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Leadership ‘ the key word in Cougar camp

Leadership ‘ the key word in Cougar camp
Leadership ‘ the key word in Cougar camp
Andrew Kitchel refreshed with some water during North Harrison's scrimmage Friday. (Photo by Brian Smith)

Leadership has been the key element of North Harrison’s off-season regimen. Developing strong leaders on and off the field was a point head coach Jason Mullis wanted to get across. So far it has paid off.
‘We have a lot more senior leadership this year,’ Mullis said. ‘I think that is going to be our turning point.’
During Friday’s scrimmage against Springs Valley, the Cougar defense flexed their teamwork muscle throughout the game. On each Springs Valley play from scrimmage, all 11 Cougar defenders ran after the ball, whether the play was dead or not.
‘I wasn’t really surprised. I was more excited to see it,’ Mullis said about the defenders running to the ball. ‘I know our seniors were getting on people in practice about getting to the ball. I kind of wanted to see if it would carry out when they got tired, but they did it the whole game.’
There is a group of seniors who have played significantly since they were freshman: Bryan Schroeder, Stanley Robertson, Andrew Kitchel and Geno Hedgespeth. Mullis said this group, along with the other five seniors will be key because they still are fairly young.
In past seasons, each freshman would be assigned a senior so they could carry their shoulder pads to and from practices. The current seniors took it upon themselves to stop the tradition and not make them ‘pay their dues’ to be a part of the ‘team.’
‘We had a leadership class over the winter that we think will pay big dividends,’ Mullis said. ‘We talked about certain hard topics like when a player doesn’t agree with a play being called in the huddle. They are learning to deal with it, and I think it has paid off.’
On the field, the Cougars appear to be loaded for one of their best seasons. They are healthy heading into week one and are replacing just four positions from last year’s team.
Offensively, Schroeder is the key ingredient to the offense. The 5-11, 220-pound running back has committed to Central Michigan and is just 2,000 yards away from the career Indiana state rushing record. Schroeder had 26 rushing touchdowns a year ago and will most certainly see a bulk of the carries.
Schroeder isn’t the only strength in the backfield; junior Josh Cheatham and sophomore Corey Isaac are the other options. Mullis said Isaac actually is a little faster than Schroeder. He ran the opening play 65 yards for a touchdown in the Springs Valley scrimmage.
The quarterback situation is an interesting one. Mullis said both junior Lucas Brown and sophomore Matt Johnson will share the reps from behind center.
‘They are like identical kids back there,’ Mullis said. ‘They both block and throw the ball well.’
Key to the Cougar success lies in the trenches. All but one lineman has varsity playing experience. Stanley Robertson, TJ Sanders, Brandon Rouse, John Manship and Kitchel make up the solid line. Tight ends Mike Cundiff and Devon Churchill fill out the end positions.
Defensively, the Cougars may be at their best. Against Springs Valley, the North Harrison first team didn’t yield a single score. Even on a 10-play guarantee from 10 yards out, Springs Valley was held without a score.
‘The defense flies around real well,’ Mullis added. Cornerback Robert Grant could be the player to watch. Grant also plays basketball and is in his first season on the football squad. He picked off a pass and made a key goal-line tackle against Springs Valley.
Last season, North Harrison finished 7-2 and in a tie for second in the MSC race. They certainly have the goal of improving on that this season.
As far as the Mid-Southern Conference battle, Mullis feels his team has a solid shot at taking the honors, something the North Harrison football program has yet to earn.
‘This year seems to be real open,’ Mullis said about the MSC. ‘We feel like we should make a run at conference. Clarksville has a lot of starters back and they are the defending champs. Brownstown is always good, and Salem has a lot of returning starters as well.’
They will open the season on the road against West Washington Friday night at 7 p.m. The Senators finished last season 4-5 overall and were handily defeated by the Cougars 21-6 in the opener a year ago.
The sectional has been realigned as well. Out is Batesville and Greensburg. Entering is first-year program Crawford County, Charlestown and Heritage Hills, a historically solid program.
Cougar schedule
17 — at West Washington 7:00
31 — at Salem 7:00
7 — at Paoli 7:00
21 — at Clarksville 7:00
28 — at Eastern 7:00