BICKNELL — In Indiana high school football, it’s an accomplishment if a team can extend its season when the temperature drops below freezing.
But the cold reality of a tournament and season-ending loss lurks, and it hit North Knox on Friday in mid-20s temperature. John McGrew ran for three first-half touchdowns, and traditional power and fourth-ranked Evansville Mater Dei ousted the Warriors, 35-6, in the Class 2A, Sectional 40 championship game.
Alex Money caught second-half touchdown passes of 19 and 34 yards from Cole Happe, giving the Wildcats (10-2) a 35-0 lead with 3:39 to go in the third quarter. That forced a running clock per the new IHSAA rule for 35-point leads in the second half.
Holtman Doades ran for a game-high 131 yards on 13 carries, and scored the North Knox touchdown on a 55-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter. Mater Dei had just a 294-240 advantage in yards.
Despite the loss at Warrior Field, North Knox (8-4) had one of its better seasons, reaching the eight-win plateau for just the third time since 1979.
Much of the credit goes to a senior class of Ben Burke, Jalen Conrad, Ethan Haag, Trevor Kahre, Trey Keller, Troy Noland, Cole Richter, Jackson Stroud, Matt Urbain, and Dylan Wolfe. Richter was a 1,000-yard rusher behind a dominating offensive line led by Kahre, Burke, Haag, Conrad and Stroud. Noland, Wolfe, Urbain and Keller were first, third, fifth and sixth on the team in tackles.
Most of the seniors were multi-year starters on teams that went 5-5, 4-6 and 5-6 prior to this year’s breakout season.
“It was a fantastic season and a fantastic group of kids,” North Knox coach Josh Chambers said. “This is my fifth year and these seniors have always been the anchor. They’ve changed the expectations of North Knox football. We’re expected to win ballgames now, and because of them, we have an identity.
“Tonight didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but as coaches we can’t thank this group of seniors enough for the work they’ve put in these past four years.”
Mater Dei forged a 21-0 halftime lead, but North Knox had a chance to make a good first impression, taking the opening kickoff and marching to two first downs. But after a holding penalty, the Warriors fumbled a double handoff and Mater Dei recovered on the North Knox 29.
The Wildcats scored touchdowns on their first three possessions, going 29, 60 and 61 yards. McGrew finished each drive with scores, muscling in on 5, 2 and 6 yard runs.
The Warriors moved the ball, running for 111 first-half yards. Down 21-0 midway in the second quarter, Doades broke loose for a 25-yard sprint, and after Reece Hammelman’s 8-yard keeper, North Knox had second-and-2 on the Mater Dei 26. But three Richter runs yielded just one yard and the Warriors had to give the ball over on downs.
“Mater Dei is a good football team, with a lot of good players,” Chambers said. “We didn’t help ourselves by turning the ball over early, because we had some momentum moving the ball. Once it got to 21-0, it was going to be tough for us, but give them the credit for building the lead.”
The Wildcats, who claimed their 21st sectional title, play the Triton Central-Providence winner in the regional next Friday.
EVANSVILLE MATER DEI 35
NORTH KNOX 6
First downs |17 |13
Passing (C-A-I) |10-12-0 |2-4-0
Passing yards |136 |0
Total yards |324 |245
Penalties-yards |2-20 |1-10
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Evansville Mater Dei|7-14-14-0 — 35
North Knox|0-0-0-6 — 6
EMD — John McGrew 5 run (Jordan Atherton kick) 7:45 1st qtr.
EMD — McGrew 2 run (Atherton kick) 11:05 2nd qtr.
EMD — McGrew 6 run (Atherton kick) 6:26 2nd qtr.
EMD — Alex Money 19 pass from Cole Happe (Atherton kick) 7:45 3rd qtr.
EMD — Money 34 pass from Happe (Atherton kick) 3:39 3rd qtr.
NK — Holtman Doades 55 run (run failed) 11:45 4th qtr.
RUSHING — Mater Dei: McGrew 18-80, (3 TDs), Happe 9-74, Eli McDurmon 1-13, Dakx Lannert 2-8, Bryce Humphrey 4-7, Joey Pierre 3-6. North Knox: Doades 13-136 (TD), Cole Richter 17-51, Rhett Sheren 5-41, Reece Hammelman 5-17.
PASSING — Mater Dei: Happe 10-12-0, 136 (2 TDs). North Knox: Hammelman 2-4-0, 0.
RECEIVING — Mater Dei: Money 2-53 (2 TDs), Preston Turner 3-29, McGrew 1-26, Landen Folz 1-19, Jackson Bentley 1-5, Ethan Schnur 1-3, Luke Kassenbrock 1-1. North Knox: Zach Boyles 1-0, Doades 1-0.