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SHEPHERDSVILLE - The Bullitt Central Cougars have not had a lot of problems getting to the lead this season.
Keeping the lead has been a big problem.
On Friday, in the last home game of the regular season, the Cougars did both quite well as they turned back district rival Shelby County 35-21.
The win was the third of the season for the Cougars (3-6) and snapped a four-game losing streak in which the maroon and gray had the lead or were tied in the second half of each game before faltering down the stretch.
While Shelby County did score twice in the fourth quarter after the Cougars were up 35-7, the game was never in doubt down the stretch.
By winning, Bullitt Central assured themselves of no worse than third in the district race as they are 1-2. Shelby County is 0-2 with a game remaining with Bullitt East (1-1) this week in Shelbyville. North Bullitt has wrapped up the number one spot for the post-season with a 3-0 record.
There is still an outside shot that Bullitt Central could finish as high as second in the seeding process. First, Shelby County would have to defeat Bullitt East this Friday. That would force a three-team tie-breaker that would not be decided until after the last game of the regular season.
While Shelby County came into the game with only one win this season, the Rockets had shown how strong they could be the week before when they led North Bullitt into the final five minutes of the game before falling to the Eagles 14-13. Shelby County had also defeated Henry County, a team that Bullitt Central lost to during the four-game losing streak.
“Overall, I thought we played extremely well,” Bullitt Central head coach Danny Leasor said over the weekend. “It was enjoyable to watch the kids finally enjoy themselves.
“We gave up 14 points in the fourth quarter after the kids relaxed a little bit,” the coach added. “The kids didn’t react to the big lead quite like we wanted.”
But getting the big lead was sweet for the Cougars. Bullitt Central led 21-7 at halftime and then added two more scores in the third quarter before coasting to the win.
The Cougars continued to get big production from their one-two punch of junior quarterback/defensive back Bradley Combs and freshman running back/defensive back Trevor Carnell.
Bullitt Central finished with 178 yards on the ground with most of that coming from Carnell. The freshman carried the ball 21 times for 147 yards and he scored one touchdown on a 39-yard run in the third quarter.
Combs had an even bigger game as he had a hand in the other four touchdowns. The junior had a 35-yard run for a score in the second half and also completed a pair of scoring passes to senior Cody Fulkerson, from 19- and 21-yards out. Late in the first half, Combs also recovered a fumble in the endzone on a third-down play that broke the game open.
Combs ended up completing seven of 13 passes for 135 yards.
“I thought that the offense played well,” Leasor said. “A lot of players contributed. Trevor had a big game and Cody Fulkerson and James Joiner caught the ball well. Then Combs threw it well and he played very well on defense.”
Bullitt Central opted to spread its offense out for this game, forcing Shelby County into some single coverage with no defender over the middle of the field. At one point, the Cougars completed a 40-yard tackle-eligible play over the middle, but it was erased by a penalty.
The Cougars also missed a pair of field goal attempts in the game, but junior kicker Wade Curtsinger did convert five extra points.
Shelby County did collect 284 yards of total offense, but a lot of that came after the outcome was already decided. Bullitt Central held the Rockets to 96 yards on the ground, but junior quarterback Zach Shipley did complete half of his 28 passes for 188 yards. Shipley was intercepted twice by the Cougar secondary.
The visitors did tie the score midway through the first quarter on a 2-yard run by Chase Manica. In the fourth quarter, the Rockets scored on a 7-yard pass from Shipley to Brandon Ford before Shipley later scored from a yard out.
“It was Senior Night and I was real happy for those kids,” the coach said. “I got them together before the game and I told them that we wanted to win for them. Everybody was happy.”
Next Game: Bullitt Central has a ‘bye’ this week. Leasor said that the team would practice the first three days of this week and then take Thursday and Friday off before returning to work the following Monday to start preparing for the final game of the regular season against Warren East in Bowling Green. The Class 4-A Raiders have a 5-3 record heading into a game this week against Breckinridge County.