Change in look for Cougars
If you are planning to travel to West Washington Friday night, expect a new look on both sides of the ball when North Harrison takes the field.
Jason Mullis, in his sixth year as skipper of the Cougar program, is putting a variation on the smash-mouth style of offensive football the North Harrison faithful is used to seeing.
‘The big difference will be on the offensive side,’ Mullis said. ‘We’re going to spread the field out with wide receivers out wide instead of keeping things compact in the middle of the field.’
The Cougars found plenty of success in the past with the double-wing tight formation on offense. The past couple of years, completing passes on lengthy third downs became an issue.
Mullis and the Cougar coaching staff decided to move Matt Bruderle to the quarterback position. The junior has run for more than 3,000 yards as a tailback but will now huddle behind center.
‘Instead of worrying about allowing a defense to put 11 guys in the box, we can show an option that we can throw the ball,’ Mullis said.
Bruderle is not a stranger to the quarterback position. As a freshman, he spent time there before injuries to two starting backs put him in the running back spot.
Regardless, Mullis said the offense will still consist of pounding the ball in the running game.
‘We still have our strong running game,’ he said. ‘It will just be spread out with the threat of throwing the ball, which Bruderle can do.’
Joining the backfield is several talented backs, including senior Matt Yeats, sophomore Ryan Rennirt and senior Michael Cundiff.
Cundiff is an All-Mid-Southern Conference tight end who is moving to the fullback spot.
‘Cundiff is one of those kids who likes to hit and has always been able to open gaps from the tight-end position,’ Mullis said. ‘He’ll get the ball some in the offense and will run hard and hit hard.’
Mullis said the team has additional firepower at the skill positions in terms of depth, something the coach said he will use to his advantage.
‘This is the first year we’ve been able to platoon guys at several positions to keep fresh,’ he said. ‘We may have two kids that go full time on both sides of the ball, but everyone else will see time on each side but with breaks to keep everyone fresh.’
On the line, the Cougars bring back a trio of seasoned linemen, including Michael Downs, Matt Johnson, Brandon Rouse and Christian Coomer.
‘We have probably seven or eight seniors that have started for a year or two, so we are a seasoned bunch,’ Mullis said.
The youth is something Mullis is continually excited about as well.
‘We had guys like Paul Roberts step up last season and work real hard for us as sophomores. We also have a big group of 22 in our freshman class that survived camp and practices,’ Mullis said.
The team graduated a handful of seniors from last year’s class, but Mullis believes he filled all the voids. He said the team must replace punter Levi Simpson, which is a key loss. In special teams, the Cougars return junior Zach Stephenson for kickoffs and place kicking.
On the defensive side, Mullis said the team is going back to the philosophy that was successful several years ago: aggression.
‘We want to get off the ball quick and cause controlled chaos,’ he said. ‘Our guys are going to run to the ball hard. We’re going to go back to making tough plays and going after the offense.’
North Harrison finished last season with a 3-6 record and closed with a 33-15 loss to Charlestown in the Class 3A Sectional.
The season kicks off for the Cougars when they travel to West Washington Friday for a 7 p.m. contest.
West Washington opened its season last year with a 33-9 win over the Cougars. The Senators went on to finish with a 6-5 record.