TERRE HAUTE —
When the 2012 Terre Haute North High School football team, the best the school has had in quite a while, finally suffered a postseason loss — and the Patriots themselves weren’t convinced they were going to — it was certain to be a heartbreaker.
No one had any idea the hurt would be as bad as it was Friday night, however.
Visiting Avon, out of timeouts and scrambling with the clock running down, got off a 43-yard field goal as time expired, sending the Orioles home with a 16-14 win.
The fact that more than one player on the kicking team was probably offsides on the final play only added to the dismay.
“There are no words for that,” coach Chris Barrett said moments after his team’s season ended. “That’s a tough one … I feel terrible for my guys.”
North had the advantage in almost every statistic, but came out on the short end of two faked punts and fumbled a touchdown away.
Still, the Patriots seemed to be in good shape after Austin Lewis caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Chris Barrett II with 7:31 left in the game and the North defense got the ball back two minutes later.
North pulled a daring third-down play to keep the ball, Barrett II finding Lewis on a 41-yard strike down the sideline, but couldn’t keep the clock running and turned the ball over on downs at the Avon 33-yard line with 2:48 left to play. The Orioles got three first downs — two on pass completions, the other on a scramble by quarterback Cole Johnson — but faced third-and-13 in the waning seconds when Lewis sacked Johnson for a 10-yard loss.
Then Nyles Edwards, whose missed extra point had enabled North to be ahead 14-13, converted from 43 yards away and North’s pleas about the potential offsides call went unheeded.
“With [the Orioles] scrambling around like that, we’re counting on them making mistakes like that,” coach Barrett said after the game. “We had other chances to win the ballgame, and [the officials] did a good job … but you’ve got to call something like that.”
North seemed primed to break a scoreless tie late in the first quarter, when a 42-yard run by Brother Scank on a third-and-20 draw play put the Patriots deep in Oriole territory. One run to the end zone was nullified by a North penalty, but two plays later a Patriot receiver was on his way to paydirt when he was stripped of the ball — which rolled through the end zone for a touchback.
North failed to pick up the required yardage on its own fake punt near midfield on its next possession, and that seemed to wake up the Avon offense. The Orioles drove 55 yards in nine plays, taking a 7-0 lead on a 3-yard run by Derrick Tennant with 3:35 left in the first half.
North responded with a 75-yard drive in 14 plays before intermission, however, tying the score with 29 seconds left in the half on a 21-yard pass from the younger Barrett to Calvin Blank.
North’s first drive of the second half moved into Avon territory, but a field goal attempt was missed. Then Avon came back 80 yards in 12 plays — the big one a 22-yard gain on a fake punt — and scored on the second play of the fourth quarter.
The missed extra point by Edwards loomed large when North countered with a 70-yard, 10-play drive, Lewis and Charles Dillahunt each catching 19-yard passes to keep the chains moving, and Zach Potter gave the Patriots the lead after Lewis’s touchdown reception.
“We played hard,” coach Barrett said. “That was one heck of a field goal, especially after we make a great defensive play … I’m proud of the guys. They are a great group.”
Patriot seniors who ended their careers Friday have been key parts of two winning seasons the past three years, plus a first-division Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference finish. Several will be playing college football, several in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
“They are outstanding people,” coach Barrett said of the seniors. “They’ll be very productive with whatever they go to. They’ll add a lot to the community and be good fathers and good husbands … but I think [the season] ended prematurely for them.”