NEWPORTâ€“They say practice makes perfect, but while they are not perfect, nor did they get the win, the North Country football team's hard work paid off as they had their best showing in four weeks, breaking a three game scoreless streak in a 55-20 loss to Bellows Falls on Friday night.
"We made some adjustments and kept drilling them all week and it is starting to pay off," said head coach Tim Simoneau.
Jason Hatin returned to the Falcon line-up, but it was Jacob Buckles under center as North Country started the first series of the game from their own thirty.
Right off the bat they got a first down, but eventually were forced to punt the ball away.
On their first play, Bellows Falls handed the ball off to Zachary Rawlings who made a beeline for the endzone, giving the Bulldogs the 6-0 lead.
On the ensuing kick, Buckles returned the ball to the Falcon 36, but after gains of three and one yards, the Falcon QB was picked off by Austin Sack, who ran the ball down to the NCU four.
While Sack was chugging down the field their were some viscous, and maybe questionable blocks opening the route for him, but the run stood and Carson Fullam made the four yard trip into the endzone.
After the extra point it was 13-0 Bellows Falls and it looked like it was going to be more of the same for North Country.
Not this week.
A twenty yard return on the kick put the Falcons on the forty-seven.
A little pitch and catch and it was a first down for Hatin on the Terrier 42.
"We are trying to do some different things with him,â€ť Simoneau said. "He is a tough runner and he is going in the right direction."
A strange play would move the Falcons back to where the drive started.
Trevor Wilson picked off Buckles, but then fumbled the ball and it was recovered by the Falcons on their own 47.
A nineteen yard strike to Tyler Jenne had the Falcons up to the 32.
Two plays later, one being Hatin hustling down the field for a gain of 23, and North Country was in the red zone.
You could smell the anticipation in the air as the Homecoming Weekend crowd anxiously awaited the next play.
Buckles hooked up with Jenne again and TOUCHDOWN!
A two point conversion later and it was 13-8, leaving the Falcons well within striking distance of the Terriers.
Bellows Falls was undeterred and they promptly went out and scored on the next series on Tyler Holmes' 22 yard run.
Two points later the lead was 21-8 for the visitors.
As the first quarter came to a close and the second began, the teams traded possessions, with neither team coming particularly close.
North Country's second scoring drive started on the 47.
While Caleb Prue didn't score, his two catches of 6 and 31 yards were instrumental in setting up the eventual TD.
"Caleb is really turning it on. He is developing a better understanding of the game and is in the right position to make catches," said the NCU coach.
That honor went to junior Ryan O'Donnell as he hauled in the Buckles pass to bring the score to 21-14.
Said Simoneau of his new look receiving core, "This week we made Ryan and Connor (Hogan) wide receivers and put Jenne in the slot."
Going the other way, Michael LeBeau returned the kick for a TD, but it was called back due to illegal contact during he run.
Bellows Falls eventually punted the ball away.
With time winding down, Hatin nearly made it a one score game, but was stopped just short on the fourth down at the three.
In the second half, the Terriers would flex their muscle, scoring an additional 34 points to salt away the win.
Buckles threw for his third TD in the second, connecting with Hatin for the score.
He finished the game with 236 yards in the air and three touchdowns for North Country (0-6).
"Jacob is an outstanding football player," said Simoneau. "He knows and understands the game and he wants to do good things and have fun on the field."
Rawlings and Fullam each had three TD's for Bellows Falls (5-1).
This week the Falcons will travel to Woodstock on Friday to take on the Wasps as replacement for the canceled game against Springfield.