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OKOLONA – Surviving a furious rally from Southern, the Bullitt Central Cougars moved to 2-0 this season with a 22-21 victory on Friday.
Bullitt Central had a 22-7 lead entering the fourth quarter, but gave up two late scores. The final points were scored by the Trojans at the 6:15 mark, but then the defense made a big stand late to seal the win, the seventh in a row over their northern neighbors.
The Cougars managed a first down on the ensuing drive and with Southern out of time-outs, ran the clock all the way down to 1:52 before Cameron Dukes punted the ball to the Trojans’ 17-yard line where the coverage dropped the return man for no gain.
On first down, Southern quarterback John Marshall was pressured and was sacked at the 7-yard line. On the next three plays, the Bullitt Central defense forced incomplete passes to seal the outcome.
“We played well enough to win at the end,” Bullitt Central head coach Danny Leasor said on the field after the game. “We had character. Now we’re 2-0 with homecoming coming up and we’re ready for next week (against Valley).”
The Cougars may have survived an even bigger scare than the final score in the fourth quarter when standout running back Trevor Carnell, forced into additional action on defense because of an injury to his back-up at tailback, Zack Patton, went down with six minutes to play trying to stop a Southern two-point conversion attempt.
After being down on the field for several minutes, Carnell came off the field on his own power, but he did not return to action. After the game, the preliminary report was that Carnell had a ‘stinger’ in his right shoulder. The extent of the injury would not be known until later.
Carnell did plenty when he was on the field. The junior scored two touchdowns and he also intercepted a pass in the endzone to stop a Southern threat. Carnell also carried the ball 22 times for 197 yards. That turned out to be most of Bullitt Central’s offense as the maroon and gray had only 235 yards of total offense.
Southern was putting 11 defenders within five yards of the line of scrimmage to take away Bullitt Central’s running plays. That worked for most of the night, but twice when Carnell broke through the line of scrimmage he had only green grass between him and the endzone.
In the first quarter, after Southern had gone ahead 7-0, Carnell broke free for a 49-yard touchdown run off the right side. On the fifth play of the second half, Carnell found a big hole around the left side and bolted 20 yards for his second touchdown.
As it would turn out, one of the biggest plays of the game for the Cougars came after Carnell’s first touchdown. The team lined up for Dukes to kick the extra point, but the snap sailed over the head of holder Brett McConahay. Dukes picked the ball up and ran to his left before seeing Jason Johns free in the endzone for the two-point pass conversion.
After being up 8-7, Bullitt Central seemed to take control of the game with another score. A Cougar drive had stalled at the Southern 29-yard line and with seven minutes left in the half, Leasor opted to have Carnell punt the ball out of bounds at the Trojans’ 15-yard line.
On the next play, Southern misplayed a pitch play and were pushed back to the 7-yard line. Two plays later, Marshall dropped back into his own endzone and then threw the ball down the middle of the field. It went directly to senior Bullitt Central linebacker Jacob Fulkerson who returned it 12-yards for a touchdown.
Even Fulkerson was surprised that he got the interception.
“I was in the right coverage and in the right place at the right time,” the senior explained. “I had my coverage and my zone. I was right there. I just did what the coaches have taught me to do.”
Dukes converted the extra point kick after each of the last two touchdowns giving Bullitt Central the 22-point total.
Southern had scored first when they covered 59 yards in ten plays. The touchdown came on a 23-yard pass from Marshall to Jacobi Dix. Southern’s only other scoring threat over the first three quarters ended midway through the third quarter when Carnell intercepted Marshall in the endzone.
The Trojan’s late rally started over the final plays of the third frame after Bullitt Central had wasted a 57 yard run by Carnell to the Southern 22-yard line. That drive ended with D.J. Dennison’s 35-yard attempt sailing just wide right.
Southern then marched 80 yards with the help of two key Bullitt Central penalties. The Trojans reached the endzone on a 6-yard run by Eric Mason.
The extra point failed, leaving the score 22-13.
Bullitt Central then gained no yards on three consecutive runs by Carnell. Carnell’s punt then went to the Southern 36-yard line. It took only seven plays for the Trojans to cover the distance with the final 41 yards coming on a pass from Marshall to Jaylin Talbot.
Down by three points, Southern lined up to kick the extra point, but after a bad snap, kicker Sodrick Ware picked the ball up and raced to the left pylon. Right at the goal line he was met by Carnell on the hit that ended Carnell’s night, but pulled the Trojans within a point.
“If we score instead of settling for that field goal try we’d have been OK,” Leasor lamented later. “We have to know when we get teams down how to put them down to win.”
After Southern had scored on their opening drive, Bullitt Central switched on the fly from a five-man defensive front to a four-man line. That allowed more pressure to be put on Marshall and kept him from being able to pull the ball down and run.
Still, Southern had more offensive yards than the Cougars, 288 to 238. Marshall threw for 199 yards as he completed 15 of his 25 attempts.
Because they had the lead, Bullitt Central really never challenged Southern’s 11-man in the box defensive scheme. The Cougars attempted just two passes in the game and the only completion was the two-point conversion. The other pass was by Carnell.
Next Game: Bullitt Central will return home on Friday to celebrate Homecoming 2013 against the Valley Vikings. The Vikings will come into the game with a 0-2 record after falling 19-12 to Iroquois on Friday.
Game time on Friday is set for 7:30 p.m. The homecoming festivities will be held at halftime.