INDIANAPOLIS — With starting tailback Jesse Tompkins sidelined with a shoulder injury, Jamaal Halliburton knew he’d get some work in the backfield.
But what Halliburton did Friday night was out of the realm of the imagination.
The 5-foot-8 senior carried 40 times for 292 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Bull Dogs to a 41-17 Conference Indiana win against Perry Meridian.
“The only thing that went through my mind was ‘Next man up,’” Halliburton said. “I had to be there for my team, no matter where they put me at. I was blessed to have the opportunity.”
The Bull Dogs (2-5, 2-3) rushed for 301 yards as a team to offset the 285 yards passing put up by Conner Smith for the Falcons (3-4, 2-3). Smith, who came into the game as the leading passer in Class 5A, completed 33-of-61 passes, but threw two costly second-half interceptions.
“It was kind of a tale of two completely different styles of play,” North coach Tim Bless said. “Credit to their offense because it had us nervous all week long. It’s a very dynamic offense, but I love how our defense played. That offense has been lighting up statistics, but we held them to 17 points.”
North overcame an early 7-0 deficit with a 5-yard sneak by quarterback Michael Vogel. Halliburton’s 6-yard touchdown run with 4:21 left in the first half gave the Bull Dogs a 13-10 lead.
Halliburton added a scoring run of 25 yards in the third quarter and a 22-yarder with 7:19 left in the game to give North a
27-10 lead. After a Falcon touchdown and failed onside kick, Halliburton ran 29 yards for his fourth touchdown of the game.
Jacob Hamblin intercepted a Smith pass and returned it 62 yards to the Perry Meridian 5 to set up Halliburton’s final score.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the way that our offensive line, tight ends and H-back played, and then obviously, the workmanlike effort of Jamaal Halliburton tonight,” Bless said.
“I want to thank the guys up front for blocking,” Halliburton said. “They opened up holes, and I just had to make one guy miss, and I’m there.”
The loss snaps a three-game losing streak by the Bull Dogs.
“The kids have been working so hard, and they certainly deserve this,” Bless said. “They deserve to feel the thrill of victory, and I’m so happy for them.”
“We really needed this to get us going for the tournament,” Halliburton said. “Our next two games are going to be a challenge, but we have the tools to go in and beat them.”