Red zone offense costs Huskies
CADIZ — Harrison Central had little trouble moving the ball Friday against unbeaten Western Reserve, with one small exception.
That exception was the 60 feet between the Blue Devils’ goal line and their 20.
The hard-luck Huskies (1-2) outgained the visitors 328-265 and had six more first downs, 17-11. However, they finished with nine fewer points, falling 17-8.
The problem was the red zone. Harrison made five trips into scoring territory and only came away with an 8-yard scoring connection from David Miser to Nate Olmstead in the second quarter.
The other four resulted in two interceptions and two turnovers on downs.
“They did a good job with a bend but don’t break philosphy,” Harrison Central coach Justin Kropka explained. “They were able to take away the run and, once we got inside the 20 they toughened up.”
Harrison’s first two drives resulted in three-and-outs as the Huskies tried unsuccessfully to establish the run against an aggressive Blue Devils’ front that was generating a considerable push up the middle.
The Huskeis finished with 78 rushing yards, led by 49 from Miser, but most of those yards came from Miser scrambling away from an unrelenting pass rush for positive yards.
The third time out, Harrison switched up its strategy, opting to start throwing on first down. The move proved successful.
“They were giving us the pass and we took advantage,” Kropka said. “They really didn’t do anything different than what we saw (on film). We had a couple of chances that we didn’t take advantage of and made some mental mistakes.”
The first mistake came during the first quarter.
After forcing a Devils’ turnover on downs at the Huskies’ 4, Harrison attempted to push out unsuccesfully on the ground. On third down, Miser rolled to his right and had to force a throw to avoid a sack. A miscommunication with his receiver on his route enabled John Clegg to step in front of the pass and return it 14 yards for an early 7-0 lead.
After Olmstead’s touchdown reception in the second, the Devils answered right back.
Dan Zilke ripped off a 27-yard run to the Harrison 30. The next play, quarterback Nick Allison lofted a pass down the visitor’s sideline for a wide open Joe Falasca for a 30-yard scoring strike.
The defender guarding Falasca had falled in the grass, leaving him wide open.
It was basically the only defensive mistake Harrison made most of the night.
Western Reserve’s offensive line averaged more than 270 pounds across, yet for the most part, the Huskies were able to bottle up the visitors’ run game.
Allison finished with 105 passing yards and Zilke totaled 94 on the ground but Harrison’s defense routinely got off the field unscathed.
The final tally of the night came after Harrison had forced another stop inside their half off the field.
On fourth down from his team’s 41-yard-line, Western Reserve’s Parker Clegg placed a perfect punt in the coffin corner, giving Harrison the ball at its own 2-yard-line.
Two plays later, Miser scrambled to avoid the rush but was hit and fumbled. A Huskies’ lineman recovered, resulting in a safety.
“We’ve been doing a lot of the big things well,” Kropka said. “But we need to start taking care of the little things.”
Miser finished 20 of 36 for 250 yards, finishing with one touchdown against four interceptions.
The Huskies will look to even their record at 2-2 next Friday when Buckeye 8 plays begins and undefeated Union Local comes calling.
Hughes may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org