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Offense makes great strides against Paoli

September 17, 2008
The end result wasn't a win, but the North Harrison offense is back.

The Cougar offense gained 404 total yards, led by Matt Bruderle's 269 on the ground, but the defense struggled in the first half, unable to slow undefeated Paoli Friday night. Going on to a 56-24 win, Paoli amassed 513 yards of offense to drop the Cougars.

"It's like I told the kids, we got better in one phase of the game tonight," North Harrison coach Jason Mullis said. "After last week's debacle, we came out and played for four quarters. Did we get beat? Yeah, we got beat bad, but we got a lot better on the offensive side of the ball."

The Cougars (1-3) were back to moving the ball the way Mullis was used to seeing. Paoli put the first score on the board when Tyler Dillard ran in a score from 19 yards.

Bruderle and the Cougar offense responded with a lengthy 60-yard touchdown run in response. His run had Mullis and the Cougar bench in a roar.

Despite the early response, North Harrison's defense had little answer in the first half against the Rams. They reeled off four consecutive touchdowns before North Harrison put another score again. In the first half, Paoli quarterback Logan Laswell was 5-of-5 passing, including three touchdowns. Two touchdown strikes were to Tate Smith, the other to Dillard.

North Harrison scored its second touchdown on an eight-play drive capped by a Tony Powell 10-yard touchdown run making the score 42-12. Powell finished the game with 73 yards rushing on nine carries.

In the second half, North Harrison allowed only one touchdown against Paoli's starters, who played the entire game.

"We made some adjustments on defense and we were able to slow them down," Mullis said.

The Cougars continued to pound the ball on the ground for much of the second half, scoring a pair of touchdowns. Bruderle broke another long run, a 76-yard scamper to the end zone. On the following kickoff, North Harrison forced a fumble, setting up their fourth score.

Matt Yeats carried the ball 32 yards before being stopped at the 1. Mullis called Yeats' number again, giving the junior a one-yard touchdown run.

"We were back to moving the ball the way we used to do it," Mullis said. "We ran the ball well and they left their starters in the whole game. We got better, and that is all we can ask for."

North Harrison expects to have more firepower in the coming week on offense. Corey Isaac is expected to return shortly to give the Cougar offense more big play opportunities.

Bruderle continued to run strong for the Cougars, running for 269 yards on 24 carries. The Cougars did spread the ball around the backfield. Yeats ran for 55 yards and Marcus Stone had 16.

Late in the second half, the Cougars focused on their passing game. Quarterback Matt Johnson started the year on the offensive line, but threw the ball nine times against Paoli. Johnson has been under center for the last three games and didn't complete a pass Friday, but gave the coaches something on which to improve.

"We actually threw the ball tonight," Mullis said. "We didn't complete many, but we showed we are willing to try. I was happy with the way we played offensively. We still have some turnover issues, but we just said we're going to play four quarters and get better."

Defensively, the Cougars played much better in the second half with a young group on that side of the ball. Laswell finished with 230 yards passing and 139 yards rushing. He had six total touchdowns, five passing.

"It matters how we finish," Mullis said. "These kids aren't going to quit and this coaching staff isn't going to quit. We're going to keep fighting and finish strong. We have a lot of young kids playing right now."

North Harrison travels to Brownstown Central (3-1, 2-1 MSC) for a 7 p.m. start Friday. The Braves are coming off a 13-6 win over Salem last week.

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