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BUCKNER – Arien Beasley had something to prove Friday night.
One week ago North Oldham’s star wingback was having a big game against Evansville (Ind.) Central when he suffered debilitating cramps in the second half. Beasley became a nonfactor as Central went on to a 66-50 win.
But Friday Beasley was cramp-free and ran like it. The Mustang junior ran for 208 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries and returned a punt 72 yards for a score in a 31-28 win over Oldham County at Bell Field.
“With the way I cramped up last weekend, I thought I had to make up for it tonight,” Beasley said. “I feel like I did make up for it pretty good.”
What was impressive about Beasley’s performance Friday wasn’t the numbers he put up, but they way he achieved them.
On North’s first drive he set up a score with a 54-yard dash down the left sideline to the Oldham 4-yard line. On that play, Beasley appeared to be wrapped up around the line of scrimmage, but slipped away and took off for big yardage. That set up a 1-yard touchdown run from Nick Thome that put the Mustangs (1-1) up 7-0.
“Arien’s a very good runner,” Thome said. “He’s able to spin, make quick moves. He’s got very good agility so he’s able to get off arm tackles when he needs to. It’ll take three or four guys to get him down.”
Three or four Colonel defenders tried to bring Beasley down on a run left on the first play of the second quarter. But he broke three Colonel tackles near the line of scrimmage, spun his way to the middle of the field, and then outran Oldham’s Jonathan Stocking to the end zone for an 80-yard touchdown. That put North up 14-7 with 11:36 left in the second.
Later on, with North down 21-17 in the third quarter, Beasley fielded a punt on his own 28-yard line near the left hash. He spun out of two arm tackles, ran near the middle of the field, and followed his blocks for a 72-yard punt return that gave the Mustangs a 24-21 lead they’d never surrender.
“JV and freshman I’d returned a lot (of punts), but never in varsity,” Beasley said. “I thought I really was going to end up getting tackled but then I saw a big, wide hole and just took it.”
He added his third score of the night later in the third quarter, taking a double handoff 45 yards for a touchdown that put North up 31-21.
“Arien just had an incredible game tonight,” Mustangs coach Billy Martin said. “He just made some big-time plays. He’s a special athlete. He made me look smart several times tonight when OC actually defended him pretty well and he just got out of there out nowhere a couple of times.”
Meanwhile Beasley’s ability to break Colonel tackles for several big plays was a frustration point for Oldham coach Matt Brown.
“Obviously once again hats off to North,” Brown said. “Great program. But we literally missed nine tackles on the one (run) for a touchdown. We decided to let (Beasley) go and dance around for five minutes and then score on a punt return.”
Oldham (1-1) scored a late touchdown on a 1-yard pass from Ryan Grattan to Elijah Keen with 20 seconds left to cut the deficit to 31-28. But the ensuing onside kick was tipped out of bounds and North ran out the clock for its third win over the Colonels in as many tries.
Oldham had command of the game at one point, with Caleb Allen’s 4-yard touchdown run giving the Colonels a 21-14 lead in the second quarter.
Oldham had a chance to go into halftime up seven, but Harding was picked off by Thome at the North 11 with 25 seconds to play. Brandon Pegge’s ensuing 28-yard field goal made it a 21-17 game at half.
Harding was never supposed to throw the ball on that play, according to Brown.
"We throw an interception on the goal line, which is a completely ridiculous thing to do," Brown said. "We give them a field goal and it's the complete difference in the game."
Martin also recognized that play as a game changer.
"That was big, that was big," Martin said. "Big play that got us three points, a little momentum going into the half and then we just continued to pick that up in the second half."
The Colonels finished with just 53 yards rushing on 24 attempts. Harding was 9-for-21 for 147 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Grattan, who relieved Harding after his third pick, was 5-for-12 for 47 yards and a score.
North, which beat Oldham 16-10 in 2012 and 31-10 in 2011 has recorded comeback wins all three times it's played the Colonels.
"After beating them the past two years, beating them the third time in a row my senior year was definitely very special," Thome said.
Meanwhile for Oldham, its frustrations continue against a crosstown rival.
"Once again we tried too hard," Brown said, "and I guess they just kicked our tails."