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SHEPHERDSVILLE - Changing defenses after the first week of the regular season is not something that a lot of high school coaches would recommend but it is working out just fine for the Bullitt Central Cougars.
After giving up 41 points in the first game of the season against South Oldham, Cougar head coach Danny Leasor and long-time coordinator Lewis Clark overhauled their defense, both in terms of formations and personnel.
It turned out to be the right move on Friday as the Cougars held visiting Southern to only 94 total yards as the maroon and gray rolled to a 41-0 victory. Only twice in the game did the Trojans cross midfield.
“A win takes care of everything,” veteran Bullitt Central head coach Danny Leasor said in his office after the team snapped a two-game losing streak to open the season. “Everything looks beautiful. I thought our defense played really well. They had some speed and we were in the right positions most of the night.”
Bullitt Central has also benefited from a pair of strong challenges to open the season. South Oldham not stands at 2-1 after beating North Bullitt last week and Glasgow is 3-0 this season after reaching the Class 2-A state final a year ago. The Cougars were within a touchdown of both of those teams in the fourth quarter.
“We feel like we should be 2-1 and maybe 3-0 but we’re not,” Leasor said. “I think over the years I’ve mellowed and we don’t need to win every game. We have to improve. That is more important.
“We’re playing for 9-28,” the coach said of the date for the first of three straight district games as well as the chase for the Bullitt Cup. The Cougars will play at North Bullitt on September 28.
“We can reel off four wins,” Leasor pointed out. “You can’t count them now, but if we keep improving and playing hard then we can be 4-2 on 9-28. We know North Bullitt is a good team. We’ll use each game as a steppingstone. We’re testing ourselves each week.”
The Bullitt Central players are looking at the first two games as nothing more than glorified scrimmages for the key games down the road.
“Yes sir,” Bullitt Central senior quarterback Bradley Combs said after the victory on Friday. “I think that was us just getting the game plan together and seeing where everyone needs to be on the field. We played well as a team.”
Combs one of his best games as the team’s quarterback as he completed 10 of 16 passes for 10 yards. Four of the incompletions came on his first six throws of the game.
“This guy is sweating on the ball,” Combs said as he kidded with his center, senior Alex Gossett. “I just couldn’t get a dry ball.”
Gossett, one of the area’s top lineman, is also a team leader and the seniors didn’t let the team get down after the two early losses.
“Those are just losses,” the big lineman said. “We definitely saw more success than from those two games last season. We may not have gotten the wins, but we didn’t have our heads down.”
Bullitt Central’s offensive line, with three returning starters, will be a key for the maroon and gray this season.
“He (Leasor) has commented several times that we are one of the better offensive lines that he has coached,” Gossett said. “I believe that.”
Did the Cougars feel any pressure that they had to beat Southern on Friday to turn the season around?
“There was pressure going into this game, especially at 0-2,” Gossett pointed out. “I believe in my team and I think we all do.”
Bullitt Central didn’t score the first time they got the ball on Friday, but they quickly heated up behind the play of their defense.
On its second drive of the night, the Trojans had just moved into Bullitt Central territory thanks to a 15-yard penalty, but on the very never play quarterback John Marshall’s pitch was dropped and Cougar senior Chase Sadler, who was starting his first game at strong safety picked up the loose ball and took it back to the Trojans’ 41-yard line.
Three plays later, Combs kept the ball and raced 35 yards before being pushed out of bounds at the 2-yard line. On the next play, Trevor Carnell got the touchdown.
Three plays into the next series, Marshall was back to pass when he was blindsided by Cougar junior defensive end Chris Phillips. The ball popped free and this time senior Justin Jeffries picked up the fumble and raced all the way to the 8-yard line. Carnell ran it twice, scoring from 3-yards out.
Combs ran in the two-point conversion to make it 14-0.
Now the Cougars were really moving. Early in the second quarter, the maroon and gray covered 56 yards in six plays. Combs connected with Tyler Bray for 14 yards and Carnell carried the ball on the other five plays, scoring from the 11-yard line on a play in which he took the snap directly and kept it up the middle.
After Southern had it’s deepest penetration of the game, reaching the Bullitt Central 15-yard line, before being pushed back to the 34 and then having Marshall’s pass to the endzone tipped by Combs to D.J. Dennison, the Cougars closed the half with an 80-yard drive that took ten plays. Combs completed three of four passes in the drive and Carnell rushed for 22 yards early in the series before scoring on a 20-yard run with 1:28 remaining in the half.
Dennison’s extra point kick made it 27-0 at the break.
Neither team scored in the third quarter, but Bullitt Central added a pair of scores early in the fourth quarter. The first came on a 4-yard run by sophomore running back Zack Patton. Three plays later, Southern was backed up to their own 6-yard line when Marshall’s pass was picked-off by senior Jesse Sharp who returned it 15-yards for a touchdown.
Bullitt Central finished with 364 yards of total offense. Carnell had the four touchdowns in the first half as the sophomore carried the ball 22 times for 154 yards. Patton came off the bench for 48 yards on eight carries.
The ten passes that Combs completed went to seven different receivers.
Southern rushed the ball 24 times and ended up with zero yards. Marshall did complete eight of 13 passes for 94 yards, but he was intercepted twice.
NEXT GAME: Bullitt Central will go back on the road on Friday as they travel to Dixie Highway to battle Valley. A year ago, the Cougars pulled out a narrow 7-0 victory. The Vikings stand at 2-1 after a 14-7 win over Iroquois last week.
Game time at Valley is set for 7:30 p.m.