Chase Merrill’s 80-yard game opening kickoff return gave Herrin great field position and was a sign of things to come for the Tigers in their 40-0 shutout of Harrisburg Friday night at the Harrison-Bruce Sports Complex.
Merrill finished with just over 100 yards rushing and a touchdown, while teammate Brent Milner ran in four scores to help the Tigers (6-2, 5-0 SIRR Ohio) win their sixth in a row and claim an outright conference championship.
Heading into the game, the Bulldogs (4-4, 3-2) had been having a little bit of success at Herrin. Harrisburg won there last year and had won three of its past four matchups at “The Graveyard” before Friday’s contest.
But the Harrisburg offense struggled mightily to gain any traction in the conference finale. Harrisburg managed to accumulate just 116 yards of offense and didn’t complete a single pass.
“Herrin’s a good team and you’ve got to give them credit,” said Harrisburg coach Jason Roper. “I thought their running backs ran hard and were physical. We just never could really establish field position and we were backed up all night.”
Sophomore quarterback Noah Vallette started his third straight game under center, but didn’t attempt a pass.
Junior Cooper Thompson threw three passes out of a Wildcat formation, but didn’t connect on any.
The Bulldogs mustered just seven first downs all night and were paced by Jarren Goldman's 36 yards on 12 carries. Sophomore Corbin Crim added 26 rushing yards and Thompson finished with 25 yards on four touches.
Herrin enjoyed a 26-0 lead at halftime and continued to coast in the second half. The Tigers will play at Anna-Jonesboro in Week 9.
Harrisburg closes the regular season at Carbondale. Like Harrisburg, the Terriers (4-4) need a win Friday to become playoff eligible. Nick Hill and company started the year 3-0 but have dropped four out of their last five and three in a row.
Harrisburg is in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in six years.
“Carbondale’s a good team with a lot of talent,” said Roper. “It’s going to be a tough game for us. It should be a good ballgame and hopefully our kids will rise to the occasion.”
HBG- 0 0 0 0 - 0
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HER- 13 13 7 7 – 40
HER- TD 5 Milner run (Haynes kick), 1st 10:44
HER- TD 1 Milner run (run failed), 1st 2:28
HER- TD 23 pass Hays to McCowen (Haynes kick), 2nd 4:!3
HER- TD 8 Milner run (pass failed), 2nd 0:36
HER- TD 1 Merrill run (Haynes kick), 3rd 5:47
HER- TD 4 Milner run (Haynes kick), 4th 11:11
First downs 7 18
Total net yards 116 325
Rushes-yards 36-116 41-236
Passing 0 89
Comp-Att-Int 0-3-0 7-12-0
Fumbles lost 2 1
Pen-yards 3-6 3-35
RUSHING- HBG: Jarren Goldman 12-36, Daniel Lewis 4-9, Cooper Thompson 4-25, Corbin Crim 2-26, Kyle Heavener 3-11, Sean Crisenbery 5-9, Zach Perkins 1-1, Noah Vallette 5-(-1). HER: Chase Merrill 14-102, Brent Milner 12-56, Chris Butler 5-24, Patrick McCowen 3-16, Gavin Gosha 1-7, Nick Hays 1-13, Devante Branch 1-4, Jayvon Yarbrough 2-16.
RECEIVING- HER: Josh Haynes 2-10, Patrick McCowen 1-23, Chase Merrill 3-37, Kolton Lannom 1-19.
PASSING: HBG: Cooper Thompson 0-3-0 0. HER: Nick Hays 7-12-0 89.