Times Sports Editor
There was no shortage of fireworks both on the field and in the sky at Northview High School on Friday night.
As expected, both Terre Haute North and Northview's offenses took center stage in what quickly became a shootout that produced a combined 90 points and a 1,000 yards of offense.
The quarterback match-up drew plenty of attention coming in as Northview junior, Trent Lancaster and Patriots' senior signal caller, Chris O'Leary, had put up some impressive numbers.
But on this night it was the Patriots' Daniel Gabbard who made the biggest impression. The junior running back might be diminutive in size (5'9, 170lbs.), but not in talent as he posted a four-touchdown night as North outscored the Knights 54-36.
"Just way too many big plays," Northview coach George Gettle said following the game. "We just couldn't get them stopped and that's to (North's) credit, they've got a lot of good athletes, but it's not like it was unexpected. We'll just have to review the tape and see if there are some things that we did incorrectly or scheme-wise. Don't take anything away from them, they are pretty talented, but we just couldn't get stops when we needed them."
A lot of that talent was in the backfield for the Patriots as O'Leary ran for more than 100 yards and threw for 170 yards as well.
Despite all that firepower, the Knights actually led in the second half after falling behind 35-20 at halftime.
Starting on their own 33-yard line, Lancaster found Zac Niehaus for a 15-yard gain and then took the ball himself and raced 29 yards into Patriots' territory. From there, Damon Hyatt set Northview up with a first-and-goal situation with an eight-yard run and Lancaster finished the job with a seven-yard score. On the two-point conversion, Lancaster found tightend Jonathan Bradshaw for one of his three conversion catches in the game. He also had a first half interception that led to the Knights first score.
Trailing just 35-28, the Knights were able to get the Patriots' offense off the field for one of the few times in the game and took over at its own 20-yard line after a touchback.
The Knights strung together an impressive drive that went for 14 plays and covered all 80 yards, ending in an eight-yard pass to Drake Stevenson, who also had a huge game for the Knights. Bradshaw caught the conversion pass and the momentum seemed to be tucked in Northview's back pocket with a 36-35 lead with 2:42 left in the third period.
But as they did all night, the Patriots responded quickly on a big play by Gabbard.
Ben King ripped off nine yards and a pass to Chad Holler gave the Patriots a first down at the Knights 43-yard line. Gabbard did the rest, flashing through the line and scampering to paydirt and North was back on top 41-36 barely a minute after the Knights had scored.
The Patriots held Northview on the next drive, sacking Lancaster for a four-yard loss on second down and hauling him down three yards short of the first down on the next play to force a punt that was short.
North took over at Northivew's 37-yard line and scored three plays later after a 21-yard pass to King, who then raced 14-yards on the next play for a 47-36 lead after the two-point conversion failed.
The Knights marched into North territory on the next drive ripping off a 12-yard run from Stevenson, who hooked up with Lancaster for nine catches and 181 yards and two scores in the game. On the next play however, Lancaster lost a fumble at the Patriots' 37-yard line. Though North would give the ball back on a fumble by wide receiver Sydney Moore after a 23-yard reception, the Patriots would intercept a tipped pass from Lancaster on the next drive and would ad the final score on a 25-yard TD run from Gabbard, who had six carries for 87 yards and three scores on the ground.
The final score put the game out of reach with five minutes left in the game. The Knights would drive into Patriots territory on the following drive, but four incomplete passes ended the threat.
Despite the loss, Gettle felt that his offense had a great deal of success and could hold their heads high.
"In any game you feel that if you get in that point range (36 points) you should have a chance to win, but sometimes you get in track meets," Gettle said. "We turned the ball over a couple of times so we hurt ourselves offensively, but I feel like there are some positives for sure offensively."
In the first half, the game went back and forth, starting with a quick drive by the Patriots, who got a three-yard run by O'Leary in a drive that took less than two minutes.
Bradshaw's interception on North's next drive set Damon Hyatt up for a one-yard score, but it was O'Leary's 60-yard TD run that seemed to set the explosive tone of the game just 4:15 later.
Stevenson and Lancaster answered right back, connecting for a 70-yard catch and run for a score to tie the game at 14-all.
King put North back on top with a nine-yard score to end a busy first quarter at 21-14.
Gabbard got his second touchdown after a 42-yard run by O'Leary set him up for a 10-yard score to put North ahead by two touchdowns. Lancaster, who threw for 262 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 114 yards and two TD's, scored with 7:53 left in the half. However, Gabbard took the following kickoff and raced 81 yards for a TD.
Northview drops to 2-1 overall and the Patriots improve to 3-0 this season and Gettle preferred to look at the good things his team accomplished heading into conference play against Sullivan next Friday.
Obviously there are plenty of positives so we'll build on the positives and fix the negatives and get ready for next week,"Gettle said. "We've got plenty of season ahead of us."
T.H. North 54, Northview 36
THN -- Chris O'Leary three-yard run (Valentine kick), 10:12
Nv -- Damon Haytt one-yard run (kick failed), 6:23
THN -- O'Leary 60-yard run (Valentine kick), 4:08
Nv -- Drake Stevenson 70-yard catch from Trent Lancaster (pass to Bradshaw), 2;32
THN -- Ben King nine-yard run (Valentine kick), 0:14
THN -- Daniel Gabbard 10-yard run (Valentine kick), 9:05
Nv -- Trent Lancaster one-yard run (kick failed), 7:53
THN -- Gabbard 81-yard kick return (Valentine kick), 7:38
Nv -- Lancaster seven-yard run (pass to Bradshaw), 10:52
Nv -- Stevenson eight-yard catch from Lancaster (pass to Bradshaw), 2:42
THN -- Gabbard 43-yard run (pass failed), 1:24
THN -- King 14-yard run (pass failed), 10:05
THN -- Gabbard 25-yard run (Valentine kick), 5:09
Rushing -- T.H. North 26-284 (Gabbard 6-87 3TD, King 11-82 2TD, O'Leary 7-111 2TD, Belleu 2-7. Northview 41-197 (Lancaster 26-114 2TD, Stevenson 5-30, Hyatt 10-53 TD.
Passing -- T.H. North: (O'Leary 10-16 170 yards, 2 Int.), NV (Lancaster 21-37 262 yards, 2TD, 2Int.).
Receiving -- T.H. North Gabbard 1-14, Allen 3-50, King 2-47, Moore 2-37, Holler 2-22. NV: Stevenson 9-181 2TD, Niehaus 6-51, Bradshaw 5-46, Hyatt 1-4.