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Special teams troubles doom Cougars

September 10, 2008
Fresh off an emotional win over rival Corydon Central, North Harrison hoped to get off on a much better start than it did Friday night against visiting Salem.

The Lions, off a resounding 39-14 win over West Washington the week before, put the Cougars far behind in a matter of minutes. Three miscues on special teams led to 20 unanswered Salem points in the opening four minutes and an eventual 52-14 Lions win.

On the opening kickoff, North Harrison's Paul Roberts lands a big hit, sending a Salem defender in the air. Despite the hit, Salem's Kyle Martin, left, returned the kickoff for a touchdown. (Photo by Brian Smith)
On the opening kickoff, North Harrison's Paul Roberts laid a menacing hit on a Salem blocker, but that hit was the only cheers the Cougar fans celebrated on the play. Seconds after cheering the hit, the Lions fans roared when Kyle Martin ran the kickoff 91 yards to the end zone.

The jubilation continued on the Salem sideline. North Harrison's ensuing possession went nowhere, forcing a quick punt. On the snap, the pigskin went over the head of punter Levi Simpson, forcing him to fall on the ball at the 3-yard line for a 27-yard loss.

Utilizing the miscue, Salem scored on its first play, an Eric Zink run from the 3 off right tackle. The two-point conversion put Salem up 14-0.

The unlucky North Harrison start continued on the next kickoff. Marcus Stone lost the football and the visitors recovered at the 30-yard line. Two plays later, Salem quarterback Christian Chastain scrambled 26 yards to the end zone and a 20-0 Lions lead.

The initial Salem barrage of scoring ended when North Harrison was able to put together a 10-play drive. The drive featured a 24-yard Matt Bruderle run and a 12-yard run from Tony Powell. North Harrison moved the ball to the 21 until the Salem defense came up with a fourth-down stop, forcing a turnover on downs.

With better defensive field position, North Harrison was able to force a Salem punt on the next drive. Yet on the punt, North Harrison fumbled the return, giving the Lions great field position once again.

From 25 yards, the Lions took five plays to punch the ball in. Justin Beavers rolled in from the 4, pushing the Salem lead to 26-0.

Chastain, who had a productive day behind center for the Lions, tossing a 24-yard pass and running one in from 13 yards to give Salem a lopsided 38-0 halftime lead.

Salem added a seventh touchdown in the third quarter, a Beavers' 38-yard run, before North Harrison finally put points on the board. The second half was played in sloppy conditions when rain stayed steady.

In the third quarter, Matt Yeats recovered a fumble after a Salem punt attempt failed, prompting good Cougar field position. North Harrison took advantage, orchestrating a 7-play, 43-yard drive for a score. Bruderle and Powell did a load of the work with Bruderle running into the end zone from the 2.

Midway through the fourth quarter, North Harrison added a second score, a Bruderle 8-yard run. The sophomore started the drive with a 30-yard gain on the ground.

Bruderle finished the game with 141 yards rushing on 26 attempts. Powell ran for 44 yards on nine carries, while Yeats added 34 yards on seven carries. The two early turnovers were the only of the game from the Cougars.

Salem (2-1, 1-0 Mid-Southern Conference) didn't gain many more yards than North Harrison, edging out the battle 282-225. Chastain led a balanced rushing attack with 71 yards on four carries. He also completed two passes for 31 yards.

Salem saw eight different backs touch the ball in the running game. Beaver finished with 62 yards, followed by Kreigh Holstine's 58. Salem turned the ball over three times, all in the second half.

North Harrison (1-2, 1-1 MSC) will need to bounce back quickly. The Cougars face a pair of tough contests in the next two weeks hosting Paoli and trip to Brownstown Central.

After an 0-10 2006 season, Paoli ended a 17-game losing streak by beating North Harrison last season 14-13. The Ram win wasn't a fluke. Since then, third-year coach Brian Balsmeyer's team has won 9 of 11 games. The Rams are 3-0 this season, including an 18-14 win over Salem in week one.

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