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SHEPHERDSVILLE - There are no judges and no style points in high school football...which on Friday night was good news for the Bullitt Central Cougars.
The Cougars picked up an important ‘W’ as they opened the season against visiting Barren County with a 21-7 decision, but there were no bonus points for style. Bullitt Central did enough right to win easily and made enough mistakes to keep the gave closer than it should have been.
Still, as long time Bullitt Central coaches Danny Leasor and Tom Martin talked about after the game, there were a lot of times in the past where losses were the outcome of such shaky outings. This team had enough confidence and composure to overcome the opening game jitters.
In fact, Leasor was happy with the big picture. He just wants his team to work on correcting smaller miscues.
“Well it was a good opening game win,” the veteran head coach said. “They had a game under their belt and we didn’t. I thought we played really well at times. It should have been 28-0 at halftime. We squandered away a lot.”
Bullitt Central had two touchdowns nullified by penalties and twice quarterback Damion Wibbels was intercepted in the shadows of the Trojan goal posts. Just before halftime, the Cougars came up short on a field goal attempt.
As Leasor pointed out, this was a great improvement over the scrimmage the week before against Shelby County.
“For the first outing since the Shelby County game, I’m pleased,” the coach said. “I know we can move the ball. I thought the defense played well.”
Despite all the problems, Bullitt Central led 14-0 at halftime and pushed the margin to 21-0 early in the second half. Barren County’s only score came with a minute remaining in the third quarter and it was the only time they really had a sustained drive.
In fact, the Trojans only had one first down in the first half and seven for the game. That translated into only 202 total yards for the night with 176 of that coming through the air.
“I knew from the time it was 14-0 that we were going to win,” Leasor said, confident of what his defense could do. “We were more physical. We got a little tired. I was real pleased overall.”
Barren County had no one who could block Bullitt Central’s huge defensive front of 265-pound senior Larry Brown and 290-pound junior Jeremy Vanmeter. Brown spent as much time behind the Trojans’ line of scrimmage than did the team’s quarterback - Colton Phelps. Brown finished with three tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
“The whole line played well so they couldn’t concentrate on one of us, so we just went through,” Brown said after the game.
Brown is a defensive tackle who wears number 32 because he has been moved to fullback on offense, more as a blocker than a runner, but he did have a carry in the game.
“I like both,” the big senior said with a smile when asked if he preferred offense or defense. “I like to hit people. I like the low number. I help the team out. I’ll do whatever helps the team.”
Bullitt Central had a few early jitters as it was the first game of the season for them while Barren County already had a 35-0 victory over Metcalfe County under their belts.
In fact, the Cougars had just 4-yards of offense after the first two series of the game when Jeremaie Bennett stepped back for his second punt of the game. The high kick went right through the hands of return man Tyler Furlong and Bullitt Central’s Danny Flener fell on the ball at 25-yard line.
After an off-sides penalty and an incomplete pass, Bennett took a hand-off from Wibbels and found a gap on the right side. The senior headed to the right corner of the endzone to complete the 20-yard gallop.
Barren County did pick-up a first down on its next possession, but then punted to the endzone.
The Cougars quickly went the other way, starting with a pair of 11-yard completions between Wibbels and Chip Money and then James Johnson before Bennett carried on three of the next four plays for 23 yards, putting the ball on the Barren County 35-yard line.
On second down, the Cougars ran a quick reverse with the ball ending up in the hands of slot man Terry Coulter. The senior, who doesn’t run the ball often, showed great determination slipping blocks and even hurdling one defender as he raced all the way to the endzone.
“That run by Terry set the tempo for the night,” Leasor said. “That was one of the finest runs I’ve seen in a long time. He was strong on both sides of the ball.”
As it turned out, Bullitt Central’s second half touchdown was also scored by Coulter, but this time from only 5-yards out. The score had been set up by T.J. Flener’s 54 yard run all over the field to the endzone that was brought back to the 17 yard line because of a late block in the back.
It took a first down on fourth down to move the ball inside the 10-yard line. Two plays later Coulter got his second touchdown on only his second carry of the game.
Earlier in the week Leasor hadn’t mentioned Coulter as being a candidate to carry the ball very much, but the Cougars are holding open auditions for running backs in support of Bennett.
“We’ve got a real good backfield,” Coulter noted. “All the running backs are good. They are trying to keep me off offense so I can focus on defense. When I do get the ball I just want to run it as hard as I can and get to the endzone.”
You can’t argue with the philosophy of keeping Coulter rested on defense. He led the Cougars with 12 tackles in the opening win.
Bullitt Central finished with 329 total yards of offense. Bennett led the way with 23 carries for 172 yards. Flener finished with six carries for 58 yards while Coulter had the two touches for 40 yards.
The Cougars did struggle with passing the ball as they completed just seven of 19 passes for 54 yards and a pair of interceptions.
Next Game: Bullitt Central will start the shortest long road trip in school history on Friday when the maroon and gray travel to Southern to take on another set of Trojans. Southern opened the season last Friday with a 35-10 setback to Seneca, one of the top teams in Jefferson County.
The Cougars do not play at home in the month of September, but none of the four road games is further away than Waggener.
Game time at Southern on Friday is set for 7:30 p.m