NH family brings home ‘W’
Immediately after pulling out a 36-29 victory over rival Corydon Central High School in the Big Cat Classic Friday, North Harrison players, fans, students and coaches came together as one on the field. That one wasn’t just to accept the Big Cat Classic hardware, but as a time to remember a pair of former students who passed away recently.
North Harrison head coach Jason Mullis addressed not only his players but the fans in letting them know how much the win means to the football program as well as to the community and school.
The Cougars had to overcome seven turnovers and losing a fourth-quarter, two-touchdown lead before Matt Bruderle scored the game-winning touchdown with 44 seconds to play, breaking a 29-29 tie.
‘It kind of comes with everything we’ve dealt with,’ Mullis said. ‘It was a good thing to say our school dealt with adversity, our team dealt with adversity and we overcame that. It shows, we can overcome these losses. That is my thing; this game epitomizes how we can overcome anything. As a school, we will overcome the loss our community took as will this football team’s.’
James (Ryan) Shawver, a 2007 North Harrison graduate, died last Tuesday in an automobile crash driving home from a friend’s funeral. The friend, Patrick Fowler Jr., also attended North Harrison before changing schools.
‘It affected the whole school and practices,’ said North Harrison senior lineman T.J. Sanders. ‘We had some guys break down during the week, but this win makes it all better.’
When Bruderle scored with 44 seconds to play, he did the same as he did on his first score, pointed to the sky before celebrating with teammates.
‘I didn’t know (Shawver and Fowler) that well, but this game was for them,’ Bruderle said. ‘Every time I scored, it was for them.’
Turnovers almost kept the Cougars from the victory. While the offense amassed 367 yards, they also turned the ball over seven times.
The second turnover put Corydon Central on the board first. Junior Dylan Harl picked off a Matt Johnson pass and took it 45 yards for a touchdown.
North Harrison then took the ball down into the red zone before fumbling again. The Cougar defense forced a Corydon Central three-and-out, giving the offense the ball back. A short Panther punt set up a 26-yard North Harrison drive to tie the game. Johnson kept the ball for a 7-yard score.
Johnson was inserted at quarterback the day before the game.
‘Matt Johnson I thought did an excellent job at quarterback, being we threw him back there on Thursday,’ Mullis said. ‘He went in on Thursday and did a nice job for us. He was a guy we could count on.’
A fumble on North Harrison’s next offensive play set up another Corydon Central score. This time, Corydon Central quarterback Richard Armstrong connected with Brandon Dunaway on a 16-yard touchdown pass.
After Corydon Central stalled on a positive drive, turning the ball over on downs inside the 20, North Harrison put together another drive dominated by the running game.
Matt Yeats broke a 17-yard run, and Bruderle added a 22-yard scamper in a balanced drive that had five different Cougars touching the ball. Bruderle gave North Harrison a 14-13 halftime lead with a 12-yard run down the right side.
North Harrison struck fast in the second half, putting together a 7-play drive capped by a Yeats touchdown run from seven yards out. The junior ran for 52 yards on 11 carries.
Corydon Central went with a steady running game led by Seth Rennirt in the second half. The sophomore finished the game with 77 yards and a touchdown. The Panthers had an opportunity to score again but failed to complete a pass on a fourth down at the 20-yard line, turning the ball over on downs.
A fumble at the end of the third quarter gave Corydon Central perfect field position yet again, 30 yards from the end zone. Four Rennirt runs pushed the ball to the 11-yard line before an illegal shift penalty pushed the Panthers back. They later turned the ball over on downs.
‘We had a critical third and short, and we were flagged for two men in motion when our quarterback was checking off the play at the line,’ said Corydon Central coach Jason Timberlake. ‘It’s a call I’m still wondering about.’
North Harrison then marched the ball 89 yards for a touchdown. On the second play of the drive, Tony Powell utilized a gaping hole on the left side to sprint 56 yards down to the 27. Powell finished the drive with a touchdown, putting the Cougars up two scores at 29-13.
With under seven minutes to play, Corydon Central didn’t give in. On its next play, Armstrong found a streaking Dunaway along the left sideline, connecting on a 66-yard touchdown pass. Harl caught the two-point conversion, cutting the Cougar lead to 29-21.
North Harrison then fumbled for the sixth time, giving the ball back to the Panthers. On the next play, the Armstrong-Dunaway connection met again, moving the ball to the 4-yard line. Rennirt ran the ball in for a score with 5:26 to play. Garett Ross caught the two-point conversion to tie the game at 29-all.
‘We gave them (Corydon Central) a lot of opportunities to stay in the game,’ Mullis said.
North Harrison then did what they continued to do the entire game: run the football. This time, the Cougars didn’t fumble it away. Instead, they put together a 10-play drive, including two strategic plays at the 1-yard line. At the goal line, the Cougars took a knee twice, forcing the Panthers to take their remaining time-outs and to milk the clock. Bruderle finished the game with a run on the right side of the line with 44 seconds remaining to the endzone. Zach Stephenson’s extra point made the score 36-29.
‘At first when they took the knee, I didn’t know what to say because we were losing a yard on the play,’ Bruderle said. ‘Then they called my play. I just put my head down and ran forward. It was a great feeling. I’ve never done it before. It felt great.’
Bruderle returned from an injury in week one to rush for 191 yards and two scores against their Mid-Southern Conference rival.
Timberlake and the Panthers had trouble capitalizing on the turnovers and stopping the Cougar running attack.
‘The kids left it on the field tonight,’ he said. ‘They played with a lot of heart. We couldn’t stop the run today. It’s hard to win a ball game when you can’t stop the run.’
Armstrong had a solid day behind center for the Panthers, completing 9-of-17 attempts for 166 yards. Dunaway caught three balls for 117 yards and two scores while leading the team in tackles with 15. Rennirt also had a productive day with 77 yards rushing.
The North Harrison running game appeared to be back, minus the fumbles.
‘Try to play our style and run the ball hard,’ Mullis said of his team’s goals coming into the game. ‘Turning over the football was a nightmare. These boys are going to be carrying a football for as long as they can. If I have to start strapping it to their arms, I will.’
Powell also broke the century mark, rushing for 112 yards.
‘Coaches worked until 2 a.m. drawing up plays that would work for us,’ Powell said. ‘It really worked out for us.’
Sanders, who anchors an offensive line that dominated the line of scrimmage said the win came down to one thing: brotherhood.
‘The brotherhood,’ he said. ‘Staying together. No one got mad when we fumbled; we told each other to forget about it next time and keep going. Tony Powell, Matt Bruderle, yeah, they fumbled a little bit, but the brotherhood behind them told them to keep going.’
Corydon Central travels Friday to Brownstown Central (1-1). The Braves are coming off a 28-24 loss at the hands of Charlestown in the battle of MSC favorites. Last season, the Braves won 42-7.
North Harrison returns home Friday to host Salem (1-1). Salem dominated West Washington, North Harrison’s lone loss on the season, 39-14 last week. The Lions defeated the Cougars last year, 14-7.
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