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Burton ushers in new era of NH football

Burton ushers in new era of NH football
Burton ushers in new era of NH football
North Harrison coach Greg Burton, center, leads a discussion after a recent practice with the football team. Photo by Brian Smith (click for larger version)

Learning and working hard.
North Harrison’s first-year coach, Greg Burton, said the Cougars are not only working hard in the practices leading up to the 2011 kickoff, but also picking up on the new system.
‘We have put a lot of stuff on offense and defense in,’ Burton said. ‘They are smart kids that are picking up real well. Other places I’ve been, you have to tell kids three, four, five times how to run things. Here, I tell them the first time and either they know it, or they ask questions to figure it out quicker.’
Burton comes to North Harrison after 11 years as a varsity assistant. He had stops in Edinburgh, Madison and Trimble County (Ky.), along with his most recent position at Bourbon County (Ky.). He succeeds Jason Mullis, who compiled 27 wins in seven seasons.
‘Sometimes a new coach can change the mentality coming into the season,’ Burton said. ‘But they are putting the time in, and mentally, they are in a good spot. They are good kids and very respectful. A lot of, ‘Yes, sirs’ and ‘No, sirs.’ As an example, right at the end of practice (last Thursday), a kid came up to me and asked what he can do to get better. He wasn’t running with the first team, but asked what he can do to get there and get in. You have to like that approach from kids. They want it.’
The Cougars are coming off a 2-8 season and looking for their first sectional win since the 2005 season.
Hard luck hit the Cougars just before the start of practice when sophomore running back Jason Parker was lost for the season with an injury. North Harrison also graduated the school’s all-time leading rusher, Matt Bruderle (6,340 career yards).
‘I never saw Jason play but heard a lot of great things about him. He worked out with us all summer and had a great attitude,’ Burton said. ‘Michael Cox and Ryan Rennirt are going to be our running backs. They are guys who are going to battle when they carry the ball. They compliment each other well: Rennirt is a tough, strong runner, while Cox has more speed.’
A quarterback battle is also taking place on the practice field between Wyatt Faith and Derrick Harter.
‘Both are really pushing each other,’ Burton said. ‘If I had to pick a starter today (last Thursday), it would be a coin flip. Both have done very well thus far. They each have good days. That’s one spot I was worried about coming in, but those guys have settled those nerves.’
Offensively, the Cougars look to incorporate more of a passing game.
‘They threw the ball about 50 to 60 times last year, and we hope to eclipse that in the first part of the season. We’ll be more balanced. We don’t have to hit every pass, but we have to make our opponents respect it,’ Burton said.
Both sides of the line are full of depth. The blocking assignments are similar to the previous offensive schemes.
Defensively, the style will be to attack and make big plays. Burton said they may give up long plays at times, but the focus will be on making big plays.
‘We’re probably not going to knock the world overnight,’ Burton said. ‘But, I am cautiously optimistic that we’re setting up to have a pretty good season. We’ve got size, speed and smart kids that have shown me they can learn and work hard.’
Gary Fessel, Rick Gunter and Rob Rhodes are on the coaching staff.
‘They work hard, and they are learning just like the kids about me and my system,’ Burton said of the staff. ‘And, on some level, I am learning from them.’
During the summer, Burton said about 40 players participated in the scheduled weight-room program. Instead of going twice a week as scheduled, nearly half showed up four times a week.
‘When asked about expectations, the way you get better is constantly improving,’ Burton said. ‘I don’t know how many games we’ll win, and I can’t control how good or bad our opponents will be. But, I know, working hard and getting better every day will get us there.’
For the second consecutive year, the Cougars head into the first regular season game without playing a scrimmage. Extreme heat forced the cancellation last year, while, this year, Springs Valley backed out. Instead, North Harrison played a Blue-White game Friday evening.
Burton said not having the scrimmage this year doesn’t bother him because the week one opponent, Crawford County, will be left in the dark in regard to scouting the Cougars under a new coach.
The rival Cougars and Wolfpack will kick off Friday at 7 p.m. in Ramsey.

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