Spread offense coming together for Cougars
North Harrison coach Jason Mullis told his team that it had a mountain to climb during the 2009 football season.
In Friday night’s battle with pre-season Mid-Southern Conference favorite Salem, the Cougars didn’t come away with an upset win, but they did take an immense step forward in a 35-20 loss.
Through the entire second half, and with the North Harrison crowd behind their Cougars, North Harrison showed they could stay with Salem on the field. Energy on the sideline and after the game was uplifting for North Harrison.
‘They are in it again,’ Mullis said of his team’s positive attitude after breaking the post-game huddle. ‘That is the thing; I am proud of them for that. With the way things started in the first two weeks, everyone was wondering what we were doing. I tell our guys there is a mountain there. But I said, ‘Guys, we jumped a long way up that mountain today in one week of practice.’ ‘
Salem struck first Friday with a 15-yard touchdown run from Robert Baker. Baker keyed the score with a fourth-and-six conversion, moving the Lions to the 23-yard line on a nine-yard run.
North Harrison’s defense came up with a key play in the first quarter when it forced Salem’s Kreigh Holstine to fumble the ball.
On the next drive, Cougar quarterback Matt Bruderle connected with a wide receiver he would find over and over on the night. Facing a third-and-12 situation, Bruderle connected with freshman Mitch Bolin for a 24-yard gain. The duo hooked up again on the next play for 15 additional yards. Two plays later, Jimmie Slucher scored from five yards. With the failed two-point conversion, Salem led 8-6.
Salem put in a pair of scores in the second quarter. Jerod Farmer scored from two yards, and Baker scored his second touchdown to give the Lions a 20-6 halftime lead.
The North Harrison offense had a solid drive to end the half, which featured a near-perfect start to the passing game. Bruderle completed 7 of 8 passes for 80 yards, with Bolin on the receiving end for each of the completions.
In the third quarter, Salem struck with a Christian Chastain deep pass to Baker for a 44-yard touchdown. The connection put Salem up 28-6.
‘We gave up a big pass when we brought a blitz,’ Mullis said. ‘They caught my call, and give credit to them. We made them (Salem) work, though. And in the last few weeks, we haven’t made people work. Now, we just have to get the offense to punch it in. But we hung in with the team that is likely the favorite to win the conference.’
The work started after Salem’s big play. Bruderle opened the next drive with a 34-yard run. The junior then followed with a pair of passes, one each to Bolin and Dale Roll. The big plays set up a 10-yard touchdown run from Bruderle.
‘We played without (Michael) Cox tonight,’ Mullis said. ‘He is our guy with the most receptions and he got hurt Wednesday in practice. We had a kid step up who is a freshman and show what he can do. Bolin had a heck of a game. I thought Bruderle was smart with the ball tonight and he ran harder today.’
Bruderle had a 15-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, moving the score to the 35-20 final.
Bruderle finished with 89 yards on 18 carries. He completed 13 of his first 15 pass attempts and finished the game with 14-of-21 passing for 176 yards and one interception.
Bolin caught 12 balls for 137 yards. Slucher carried the ball nine time for 36 yards and also caught one ball for 12.
Mullis said the team moved to a two-platoon system, limiting players who play on both sides of the ball.
‘The kids worked hard this week,’ he said. ‘It was a very intense week of practice. We don’t normally go offense versus defense in practice. There was a lot of fire going on in practice. We have that fire now.’
Salem was led by Baker’s 131 rushing yards.
‘Our guys aren’t hanging their heads,’ Mullis said. ‘I told them it may not change in one week, it may not change in two weeks, but dang gone it, when it gets further in the regular season, we’re going to be there.’
The Cougars have a tough test again Friday night when they travel to Paoli (3-0). The Rams have yet to give up a point this season.
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