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In the heat of the night, No.9 Cougars claw back to sweat out 21

Aug 26, 2023

By Justin Sokeland

BLOOMINGTON – In the heat of the night, as the sweat poured out of their bodies and drained every ounce of energy they could give away, Bedford North Lawrence suffered another crushing late loss. If the heat index measures how bad the humidity feels, there’s got to be a misery index to correlate how devastated the Stars must feel.

For the second straight week, with a ranked opponent about to hit the deck, BNL lacked the finishing blow. Seconds away, inches away. But with key personnel suffering from the cramping effects of the heat, the Stars lacked the strength and stamina as Class 5A No.9 Bloomington North escaped with a late comeback victory.

Aidan Steinfeldt, a huge target at tight end, caught two fourth-quarter touchdown passes, including the game winner with 18 seconds left, as the Cougars clawed back for a 21-14 victory over BNL on Friday night.

The Stars, gallant in their effort, made ‘em sweat. Of course, everyone was sweating in the blast furnace. Excessive heat warnings forced the game time back an hour, and the index was still broiling at 101 at kickoff. Steinfeldt, a 6-foot-5 wrecking ball, was the Big Chill, catching two clutch passes from Dash King in the final eight minutes.

Once again, in similar fashion to the opener at Martinsville, BNL was on the brink after dominating the first half. But when senior quarterback Memphis Louden had to be carried off the turf with 9:10 left in the third quarter, with his entire body engulfed by cramps, BNL’s scoring ability went to the sideline with him. And when North’s Kijuan Hayes did the dirty work during North’s last two drives, setting up both Steinfeldt scores, BNL’s tired defense just couldn’t hang on.

“We lasted a little longer,” BNL coach Derrick Barker said. “We got it down to a fourth-and-one, we were inches away. At the end of the day, we were one or two plays short.“

BNL owned a 14-7 lead in the fourth quarter. North’s first answer was a 70-yard, nine-play drive with Hayes churning out huge chunks, including a 16-yard burst – whirling and spinning through tacklers – inside the 10. Two plays later, King found Steinfeldt in the end zone. However, Graham Freund’s extra-point kick was low and clanked off the crossbar. BNL still owned a 14-13 advantage with 7:47 left.

The Stars couldn’t go anywhere on their next series, with a quarterback sack and a fumbled snap ending it, and North got the ball back at its 34 with 4:41 remaining. It took the Cougars 12 plays and most of that time to get there. North took advantage of a late-hit penalty for one first down, then converted a fourth-and-one at the 10 with a King dash with 1:08 left. On second-and-goal, King lofted a pass over the middle than Steinfeldt leaped to snare as BNL defenders flew past.

“That was a great team win for us,” North coach Scott Bless said. “We talk about football being the ultimate team sport, because it requires more from more people. That was the difference maker for us. We were fresh at the end of the game.

“Those dudes (pointing to the Stars as they huddled in the far end zone) played their rear ends off. We were a little fresher at the end. That was a set of fresh legs with Hayes, when there weren’t many fresh legs on the field. He made the most of it.”

The best legs in the first half were Louden’s. After King scrambled into the end zone from 2 yards to cap North’s first drive, Louden took control with his running game. BNL recovered a fumble (the first of four North turnovers) and Louden went to work, ripping off a 25-yard burst and then winning a footrace around the left side from 18 yards for a 7-7 deadlock.

BNL’s next drive was another score. Louden started it with a 15 blast, and Piaire Childs finished it with a beautiful spinning jaunt from 11 yards for a 14-7 lead.

“I would like to have seen the second half if we had Memphis,” Barker said. “They didn’t have an answer for him. We were able to exploit it.”

Louden finished with 92 rushing yards, while Childs totaled 71. If the running game was wow, the passing game was ugh. North’s Camden Eaton intercepted two passes in the first half, and he also recovered a fumble in the second. BNL was guilty of four turnovers.

“That’s a dude making the most of his opportunity,” Bless said. “Made big plays for us.”

King completed 16 of 28 passes for 140 yards (although BNL’s Maddox Ray picked off his final pass of the first half). Steinfeldt snagged six for 49 yards while Tate Bless caught five for 50 yards.

“Dash made great decisions, threw some really nice balls,” Bless said. “We’ve got a lot of moxie, a lot of heart, and they played with confidence at the end.”

BNL’s Tyler Webb, Trace Rynders and Gibson Crane recovered the fumbles.

North (2-0) won for the 15th time in the last 16 games of the series. The Stars just ran out of bodies in their quest to end that streak.

“Not enough conditioning in the summer, which is my fault,” Barker said. “We don’t have enough older guys that are experienced, once we lose a few. We weren’t at full strength.

“I’m proud of them. We have to stick together. We’re so close, right on the edge of getting to where we want to be. There’s no moral victory, no second-place prize. If we just stay together and keep working, we’re on the verge of doing some great things.”

BNL (0-2) will make its home debut next week against Jeffersonville.

Bedford NL 7 7 0 0 – 14

Bloomington North 7 0 0 14 – 21

First quarter

North – Dash King, 3 run (Graham Freund kick), 9:00; BNL – Memphis Louden, 18 run (Ryker Hughes kick), 3:29

Second quarter

BNL – Piaire Childs, 11 run (Hughes kick), 7:21

Fourth quarter

North – Aidan Steinfeldt, 7 pass from King (kick failed), 7:47; North – Steinfeldt, 8 pass from King (Jack Leonard pass from King), 0:18

Team statistics

BNL – First downs 13 (11 by run, 1 by pass, 1 by penalty); Rushing 44-199; Passing 3-12-3-31; Total yards 232; Fumbles 4 (lost 1); Penalties 5-60

North – First downs 14 (9 by run, 5 by pass); Rushing 30-130; Passing 16-28-1-140; Total yards 270; Fumbles 3 (lost 3); Penalties 7-68

Individual statistics

Rushing – (BNL) Louden 14-92, Gates 7-19, Childs 17-71, Rynders 2-21, Brosamle 2-5, Kirby 2-(-9); (North) King 5-1, Hayes 16-89, Johnson 3-14, Ferree 3-9, Grupenhoff 1-0, Brooks 1-7, Scott 1-0

Passing – (BNL) Louden 1-7-2-3, Kirby 2-5-1-28; (North) King 16-28-1-140

Receiving – (BNL) Hughes 2-28, Nelson 1-3; (North) Steinfeldt 6-49, Grupenhoff 3-23, Bless 5-50, Scott 1-5, Brooks 1-13

Bedford NL 7 7 0 0 – 14Bloomington North 7 0 0 14 – 21First quarterSecond quarterFourth quarterTeam statisticsIndividual statistics

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