BY SCOTT R. FISHER
Mistakes are going to happen in every football game. The key to winning is overcoming the mistakes that are made and forcing your opponent into making bigger mistakes.
The North Greene Huskies could not overcome the big mistakes made Friday night at The Tundra. The result was a 22-8 loss against conference foe Cloudland.
The loss drops the Huskies to 4-5 on the season with one game remaining on their schedule. The team has next week off before concluding the season with a home game against Hancock County.
"Kids make mistakes, especially teen-aged kids," said North Greene head coach Josh Edens. "We went back-and-forth with them. We still had a chance to win."
The North Greene defense forced three turnovers. Unfortunately, the team was also prone to turning the ball over. The Huskies gave the ball away four times on two fumbles and two interceptions.
At one point during the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth, there were three straight turnovers on three plays. First North Greene fumbles, then Cloudland tossed a pick and the Highlanders got the ball right back with an interception.
"I think it was just two good defenses," Edens said about the high number of turnovers. "We cannot put the ball on the ground like that or give it away in the air."
The game was much closer than the final score indicates. North Greene was driving with just seconds remaining and a chance to win the football game.
The Huskies faced fourth-and-three and trailed 14-8. Senior Tanner O'Laughlin's pass was intercepted at the goal line by senior Jeffery Rhinehart and returned 100 yards for the final score of the contest.
"That was tough for Tanner," Edens said. "He was back-peddling and threw off his back foot. We had a guy open. Their player just jumped in front of the pass."
While the offense struggled much of the game for North Greene, the defense came up big on many occasions. Twice in the first half, the Highlanders were denied a touchdown after driving inside the 10-yard line. Plus, the defense came up with a safety which set up the chance at the end to win the game.
North Greene took advantage of the first turnover of the contest to grab a 6-0 lead. Senior Mason Early recovered the loose ball on the second play from scrimmage.
The Huskies marched 46 yards in 10 plays for the opening score. Early punched the ball across the goal line with a one-yard run. Early carried the ball seven times on the drive for 18 yards.
That touchdown would stand as the score at halftime. The Huskies led the game 6-0 despite being outgunned 204 yards to just 81.
Cloudland did not waste their first possession of the second half. The Highlanders took the ball 69 yards in 10 plays to even the score. Rhinehart finished off the scoring drive with a 10-yard scamper with 3:03 remaining in the third quarter.
Rhinehart accounted for nearly all of the yards for Cloudland on the scoring drive. He had two runs for 18 yards and a pass that covered 39 yards,
North Greene came up with a huge block of the attempted extra point to ensure the score remained 6-6.
Then the turnovers started coming in bunches. The Huskies turned the ball over on three straight possessions.
The Highlander's Tyler Whitehead came up huge for his team early in the fourth quarter. He intercepted O'Laughlin's pass to prevent the Huskies from scoring. Whitehead then broke through the North Greene defense and raced down the middle of the field for an 84-yard scoring run.
What made the two plays by the Cloudland senior so big was North Greene was knocking on the door to take the lead. Sophomore Zane Britton had just intercepted Rhinehart and returned it 40 yards down to the Highlander 25-yard line.
All the momentum appeared to be swinging in favor of the home team. That quickly changed thanks to Whitehead.
North Greene came up with another big defensive play after punting the ball back to Cloudland. Senior Codie Coleman recovered a fumble by the Highlanders.
The offense could only advance to midfield before Tyler Bailey bombed a punt that settled down at the Highlander's two yard line.
Whitehead was tackled in the endzone on the next play by senior David Triantas. That sliced the lead down to 14-8 and gave the Huskies a chance to come back and steal the victory.
Rhinehart's interception killed the chance at a thrilling win for the Huskies.
While the loss drops North Greene below .500, coach Edens says the team still has a chance to extend its year,
"The season is not over," he said. "We get a week to rest. We have to work on us. We we have to work out the problems,"
In two weeks, the Huskies close the regular season with a chance to finish 5-5 and Edens believes that could be enough to make the playoffs.
"We are still in the playoff hunt," he said. "We still have a chance to get in the playoffs."
North Greene must limit the mistakes and knock off Hancock County to make that a reality.