what we did in the first half. I felt like the second half was a lot more of our style of football.”
North Vermillion led Rockville 15-0 at halftime, but it began to pull away midway through the third quarter when a crucial turnover that by the Rox kept Rockville out of the end zone and led to North Vermillion’s third touchdown of the game.
The Rox burned up nearly five minutes of the third quarter on a drive that had the potential to get them back in the game. But the Falcon’s defense toughened up.
Rockville had three attempts from inside the five yard line — once, just inches from the goal line — to push the ball into the end zone. But the Falcons’ defense stripped the ball from the hands of running back Ben Cunningham. North Vermillion’s Ethan Lee recovered the fumble, and it took only two plays to put the Falcons up 22-0.
Quarterback Brayden Woodard ran for 16 yards, and then following a false start penalty, Jacob Earl ran 86 yards virtually untouched for his second touchdown of the game.
“We started kind of slow, but we came back in the second half firing,” Woodard said. “It was a great game. It was our toughest competition yet.”
Earl ran for 120 yards on 10 carries while Woodard finished with 135 yards rushing and 109 passing. Woodard found the end zone twice, once on a two-yard run, and another on a 39-yard run.
Woodard’s first touchdown came just moments after Earl, on defense, stripped the ball out of the hands of Cunningham. On the first play of North Vermillion’s drive, Woodard connected with Ethan Lee for a 44-yard completion. Lee, who finished with 76 receiving yards, also ran for 76 yards and one touchdown.
The win marked the fifth shutout this season for the Falcons’ defense which has given up only seven points as a first-team unit this season.
“It gives us a big confidence boost if we stop them, but if they’re moving the ball on us, we just have to move them and push them back,” said Kunkle, who had a team-high 11 tackles. Jumps finished with eight tackles, and Lucas Clark and Lee each had 5.5.
Defeating Rockville in what was expected to be their biggest challenge so far this season has the Falcons in prime position to defend their WRC title. But, standing in their way next week will be the undefeated Fountain Central Mustangs.
“I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t thought about Fountain Central yet,” Crabtree said. “Rockville is kind of a rivalry game. They are a good football team, so my focus had to be there all week. I can start thinking about Fountain Central now. They are an outstanding football team. We’re going to have to have a great week of practice, that’s for sure.”
North Vermillion defeated Fountan Central last season 25-21 after losing five consecutive meetings.