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Cougars hoping for full season and W’s

Cougars hoping for full season and W’s
Cougars hoping for full season and W’s
North Harrison senior Aaron Nevil bulldogs his way for yardage against West Washington during Saturday’s scrimmage. Photo by Wade Bell
Wade Bell, Sports Writer

After weeks of uncertainty about whether football season would even fly or not due to COVID-19, the North Harrison Cougars football team finally got some field time against an opponent Saturday morning in a live scrimmage with host West Washington.

The scrimmage did have a different look than previous years, with mandatory masks and face coverings both in the stands and along the sidelines. That didn’t dampen the spirit of the game, however, with both teams ready to get their final tuneups before the real season starts Friday night.

“We got everybody on the field, so everybody was happy to play,” said North Harrison head coach Mark Williamson, who is beginning his ninth season with the Cougars. “There can’t be too many football teams in the country that’s played in any kind of competitive football game, even though it was a scrimmage, before we did, so it was kind of nice.”

Several teams throughout the state have had to face the fate of having their entire seasons canceled or having multiple games scrapped due to the virus. While COVID-19 has become a distraction for those schools, the Cougars have been able to keep that at a distance.

“We’ve gotten into our routine to where everybody is doing what they’re supposed to for the most part,” Williamson said. “There’s going to be slip-ups every now and then. I slip up all the time. Everybody does it, but we’re doing the best we can. I give us a B+ on that stuff.”

On the field, both Crawford County and West Washington showed that their running game is going to be their strong points.

As he has done for the previous three years, North Harrison senior Aaron Nevil continued to show his power runs, bulldozing his way through the Senators’ defense that included one touchdown run of 30 yards.

The Cougars have two other weapons to help take some of the pressure off of their star senior, with senior Colby Whittaker and Chance Allen getting some big carries.

Whittaker ran into the end zone twice, one of those for 65 yards, and Allen carried the ball to score from 11 yards out. Caleb Kellems and Colt Beach both took snaps behind the center. In the junior-varsity round, Ashton Thurnall took the snaps and was helped into the end zone by a strong offensive line.

“All of that is to be decided,” Williamson said of who would take the first call. “But, of course, Nevil; if you’re a Nevil, you can play football. I guess that’s the way it works. He’s the third one, and they’ve all been really good players. Colby is doing a nice job and will have a good year.”

As far as work ethic, Williamson said his team has been second to none with his players working hard in practice and eager to play the game.

“All year so far, attendance has been extraordinary,” said the North Harrison coach. “We hardly have anybody absent. We’ve got 51 kids, and we’ve been going since July 6 three days a week. It’s been great. The kids want to go to school and they want to play football, and it’s good. They need it. They want it, and I think we’ll finish it out. … I think we’ll finish the season.”

Like any new season, there are always areas that need more work and, with the Cougars, it comes with defensive tackling. Williamson is getting some help in that area with the addition of Preston King on the coaching staff.

The Senators had three touchdowns on three running plays. Chad Nance had a 65-yard touchdown run, Bobby Stevens bulldozed his way in from 30 yards and Greyson McCoy ran in from 5 yards out.

“We don’t tackle very well,” admitted Williamson. “I think we’re a little bit better than last year, but we were really bad at tackling last year. We’ve got a new defensive back coach, Preston King. He’s an exceptional coach. He was a head coach in Louisville for many years, and he knows the game real well. He’s working with the defensive backs. I can promise that position group is going to be a lot better than they’ve been. He tackles every day with them, so it will get better.”

Williamson said his biggest expectation for this year is a full season. The North Harrison coach said just a single cancellation can cripple a team’s momentum and put a dent in all of the work to get better.

“I don’t want anybody to cancel on us,” said Williamson. “I don’t want us to have to cancel. I don’t think that’s going to happen. I hope not. Missing a game is devastating to our players. To anybody that’s ever played football before, they understand that. There’s a lot of time, a lot of fundraisers, a lot of meals cooked, a lot of weights being lifted, a lot of time to play these 10 nights. People don’t realize how much time has been put in for these 10 nights and, to get one canceled, it’s devastating for our kids. But that’s my expectations, to play 10 and as always to have a winning season.”

The Cougars are set to get their first official start Friday night at Salem. Game time is set for 7 p.m.