FARMERSBURG — It was North Central’s football homecoming, but it was North Knox that looked as comfortable as a lounge chair Friday in the Southwest Conference game.
Reece Hammelman threw for three touchdown passes, ran in another and the Warriors recovered three first-half fumbles on their way to a second shutout in a row, 45-0.
Rhett Sheren ran nine times for 95 yards and two touchdowns for North Knox (2-1, 2-0 Southwest), which looked rusty at times after having two weeks off but benefitted from starting eight of its 10 drives on North Central’s side of the field. The Thunderbirds (0-3, 0-1), who have 18 freshmen among their 35 players, were limited to four first downs and 75 yards. Their deepest penetration was North Knox’s 40-yard line.
Hammelman’s TD passes were 19 yards to Levi Brocksmith, 33 yards to Zach Boyles and 26 yards to Holtman Doades, and he finished 6-of-12 for 110 yards. Hammelman’s 4-yard run opened the game’s scoring. Sheren’s scoring runs were 24 and 39 yards, and Caleb Bottum completed the scoring with a 3-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Warriors coach Josh Chambers said his team was affected by the layoff due to four COVID-19 cases on the team, but fought through it.
“North Central had a lot more size than I expected. They didn’t move any linemen around either, so it was a tough read. But our guys did a good job of staying home and just making plays. We played well defensively,” Chambers said. “It was a good game for us to get back on track. I feel like we’re still an early-season team, and it’s not early in the season anymore.
“Missing a couple of games is hard on a young team, but I am proud of our guys. Football isn’t easy, and any win you get, you earn.”
The defense was stout the entire game. Brocksmith and Hammelman recovered fumbles, fueling a 20-point second quarter. Blake Long snuffed North Central’s best chance to score in the first quarter, tackling Jayden Cowden on a fake punt for a 5-yard loss on fourth down-and-5 from the Warriors’ 40.
After TD runs by Hammelman and Sheren gave North Knox a 13-0 lead after one quarter, the visitors put it away in the next quarter.
Brocksmith’s fumble recovery came on the T-birds 39, and on the next play Sheren broke loose for his 39-yard gallop, his longest run of the game to make it 20-0.
The Warriors scored two touchdowns in the final 81 seconds of the half. Brocksmith’s TD catch made it 27-0, then Hammelman recovered a North Central fumble on the T-birds’ 33 with 29 seconds remaining. On third-and-10, Boyles caught his TD pass with just :12 on the clock to take it to 33-0 at half.
Doades’s TD catch with 1:45 to go in the third quarter elevated it to 39-0, forcing a running clock per IHSAA rules.
Brayden Thorne aided the offense with runs of 24 and 17 yards, providing needed runs on North Knox’s only long drive of the game, 86 yards in six plays that ended with Brocksmith’s score. Thorne finished with 53 yards in just four tries.
North Knox tallied 332 yards, but the offense at times wobbled, especially early.
“We have some areas we have to clean up,” Chambers said. “We were short at times on our special teams, with guys just not getting on the field. We left some things on the field with our passing games, but I’m not worried about that.
“They did a good job of taking Holtman and even Brayden away from us. We just found other guys who made plays and got in the end zone. We need to continue to have trust in one another. We’re learning on the fly with some of these young guys, especially with our sophomore linemen.”
Cowden led North Central with 49 yards in 13 carries, but was injured in the third quarter and didn’t return.
The Warriors are at Pike Central at 7 p.m. next Friday.
NORTH KNOX 45, NORTH CENTRAL 0
SCORE BY QUARTERS
North Knox|13-20-6-6 — 45
North Central|0-0-0-0 — 0
NK — Reece Hammelman 4 run (pass failed) 9:53 1st qtr.
NK — Rhett Sheren 24 run (Holtman Doades kick) 3:46 1st qtr.
NK — Sheren 39 run (Doades kick) 8:59 2nd qtr.
NK — Levi Brocksmith 19 pass from Hammelman (Doades kick) 1:21 2nd qtr.
NK — Zach Boyles 33 pass from Hammelman (run failed) :12 2nd qtr.
NK — Doades 26 pass from Hammelman (run failed) 1:45 3rd qtr.
NK — Caleb Bottum 3 run (kick blocked) 4:44 4th qtr.
RUSHING — North Knox: Sheren 9-95 (2 TDs), Brayden Thorne 4-53, Doades 6-34, Carter Lemberg 3-18, Bottum 3-16 (TD), Boyles 1-5, Mason Lyons 1-4, Hammelman 5-(-3) (TD). North Central: Jayden Cowden 13-49, Jeremiah Swalls 10-34, Rowdy Pierson 2-4, Lane Hargis 1-0, Eli Dodge 2-0, James Thomas 2-0, Nathan Trench 7-(-12).
PASSING — North Knox: Hammelman 6-12-0, 110 (3 TDs). North Central: Trench 0-3-0, 0.
RECEIVING — North Knox: Doades 3-50 (TD), Boyles 1-33 (TD), Brocksmith 1-19 (TD), Sheren 1-8.