Hard luck hits Cougars
Friday night wasn’t the opening the Cougars wanted, but there is still plenty of time for the young squad to improve. West Washington, boasting 18 seniors, outlasted a drained North Harrison squad 33-9 in Ramsey to start the 2008 football season.
In what likely felt like a mirror of last season, North Harrison played much of the lopsided loss without several key components. Linebacker Michael Cundiff and running back Corey Isaac didn’t play due to injuries. Then, during the early stages of the second quarter, the Cougars lost sophomore running back Matt Bruderle for the game due to an injury. Bruderle led North Harrison in rushing yards and touchdowns last season.
‘With ‘Valley’ (Bruderle) getting hurt, we lost a lot on defense and offense,’ North Harrison head coach Jason Mullis said. ‘Corey Isaac and Michael Cundiff not playing due to injuries today, we ended up playing without three or four starters. We’re just going to get better. We have a lot of growing to do.’
Down 19-3 at the half, the Cougars showed positives out of the break. The Cougars put together a 12-play drive, eating 6:34 of clock and resulting in a Tony Powell 3-yard touchdown run. With Bruderle and Isaac out, Powell moved from quarterback to running back while Lucas Brown shifted behind center. Brown came up with a big play during the drive, a 27-yard pass to Levi Simpson that got the Cougars to the 15-yard line.
‘With those guys, on that opening drive, they took it right down the field and scored,’ Mullis said. ‘We gave it right back to them, so we lost the momentum. But I like what we did because it showed signs that we’re going to be all right.’
The two-point conversion failed, but the score pulled the Cougars within 10 at 19-9. West Washington didn’t waiver. Senior quarterback Martin Chastain had a big game and came up with one of many big plays after the North Harrison score. The quarterback scrambled for a 36-yard run, putting the Senators in the red zone. Cheyenne Young finished the quick drive with an 8-yard score.
West Washington (1-0) added a later score, a 25-yard run from Chastain with five minutes left in the game. Chastain finished the game with 95 yards rushing and completed 9-of-19 passes for 171 yards. He had four touchdowns.
‘West Washington just outplayed us tonight,’ Mullis said. ‘That is the bottom line. They got some big plays early. We showed signs of moving the ball, but we got tired.’
North Harrison’s defense was strong early, allowing one Senator first down in their first two drives. At the end of their second drive, West Washington botched a punt attempt, allowing North Harrison to recover the ball 10 yards from the goal line.
West Washington’s defense didn’t allow the Cougars to score a touchdown, forcing North Harrison’s Zach Stephenson to knock the season’s first three points through the uprights from 22 yards out.
Chastain responded with consecutive touchdown passes. The first was a 56-yard hook-up with Josh Ross and the other a 20-yard strike to Chris Doan.
The North Harrison offense tallied just over 200 yards. Bruderle had 12 carries for 76 yards before leaving with an injury.
‘You lost ‘Valley’ as a running back, but we’ve got guys that can step in. We just got to do better,’ Mullis said. ‘It is unfortunate that we are dealing with this much adversity early on, but it will make us a strong group as the season goes on. It’s a long season. We’re not going to fold up shop.’
Powell stepped in strong at the tailback position, running for 77 yards on 17 carries. Freshman Michael Cox picked up 15 yards on six carries. Matt Yeats, Marcus Stone and Levi Simpson also had carries out of the back field.
Mullis said the heat and high humidity took a toll on several of his players who played offense and defense Friday night. Adding depth at each position is something the coaching staff will work on in the coming week.
‘This one is on us as a coaching staff, we need to find some depth,’ he said. ‘Once everyone got hurt, our playbook got a lot smaller. We’ve got some things to fix, but I think the heat had something to do with it.’
North Harrison (0-1) returns to the field Friday to face Corydon Central (0-1) in the Big Cat Classic. Corydon Central won last year’s meeting 25-18. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. in Corydon.
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