BY WILL WILLEMS
WEST LAFAYETTE – Friday night’s football game between Western Boone and Harrison was a good early season test for both teams.
Unfortunately for the Stars, the back-and-forth contest didn’t go their way and the host Raiders topped them 25-20 to drop the Stars to 1-1 on the season.
“We had a little bit of a letdown in the first half and made some mistakes and they jumped on us,” Western Boone head coach Justin Pelley said. “But give them credit, they are a good 5A football team and we were right there with chances to win at the end.”
Both teams moved the ball deep into the opponent’s territory on their opening drives, but settled for field goals.
Western Boone led 3-0 on a 30-yard field goal by Jackson Imboden, but the Raiders came back with a 24-yard field goal by Daniel Madren.
Neither team was able to do anything the rest of the first quarter, but that changed quickly in the second frame.
Harrison went 65 yards on 13 plays on their first drive of the second quarter, converting three third downs in the process. The drive was capped by a 1-yard quarterback sneak by J’Dan Sturgeon. The Raiders went up eight on a two-point conversion by Dawson Dahnke.
Needing a response, the Stars got it.
The Stars had their most impressive drive of the game, going 83 yards on 12 plays, and converting three third downs in the process.
Facing a third and four from the Harrison 23, the Stars ran the triple option and scored when Jack Gilliam scampered in off the right side. Logan Marsh dove in for the twopoint conversion to knot the game with 2:30 left in the opening half.
But just when it looked like the Stars would have momentum heading into the half, it was taken away. A big kickoff return set up Harrison on the Western Boone 46, and after a 40-yard completion down to the Western Boone 2, Harrison scored with 1:46 left in the half and carried a 17-11 lead into the intermission.
The second half was more of a defensive struggle. Western Boone forced punts on Harrison’s first three possessions of the half, and took 1-point lead when Logan Marsh scored from 8-yards out – plus Imboden’s kick – early in the third quarter.
Western Boone’s defense allowed just 173 yards in the game, and minus-3 in the second half.
“We just wanted to make sure we were doing our stuff,” Pelley said. “We had some guys lining up on the wrong side, and that happens in high school football sometimes. Our guys were just trying to mke plays and once we got them reigned in a little bit they got back to what we do.”
The game ultimately turned against Western Boone on a three play sequence late in the third quarter.
With the Stars backed up on their one yardline, quarterback Nathanial Bye (20-of-33, 112 yards) found Kaleb Mc-Closkey for a 26 yard gain. But when taken down, Mc-Closkey got a knock on his knee and was forced to miss a couple of plays.
Without their leading receiver, the Stars ran on the next two plays, and Bye was stripped going for extra yards and Harrison recovered on the WeBo 23. Five plays later, Harrison scored and took the lead for good.
“When Kaleb goes out we are a different team,” Pelley said. “He is a threat on outside. We ran an inside play and we got hung up a little bit. Nathanial was trying to make a play and they were able to strip the ball. We wish we could have a couple of those plays back, but we will learn from it too.”
Western Boone had one last chance in the game. Getting the ball with 7:41 left on their own 35, Western Boone marched down to the Harrison 26, but faced fourth and four.
A pass interference penalty kept the drive alive and moved the Stars to the Harrison 13.
After a two yard loss and a penalty, the Stars were on the 20 yardline and had threestraight passes fall incomplete in the endzone and turned it over with 1:53 left.
Harrison took a safety with 10 seconds left and WeBo couldn’t mount a miracle.
“We had chances,” Pelley said. “Bye was running for his life back there too and was trying to make plays. He makes those plays a lot, but today we airmailed a couple. Hopefully we get them next week.”
McCloskey finished with eight catches for 105 yards.
Also having a big game was Jack Gilliam, who had eight catches for 81 yards and added 24 yards rushing.
“He is a player,” Pelley said. “Last year we threw him into the fire at quarterback, and there is no tougher position to play as a freshmen. Having that experience helped him. He isn’t timid and just goes out there and plays.
Western Boone hosts Crawfordsville next week.
Pelley said his team has to grow from Friday’s loss.
“I am proud of our kids,” Pelley said. “We are going to watch the film and get better from this. This was a football game tonight and it is fun to coach in these games. We came up on the short end of the stick tonight, but that is going to happen when you play good teams. If we can learn from it, and have a chance to win the game, that is all you can ask for.”
WESTERN BOONE’S JACK GILLIAM stiff arms a Harrison defender on Friday night.
WESTERN BOONE’S LOGAN MARSH scores the Stars’ second touchdown on Friday.