SHEPHERDSVILLE - It’s not often that a high school football team gets a second chance.
The Bullitt Central Cougars will have just that on Friday when they travel to Bowling Green to take on Warren East in the final game of the regular season.For most teams across the state, the final week of the season is a time to fine-tune and heal up those nicks and bruises. For Bullitt Central, this is a contest that could get them a home game in the first-round of the Class 5-A play-offs next week. That thought seemed impossible just a few weeks ago after back-to-back losses to North Bullitt and Bullitt East.
“It’s like we were on life support for a while,” Bullitt Central head coach Danny Leasor said on Monday as the team returned to practice after getting a few days off as the team had its ‘bye’ last week. “Then the phone call comes and a miracle happens and we get new life.”
The miracle was Shelby County winning for just the second time this season when they beat Bullitt East last week. So, instead of a third-place finish and a trip to Jeffersontown to open the play-offs, the Cougars get a second chance at a second-place finish and the opportunity to host North Hardin in the first-round of the post-season next Friday.
The top scenario is simple. Beat Warren East this week and the Cougars will grad the number two seed in the district and will play at home next week. Even with a loss on Friday, the Cougars still have some chances to finish second, but they could also finish third.
Leasor had already talked to his team about the chance of this game meaning a lot before the group broke for the fall break holiday last Wednesday.
“We set the tone then,” the coach pointed out. “We told them it’s a new season. Everything we do now will set up the rest of the season. We’re going to win and play at home on Friday. We want to be 4-6 heading to the post-season and then win there.
“We can turn a mediocre season into a good season,” Leasor said of winning late. “We’ve got a realistic shot at that.”
While optimism is high once again in Shepherdsville, the Cougars have a big job ahead of them taking on Warren East. The Raiders are 6-3 this season and have a healthy edge on the Cougars in the computer rankings.
Warren East opened the season 4-1, but then went through a rough stretch where they lost to LaRue County and Franklin-Simpson. They have bounced back the last two weeks with dominating wins over Allen County-Scottsville and Breckinridge County.
The Raiders have already wrapped up second place in Class 4-A, District 2 and will host Owensboro in the first-round of the play-offs.
“These guys are good,” Leasor said of a program that Bullitt Central has never played before. “They are 6-3, but they haven’t played the same type schedule we do. They are very balanced. They have tall receivers.
“I don’t see any of their backs that are any better than who we have already played,” the coach added. “They are no better than other teams we have played. Success breeds success and they are winning some games this season.”
The leading rusher for the Raiders is Adarius Barnett who passed the 1,000-yard mark last week and now has 1,084 yards for the season with 15 touchdowns. The only other runner with more than 37 yards this season is Steven Golden with 590 yards.
Warren East has had five different players throw passes this season, but the main threat is quarterback Jimmy Burns. He has completed 110 of his 210 passes for 1,445 yards with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Burns has four receivers with at least 16 receptions this season. The top threat is Chase Bryant with 39 catches for 486 yards. Barnett and Golden are also receiving threats.
Because Bullitt Central was off last week, the team will be as healthy has they have been since the start of the season.
“I’m excited,” Leasor noted. “I hope the kids are also. It’s right now. This is new life.”
Bullitt Central fans should note that Bowling Green is in the central time zone. This game is set to start at 8 p.m. for Cougar fans or at 7 p.m. local time.