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Cougars low in numbers, high on hopes for 2003

After last year’s dismal 1-9 season, North Harrison’s football fans probably feel like there’s not much glimmer of hope for 2003.
After all, North scored only four touchdowns all season and was shut out seven times. They were defeated by an average of 45.5 points. The only win came via forfeit from Charlestown, which used an ineligible player during a 45-0 shellacking of the Cougars. Forfeit aside, North is on a 12-game skid dating back to the rain-soaked Big Cat Classic versus Corydon Central in 2001.
Head Coach Dan Haskell, who enters his sixth season with a mark of 15-36, says a season like last year developed dedication in his players.
‘I believe we will be much better offensively this year because our kids have a renewed spirit and determination to improve and win. We have added a couple of new wrinkles, offensively, that we feel can give us an edge of we play them correctly,’ Haskell said.
‘We have approached this season with the attitude that we want to improve and will. Our focus is on being more aggressive, knowing our game plan, and putting that plan into action.
‘We aren’t focusing on past failures, but on the opportunities to play on Friday nights. Our biggest weakness is lack of depth, and anytime that happens, keeping our kids healthy is a primary concern.’
The Cougars, with less than 40 players, open the 2003 campaign at West Washington Friday at 8 p.m.
North lost just four seniors to graduation, and nine players will make their final trip through the gridiron circuit this year.
‘All of our seniors are key players,’ Haskell said. ‘They are our leaders on and off the field. I am optimistic about the season with the leadership being shown by our nine seniors.’
Cody Mitchell, a 6-2, 190-lb. senior quarterback, returns in a position he picked up just one year ago.
‘(Mitchell) has shown a better understanding of the passing game and has handled the offense very well during pre-season practices,’ Haskell said.
Other skilled seniors taking to the field include wideouts/defensive back combos Joey Becker (5-10, 160), Kyle Fluhr (5-10, 165), and Lance Mitchell (5-9, 148).
Haskell said all three have developed their skills as receivers and defensive backs. ‘They are much more aggressive on both sides of the ball,’ he added.
In the backfield, Tony Frederick, a 5-8, 165-lb. workhorse, earns the nod. He’ll also see time as a linebacker.
‘Robbie Kitchel and Andrew Bishoff are our senior linemen on both sides of the ball. Kevin Ashley will be crucial for us at the center spot,’ Haskell said. ‘David Kitchel and Rusty Hobble will be key linemen offensively, and, defensively, and we’re looking to Cory Beckman for his breakout year at tailback.’
Kitchel tilts the scales at 260 and stands 6-1, while Bishoff is 5-11 and 180.
‘We are showing a lot of enthusiasm,’ Haskell said. ‘These guys have put in a lot of work over the past few months. I have been pleased with their intensity during preseason practices.’
At the scrimmage against Corydon last Saturday, North caused three fumbles, had three interceptions, and broke up three passes.
‘I was pleased by the way we performed … Defensively, we were very aggressive, and I liked the way we attacked to the ball,’ Haskell said.