Balanced offense gives Brownstown scare
North Harrison held a 10-point advantage early in the second quarter against Mid-Southern Conference leader Brownstown Central on the road Friday night, making for an unusually quiet Blevins Memorial Stadium.
A pair of missed opportunities in the latter stages of the first half, combined with the Braves scoring 14 unanswered points in the first three minutes of the second half, led to the Braves surviving the North Harrison upset bid, 45-19.
‘We definitely made some strides forward tonight,’ North Harrison coach Jason Mullis said. ‘I’m not happy with a loss because we knew we could come in here and play with them.’
Brownstown Central struck early when prompted with good field position. The drive, starting at the 26, was held to a Steffen Lewis 34-yard field goal. Marcus Robb made a key stop for North Harrison, holding a third-and-short run from Braden Scarlett short of a first down.
North Harrison then reeled off back-to-back scores. Following the field goal, the Cougars put together a five-play, 70-yard drive. The scoring play caught the Braves off guard when running back Matt Bruderle threw a pass after taking a toss from quarterback Derrick Harter. Bruderle found an open Jason Parker down the right side of the field. The freshman made the catch and ran in the 53-yard score.
On Brownstown Central’s next possession, a big pass play from Jake Brown to Wade Toppe pushed the Braves in the red zone. The North Harrison defense bounced back and kept the Braves from scoring. Facing a fourth-and-two at the 5, North Harrison corner Steven House wrapped up Scarlett for a minimal gain, forcing a turnover on downs.
North Harrison started its next drive on the Cougars’ own 4, but a 46-yard run by Bruderle on the first play pushed the Cougars to midfield. Later, a 25-yard Bruderle run moved the Cougars to the 5, setting up a touchdown scamper from Parker. The touchdown put North Harrison up, 13-3.
‘Our objective was to get the offense balanced,’ Mullis said. ‘Before, Bruderle was getting the play 90 percent of the time. We’re a young staff, but we figured our best move could be to put Bruderle on the left wing, Jimmie Slucher at full back and Parker at right wing. We did this in a week. I think we found the identity with some misdirection and throwing the ball here and there.’
Brownstown Central bounced back to score on four plays, concluding with a Jordan Turpin 13-yard run with 10:38 left in the second quarter.
In response, North Harrison came up just short on its longest drive of the game. Chewing up nearly six minutes, North Harrison drove the ball from its own 35, to inside the 20.
During the drive, North Harrison fumbled, yet recovered at the 31, setting up a third-and-long. Parker advanced the ball on third down, to the 21, two yards short of the first down. On the next play, Bruderle fell on his own fumble, but the ball was placed two inches short of the first down.
Brownstown Central took ad-vantage of the turnover on downs, eventually taking a 17-13 lead when Brown had a 1-yard sneak.
Two possessions later, North Harrison had a golden opportunity to take the lead. Brownstown Central fumbled the ball at the North Harrison 12, which was scooped by the Cougars’ Alex Rutherford. North Harrison, however, fumbled the ball back on the next play.
‘We had a really good drive then fumbled,’ Mullis said. ‘All was in the first half. At that point, we were up 13-10. If we punch two of those in, it could have been different. Those were our missed opportunities.’
In the second half, Brownstown Central struck quick. Scarlett took the opening kickoff 88 yards up the middle for a touchdown. Then, following a Cougar three-and-out and a miscue on the punt, Brownstown Central scored another touchdown. Brown hooked up with Troppe for a 22-yard pass touchdown, pressing the Braves ahead, 31-13.
‘They jumped on us with the kickoff return, and we go three and out,’ Mullis said. ‘They hit us with a double move on the outside, and they scored quickly. It was bang bang.’
The teams exchanged scores in the second half, but North Harrison was never able to slow the Brownstown Central offense.
‘I was happy with the first half. We played really hard,’ Mullis said. ‘We tweaked the offense a little bit. We threw in more misdirection and had Bruderle throw some halfback passes. I think we kept them off balance the first and second halves.’
Bruderle, a senior, finished the game with 219 yards rushing on 23 carries. He also completed 3 of 4 passes for 78 yards. Parker and Slucher also had solid contributions, running for 58 yards each.
Bruderle, for the fourth consecutive year, reached the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season.
Brownstown Central was led by Brown, who completed 7 of 11 passes for 157 yards.
North Harrison looks to get one in the win column Friday when the Cougars host Clarksville at 7 p.m.