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Ugly win beautiful for Cougars

There's nothing good about playing ugly.

But winning ugly?

Now that is good.

Countryside left John M. Sexton Field with an ugly 21-14 road win over Northeast on Thursday night, starting 3-0 for the first time in more than a decade.

The Cougars fell behind early, tied it, took a two-touchdown lead in the second half, then saw the non-district game come down to the final two minutes.

"Good football teams have to win ugly because you're not going to beat up (foes) every single game," Countryside coach John Davis said. "I kind of felt we were a little bit flat all night.

"But good football teams continue to make things happen and do things when you need to."

His team's defense and grit mattered more than its vaunted athletes and polished plays as Northeast (2-1) grabbed the lead. A roughing the punter penalty put the Vikings on the Cougars 40. Jerrell Lamb ran right, cut back left, broke containment and sprinted for the end zone with 6:09 left in the first quarter.

Northeast's defense protected that 7-0 lead as Leon Wright intercepted Countryside quarterback Harrison Beck's first pass, outhustling and outjumping A.J. Matthews in the end zone with 2:08 left.

At the start of the second quarter the Vikings held on fourth and 2 at the 7. But Countryside forced the punt and drove back down. Anthony Graham swept right 3 yards to tie it at 7.

Graham made the decisive plays in the third. He recovered a fumble at the 50, then rumbled 42 yards to set up Corey Roebucks' 8-yard scoring run. It put the Cougars up 14-7 with 9:03 left. Two minutes later, Northeast's punter Austin Smith's knee touched his 46. Beck struck fast, hitting Mike James with a pass he stretched into a 45-yard touchdown to go up 21-7 with 7:55 left.

Somehow, someway, Northeast's scattershot passing attack made it a game late. After a 1 for 9, 0-yard start, quarterback Chris Bench had three straight completions for 54 yards, the last a 31-yarder that Sherman Clemons caught between two defenders to make it 21-14 with 1:56 left. The Cougars punted with 1:02 to go, but the game ended after four Vikings incompletions.

Roebuck's 79 rushing yards led Countryside, while Joe Gamble's 73 led Northeast. Beck was 8-of-13 for 125 yards, and James had seven catches for 109.

The end was a bit ugly, too. Vikings coach Jerry Austin wouldn't shake hands with Davis, whose postgame speech ended with a reminder of just how good it feels to win at Northeast.

"That's a collection of players," said Austin, jabbing at Countryside's many transfers. "When you can make a collection you're pretty good."