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Despite loss, North Harrison taking steps forward

Despite loss, North Harrison taking steps forward
Despite loss, North Harrison taking steps forward
In his most productive offensive performance of the year, North Harrison's Josh Cheatham runs behind a wall of blockers. He carried for 100 yards.

The motive for the final month of the regular football season at North Harrison has changed. The preseason high hopes of bringing home its first Mid-Southern Conference title were dashed by injuries to the team’s version of Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison. Powerful offensive weapons Bryan Schroeder and Corey Isaac have been sidelined, Isaac for the season.
Coming off a disappointing loss to Paoli the week before, North Harrison could have packed its bags and waited until next year. Against rival Brownstown Central (4-1, 3-1 MSC) Friday night, the Cougars dug into the offensive playbook and turned in a performance the coaching staff was pleased with despite four costly turnovers and a 35-21 loss.
‘We picked up the offense and took a step forward tonight,’ said Cougar linebacker and guard John Manship. ‘We had a good week of practice, and we are going to take the positives from this game and keep playing better.’
North Harrison (1-4, 0-3) amassed 454 yards of total offense, but the four fumbles they lost halted promising drives.
The first came down 7-0, when Lucas Brown’s pitch in the backfield found the turf then the arms of a Braves defender. That fumble came during an 11-play drive which moved the ball to the 28-yard line just after Matt Bruderle picked up a first down on a fourth-down run.
Brownstown took advantage of the miscue, scoring again with a Cockerham 24-yard run and taking a 14-0 lead.
North Harrison fumbled again on its next drive, but North Harrison’s defense came up with a big turnover themselves. Brown leaped near the end zone to pick off Cockerham, giving the Cougars the ball back.
Starting at its own four, North Harrison put together a solid 12-play, 96-yard drive capped by a Bruderle 31-yard run on a fourth down.
The Braves answered back with a quick drive, closed by a Cockerham 20-yard pass to Blaze Hurley, giving the Braves a 21-7 edge heading into the locker room.
In the third quarter, the Braves turned North Harrison’s third turnover into gold again. Inside the red zone, the Cougars coughed up the ball 18 yards from paydirt. Brownstown Central recovered and quickly made the score 34-7 with a Teddy Stucker one-yard run.
The final fumble was the dagger. In the fourth quarter, Jacob Snook lost the ball in an attempt to cross the goal line on the one-yard line. North Harrison would tack on two late scores, but Brownstown Central left Ramsey with the win.
‘We’re not too disappointed with the loss,’ North Harrison coach Jason Mullis said. ‘A totally different ball club out here tonight. The kids aren’t hanging their heads. We’re trying to get better every week, and when we get healthy, we’re going to be that much better.’
Offensively, North Harrison outgained its rival 454-375, but the fumbles were obviously costly. The offense dug into the playbook and started to spread the ball around, with six different Cougars touching the ball in the first half.
On offense, Brown stepped into the starting quarterback role and took nearly all the reps behind center. The Cougars had been using a two quarterback system with Brown and Matt Johnson.
‘He gives us more of a throwing option,’ Mullis said. ‘We went with him because he had a couple of nice games and he adds a little more speed.’
Brown completed three of seven pass attempts for 81 yards and also ran for 23 yards. On the drive that ended with a fumble at the one, Brown launched a 33-yard bomb to Geno Hedgespeth that bounced off his chest incomplete.
Despite gaping holes forming along the seams of his jersey pants, Bruderle continues to run hard in the Cougar backfield. The freshman ran for 177 yards and caught a pass for 27.
‘He’s a hard-nosed kid,’ Mullis said. ‘The thing is, we are asking guys to step up, and for a freshman to step up the way he has shows a lot of maturity. We just didn’t expect him to step up like this. He is growing quickly.’
During camp, Bruderle, who goes by the nickname Valley on the sidelines, caught the eye of coaches at camp. He previously played center in youth leagues in Louisville because of his size. He moved over to Indiana and when Mullis saw Bruderle run a 4.7 40-yard dash as a freshman, it was a no-brainer to have him run the ball.
‘He has raw talent and great natural instincts,’ Mullis added. ‘He never gets taken down on the first hit and has tremendous speed.’
Junior Josh Cheatham also came up with a solid performance, rushing for 100 yards. Jacob Snook ran for 44 yards and Ty Brown scored North Harrison’s final touchdown on a five-yard scamper.
Brownstown was led by Teddy Stucker’s 117 yards on the ground and Cockerham’s 87 through the air.
Looking forward, Mullis said he gave his team a motto last week, ‘It’s not how you start the race, it’s how you finish.’
With Schroeder still week-to-week, Mullis expects his team to have a variety of offensive weapons the final weeks leading to sectional play.

Brownstown Central 14 7 14 0 – 35
North Harrison 0 7 0 14 – 21
Scoring summary: Brownstown – Cam Cockerham 6 run (Kelly Wagner kick); Brownstown – Cockerham 24 run (Wagner kick); North Harrison – Matt Bruderle 31 run (Zack Stephenson kick); Brownstown – Blaze Hurley 20 pass from Cockerham (Wagner kick); Brownstown – Cockerham 5 run (Wagner kick); Brownstown – Teddy Stucker 2 run (Wagner kick); North Harrison – Ty Brown 4 run (Bruderle run); North Harrison – Bruderle 4 run (run failed).

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