North football defense pitches another shutout as Kaleb Harris nears program sacks record
- Final: North 31, Vincennes Lincoln 0
EVANSVILLE — The North faithful roared with excitement as Kaleb Harris picked up another sack.
He is the people’s champion, after all, having won a fan vote for the Courier & Press midseason football player of the year poll this week. The senior entered Friday's game against Vincennes Lincoln with the most sacks in the state in addition to 25 total tackles (15.5 for a loss), two forced fumbles and a receiving touchdown.
And after two more quarterback takedowns, Harris' 12.5 sacks are nearing the Huskies’ single-season record. He and the rest of the defense were difference-makers in their 31-0 victory at Bundrant Stadium.
The Huskies (5-2) have won three straight games for the first time since September 2021 and also clinched back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 1975.
While the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference crown may be out of reach because the Huskies trail Reitz by two games with two weeks left, this was a massive win for a North program that's now won at least five games in five consecutive seasons.
"I'm really proud of my defense pitching two back-to-back shutouts," North coach Joey Paridaen said. "We got to continue playing really solid defense and continue to make plays."
North faced a Vincennes team playing without star senior quarterback Xander Hunt for the second week in a row. And Harris capitalized. He is a half-sack away from the program's single-season record of 13 set by Chris Wintner in 1994. The goal is certainly in reach with games remaining against Jasper (4-3) and Central (0-7).
Cale Johnson also came close last year with 11 sacks for the Huskies.
"I definitely learned a lot (from Johnson)," Harris said. "But I'm coming for that sack record. I have to beat it."
"Kaleb's a really good player, but we got obviously a really good defense up front," Paridaen added. "It allows us for him to not always be double-teamed. (He's) a very athletic and physical kid, so whenever he's able to play freely, those are the results that we'll get."
It wasn’t just North’s defense that made a statement against Vincennes. The running game, as usual, took off.
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There were plenty of times North’s ball carriers broke off long runs for first downs. Cainen Northington, one of the SIAC’s leading rushers, and Jason Rucker II kept the offense moving as they combined for 233 of the Huskies’ 339 rushing yards. And while senior quarterback Sam McKinney threw two interceptions, one of his three total touchdowns was a 55-yard run down the sideline toward the end of the first half.
McKinney also completed an incredible touchdown throw to Grant Happe toward the end of the third as he was going down to the ground.
"Those two interceptions should not happen," McKinney said. "I wish I could have those back. But other than that, I felt like I did pretty good. I have some dawgs up front blocking from the O-line. I'm thankful for them and owe all my credit to them."
North, however, will be without Northington against Jasper as he was ejected in the fourth quarter when he was called for a personal foul on a punt. Nevertheless, the Huskies continue to pick up key wins and are on their way to clinching back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2006-07.
"We just need to keep pushing," McKinney said. "We had some losses last year that we should have won, and even in the beginning of this year, I felt like we should have won. But we just kept battling. I'm proud of my guys for keeping on pushing."
The Huskies plan to continue this winning momentum with the postseason near. Especially with Harris causing chaos for opposing offenses as he aims toward a program record.
"I'm going to try my hardest (to get the record), but I'm not going to make a promise," he said.
Courier & Press sports reporter Treasure Washington can be reached via her email, email@example.com, and on X, formerly known as Twitter, @Twashington490.