Cougar ‘D’ shines in 26-0 blitz
‘The defense is back.’
That’s what North Harrison football coach Jason Mullis had to say as his team smothered visiting Mid-Southern Conference rival Salem 26-0 on a chilly Friday night, after allowing 43 points to Corydon the week before.
‘The defense showed up tonight,’ he said. ‘We were back. We talked about it, and we’re real happy with it. Their yardage wasn’t much. The kids executed the game plan almost perfectly.’
Salem’s opening kick of only about 12 yards set the Cougars up for their first touchdown. North Harrison kept the ball on the ground and marched down from the Salem 47 to the two. North Harrison senior Isaac Davis then got the call and went into the end zone just 3-1/2 minutes into the game. John Becker’s extra point gave the Cougars a 7-0 lead.
With both teams keeping the ball on the ground, time moved quickly. North Harrison’s defense kept the Lions tied down, but the Cougar offense also had a few problems, one coming in the second quarter when Davis fumbled the ball a yard short of the end zone. Salem got the ball back on a touchback.
Late in the period, however, the Cougars made up for the turnover when they forced Salem to punt. North Harrison kept the ball on the ground again and with 2:08 to go in the half, running back Bryan Schroeder jumped into the end zone on a two-yard run for a second Cougar TD.
The extra-point kick attempt failed, but North Harrison took a 13-0 lead to the locker room after holding down the Lions again on their final possession of the half.
The Cougars forced Salem to give up the ball again on its first possession of the second half. On North’s first possession, Schroeder made the biggest play of the game, taking the ball for a 71-yard touchdown run. Becker was good on his kick, and the Cougars led 20-0.
North Harrison’s defense continued to keep Salem at bay while the Cougar offense continued to gain ground. Just over two minutes into the fourth quarter, Schroeder produced the Cougars’ final touchdown from a yard out for a 26-0 lead.
Corey Isaacs and Josh Cheatham gave Schroeder a break for rest of the game as the Cougar defense kept Salem out of the end zone to preserve the shutout.
‘The defense was flying around again, and that’s the best defensive performance we’ve had since we played Perry (Central),’ Mullis said. ‘I feel confident, and it’s a great time to have it before playoff. I feel extremely happy with a shutout going into the bye week and into the sectional.’
North Harrison tallied 340 rushing yards on 41 carries, with Schroeder running 18 times for 205 yards and Davis carrying the ball 13 times for 62 yards. Cheatham had 31 yards on six carries, and quarterback Michael Dean recorded 25 yards on one carry. Isaac added 17 yards on three carries.
Schroeder made the Cougars’ only reception of the game, good enough for 27 yards.
On defense, Davis had 11 tackles and John Manship finished with six put-downs. Phillip Carter added five tackles for the Cougars, who got quarterback sacks by Davis, Carter, Thomas Green and Wes Kirk.
‘Bryan was hurting tonight, so he did a nice job,’ Mullis said. ‘Everybody else stepped up. We didn’t feed him the ball as much as we normally do. He had a bruised calf. It’s nothing serious, but with the type of runner he is, and with the plants, it’s painful. He toughed it out and played hard.
‘Luckily, we were able to get other guys rolling. Isaac (Davis) had an excellent game. Josh Cheatham had an excellent game. Michael (Dean) had a great game. We had some big runs from all three of those guys,’ he said. ‘Tonight, I think we really came together. We were worried about being a one-man team, and I think we showed we’re a lot better than Bryan Schroeder. It was a team effort tonight.’
With the Cougars getting the bye in the sectional draw, North Harrison now has two weeks to get healed and prepared for either Salem or Greensburg.
‘We’ll spend a little time looking at Greensburg this week,’ Mullis said. ‘We’re prepared for Salem. They can beat Greensburg. We’ve already scouted Salem. We’ll prepare for Greensburg and get some of our injuries healed up.’