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NH’s trick a treat in thriller

The next time you talk to North Harrison football coach Jason Mullis, you might want to check up his sleeves and in his baseball cap. Friday night Mullis and his Cougars pulled a hat trick with less than a minute to go in the game to put away the visiting Salem Lions.
‘It was a crazy game,’ Mullis said just seconds before getting doused with a cooler of Gatorade from one of his players.
The play came with just 42 seconds left in the game, after the Lions had fumbled the ball over to the Cougars and the game tied at 20. On second down Cougar quarterback Wes Kirk pitched back to running back Bryan Schroeder. Instead of running, however, Schroeder launched a pass toward sophomore Chris Rawert, who was running toward the end zone.
Rawert seemed to nearly stumble as he bent over to try to keep control and possession. The sophomore kept his grasp and had the touchdown, to put North Harrison in front for good 26-20.
‘We practiced that,’ Mullis admitted after the game. ‘We have a little thing we say: ‘No time-outs left, last play of the game.’ We have about three things we do, and that was one of them. It paid off.’
At first it appeared the game was going to be a runaway. North Harrison got on the board first on a 15-yard run by Schroeder. Salem got a hand on the extra point, leaving North Harrison with a 6-0 lead.
Following a Salem fumble in the second quarter and a facemask penalty, the Cougars struck again, this time from Cory Beckman, who got into the end zone from 15 yards out. Salem, however, stopped the two-point conversion attempt, leaving the score at 12-0 at halftime.
The big thing going for North Harrison the first half was the Cougars’ defense against Salem’s passing game.
‘I thought we got some errant balls with our pressure, that we were getting in their face,’ Mullis said. ‘We didn’t get as many sacks as we wanted, but we were in there making him get rid of it quick. He just stood in there like a man and threw it on target a lot. My hat goes off to Matt because we had seven or eight guys up there coming right at him.’
In the second half, Salem adjusted its game plan and came back. Hudson intercepted a Kirk pass early in the period. Rawert saved one Salem touchdown attempt by hauling down Zach Morris, who was on his way toward the end zone. Schroeder later got a hand on a touchdown pass stopping a Salem score, leaving Rawert and Schroeder looking at each other saying, ‘That was close.’
The Cougars got the ball back on downs, but went three-and-out. On their next possession, and on just three plays, the Lions finally got on the board as Hudson hit Terry Griffus for 24 yards. Steven Morgan got the kick and North Harrison’s lead was just five, 12-7.
At that point, Mullis asked his team for another big play, getting it on the second play of the possession. Schroeder scrambled to the end zone for 64 yards and the score. Schroeder also got the conversion, extending the Cougar lead to 20-7.
‘I wouldn’t be able to do anything without my blockers,’ Schroeder said. ‘It wasn’t just me. It was a team effort.’
Salem scrambled back into the game, scoring with 10:18 left, as Hudson hit Morris from five yards out, and Morgan’s extra point closed the game to six, 20-14.
Penalties were costly for the Cougars on their next possession. A holding penalty pushed the Cougars back to second down and 22 to go. North Harrison went back another five yards on the next down. On fourth-and-27, North Harrison went for the first down. Kirk threw to Brendan Zellers, but came up a half-yard short, forcing the Cougars to give the ball up on downs.
Salem slowly moved the ball for the next five minutes, getting to the North Harrison 16 following a run by Travis McDonald. Hudson went to the end zone on the next play to Griffus. Schroeder got in the way, intercepting the pass and keeping Salem from the score.
That didn’t last long, however, as the Cougars had to punt with less than two minutes to go, the kick going short, leaving the Lions at midfield.
Hudson used four pass plays to find paydirt, hitting Travis Misamore from 19-yards out for a TD with 1:04 left. The Cougars blocked the extra point, leaving the game tied at 20.
‘We were just frustrated,’ Mullis said. ‘We called a 23 iso, and there’s no way, I would never call a pass. All of a sudden I see my kid drop back to pass. I was thinking, ‘What in the world just got called? We were hoping to get a first down and run out the clock and the game would be over.’
Salem then went for an onside kick in an effort to get the ball back, but North Harrison’s Troy Mayfield fell on the ball, leaving the Cougars in good position at midfield. On the next play Schroeder ran to the 42-yard line. The hat trick came next as Schroeder hit Rawert for the winning touchdown.
Salem got one more possession but failed only advanced to midfield, as North Harrison won 26-20.
‘We always try to do those weird scenarios,’ Mullis said. ‘It was the first time we’ve ever used it in a game, but it was for that situation. We’ve practiced it from week one. We’ve been doing those desperados, that’s what we call them, because we’re desperate, and it paid off.’
‘He has great hands,’ Mullis said of Rawert. ‘They were all confident when I called it. They said, ‘All right, where do you want me at coach?’, and I said, ‘I want you over there,’ and they were running over there.’
Rawert said he knew he would have to get to the end zone in a hurry.
‘There was a lot of pressure,’ the sophomore said. ‘I think if I had dropped it, my teammates would have killed me. After that, it was joy. It was the game. (The pass) was perfect. It was right there in my hands, and I about dropped it. It was for the game, and I had to hold on to that one.’
Schroeder said he almost didn’t get the pass off.
‘I thought it was going to be a sack,’ Schroeder said. ‘I had people hanging on me. Right after I got the ball off, I saw Chris Rawert stumbling, and I didn’t think he caught it. I was pretty down then I saw the touchdown sign go up. It all changed and I was happy. We’ve only gone over it twice in practice. There was a lot of pressure but during the play my mind goes blank, and I guess I don’t think of anything.’
Schroeder led the Cougars with 156 yards on 15 carries. Beckman had 15 carries for 59 yards, and Zellers carried three times for 34 yards. Kirk was completed four of six passes for 76 yards, while Schroeder completed his only attempt. North Harrison gained 367 total yards.
‘This game was pretty important for the seniors, and it’s going to help us going to the sectional,’ Rawert said. ‘We’ve still got to fix a few things, but it’s huge. It’s snapped that small losing streak we had there for a while.’
Mullis said he hopes the win will carry over into Friday night as the Cougars open sectional play at home against Batesville.
‘Now, we’ve just got to do the right things I don’t ask for every time,’ Mullis said. ‘With this high of an emotional game, it’s definitely going to help us. The kids knew I wanted this one because I coached over there. This was a game I really wanted and they came through for me tonight.’