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Speedy backs make for dangerous options

The 2008 campaign was to be the first season without running back Bryan Schroeder. Yet an injury sidelined the now Central Michigan back for the final eight games of the 2007 season. The Cougars finished the season 3-7.
Life after Schroeder began last season and the North Harrison offense didn’t slow down much. A core of running backs return to the Cougar backfield, armed with speed and quickness that will give several teams fits.
‘I have a lot of returning starters back on offense and defense, so we should be a solid ball club,’ North Harrison coach Jason Mullis said. ‘Our backs and our line played really well during our scrimmage (against Springs Valley).’
Sophomore Matt Bruderle returns as the team’s leading rusher. He had a strong freshman campaign, running for more than 1,300 yards, but he isn’t the only speedster in the backfield.
Junior Corey Isaac is a burner with a 4.3 40-yard dash speed. During the opening game last year, he injured his knee and is looking to help out in the backfield this season. Another junior, Matt Yeats, steps in the fullback position.
‘Yeats gives us some explosive speed out of that position that we didn’t have in the past,’ Mullis said.
Senior Marcus Stone has joined the team and is another speedy and powerful option out of the backfield.
Tony Powell takes over the quarterback duties after succeeding at the quarterback spot during last year’s sectional game against Edgewood.
‘He came into the summer and worked hard and earned the spot,’ Mullis said. ‘Powell has done a great job running the offense. He can give us another run dimension we are real pleased with.’
Powell’s passing targets include tight ends Levi Simpson and Michael Cundiff.
The Cougars will continue to implement the misdirection option offense with a mix of surprises. The success of the offense is all about the speed of the back Powell gets the ball to.
Focus during the pre-season has been to limit mistakes.
‘We want to keep the ball and not make mistakes. That is our mentality right now. We want to get better at what we do and be precise with the way we do it,’ Mullis said.
Last season, Mullis said fumbles became a problem, so the goal is to limit not only the fumbles but penalties. The coaching staff is installing new snap counts on offense, which has been an adjustment.
‘We are mixing up our snap cadences this year,’ he said. ‘We used to just implement one cadence. That has been an area of improvement for us.’
Defensively, the Cougars are sticking to their 50-front style.
‘It will basically be the same, but we are putting in some faster guys this year,’ Mullis said. ‘We’re not as big as we have been in the past, but we have speed.’
He said the team will mix up the looks based on the opponent. Most of the speed on offense will be lined up on the defensive side.
Overall, Mullis has been impressed with the play of his offensive and defensive lines. Center Michael Downs has trimmed 40 pounds and is more agile. TJ Sanders, another returning starter, is a physical presence on both sides of the ball. Jacob Snook and Matt Johnson have moved to the guard positions, allowing for a quicker line.
‘They are fullback types that can open holes faster for our backs so they can make something happen,’ Mullis said.
The outlook for the season is to take it one snap at a time.
‘If we can stay healthy, we can be tough,’ Mullis said. ‘We have good 44 kids, and we need to stay healthy.’
North Harrison opens the season Friday at home against West Washington with kickoff at 7 p.m.
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