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Cougars miss opportunity to score; penalties costly in loss

Cougars miss opportunity to score; penalties costly in loss
Cougars miss opportunity to score; penalties costly in loss
North Harrison lineman Thomas Green grabs hold of Salem quarterback Tyler Huls. (Photo by Brian Smith)

Life without the opening day starting backs Bryan Schroeder and Corey Isaac began Friday night for North Harrison. A valiant effort by the Cougar defense was upended by a lengthy Salem touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, giving Salem a 14-7 win in Mid-Southern Conference action.
‘We’ve got more mistakes we need to fix, but our guys played extremely hard,’ Cougar head coach Jason Mullis said. ‘I’m proud of them, but we thought tonight we could win this game and we nearly did.’
Untimely penalties neglected key North Harrison drives in the first half. In the third quarter, freshman running back Matt Bruderle utilized a gaping hole the offensive line created to sprint 55 yards to the end zone. Bruderle continues to excel in the backfield filling in for Shroeder and Isaac. His touchdown tied the game at 7-7.
Salem responded with a solid 13-play, 72-yard drive. The drive chewed up more than six minutes off the clock. Lions starting quarterback Tyler Huls suffered an injury midway through the drive, but that didn’t slow Salem. Backup Robert Baker fumbled on the six-yard line but recovered. Eventually Baker handed off to Eric Zink who scored the eventual game-winning touchdown.
After its 13-play touchdown drive, Salem seemed to move the ball at will following North Harrison’s three-and-out offensive series. Facing a second and eight, Justin Beavers coughed up the football on the 48-yard line with 2:34 to play.
North Harrison was able to advance the ball to the 28 with little time to work with. On a fourth-and-one, North Harrison gave the ball to junior back Josh Cheatham, but he was driven back by the Salem defensive line. The last efforts from the Cougars came up short.
‘Well, we are definitely banged up,’ Mullis said. ‘I thought our guys played hard. Salem, who I would call one of the best teams, if not the best team in our conference, is a very strong ball club. With the injuries we’ve been dealing with, to be right there until the end, says something about our ball club.’
Schroeder is still out on a week-to-week with an ankle injury, but Mullis said he will be back by the end of the season. The revamped backfield now features senior Ty Brown, who finished with 78 yards on 15 carries, Cheatham and Bruderle.
Continuing to run hard, Bruderle has been impressive as a freshman. He added his third consecutive 100-yard rushing performance to his resum’ with 111 yards on 12 carries. Brown added 78 yards rushing on 15 carries.
‘Our offensive line did a nice job against a tough defense,’ Mullis said. ‘They made some nice holes. The guys we needed to step up, stepped up, but we just came up short tonight.’
Opening the game, North Harrison started its first possession at the seven-yard line. Nine plays later, thanks to a pair of 17-yard runs from Brown and Bruderle, the Cougars were 26 yards away from the end zone. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty forced a third and long, ceasing the solid drive. Penalties hampered two more Cougar drives in the first half as well.
Salem put points on the board first after Lucas Brown threw an interception. With 30 seconds left in the first half, Trevor Shell broke an 83-yard run down the left sideline for a score.
‘You take away that long play and I think we win this ball game,’ Mullis said.
Shell led the Lions offense with 95 yards. Zinc finished with 47-yards rushing as well.
Leading up to the Salem game, Mullis said practices have been geared toward filling holes injuries have left.
‘They have been about getting a lot of young guys up to speed,’ he said. ‘Some penalties really killed some drives we had going. We moved the ball well against them. I just think we are going to get better and when we get some of these guys back, we should be tough to deal with.’
The Cougars will look to get back on track this Friday night when they head to face struggling Paoli (0-3) at 7. The Rams dropped their most recent game 19-6 at the hands of Springs Valley.
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