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SHEPHERDSVILLE - A pair of goal-line stands midway through the second half saved the Bullitt Central Cougars on Friday as they managed to hang on to beat former district rival Southern 21-14.
All of the points in the game were scored in the first half.
The victory was the second in a row for the Cougars heading into this Friday’s showdown with county rival Bullitt East in Mount Washington. Still, it was the second week in a row where the defense had to pull the decision out of the fire as the offense struggled with consistency.
“Those were big time goal-line stands - two of them,” Bullitt Central head coach Danny Leasor said when the team returned to Shepherdsville. “Overall, we scored when we had to and we stopped them when we had to.”
“We played well enough to win,” the coach added of a refrain from the win a week earlier over Barren County. “We were good enough to overcome the mistakes.”
Neither team generated a lot of offense. Bullitt Central had just 225 total yards and 212 of that came on the ground. Southern was no better, finishing with only 204 yards of offense.
Bullitt Central’s workhorse was senior tailback Jeremaie Bennett, who scored twice as he carried the ball 22 times for 141 yards. T.J. Flener scored the first touchdown as he carried three times for 56 yards.
Southern ran 10 more plays than the Cougars, 52 to 42, but each team had 11 first downs.
Bullitt Central was up 21-14 at halftime and got the ball to start the second half. The maroon and gray marched all the way to the Southern 17-yard-line before facing fourth down. A 32-yard field goal attempt went wide right.
Southern responded with a first down but then were forced into a fourth down punt formations.
Unfortunately, the Cougars roughed the kicker, giving the Trojans the ball back at the Bullitt Central 42-yard-line. On the very next play, Southern running back Cole Compton darted 32 yards.
Compton got nothing on first down and then quarterback Vernon Armstrong covered six yards. A short run by Armstrong moved the ball to the 2-yard-line. Compton got the ball on fourth down, but the center of the Bullitt Central line stopped him just short of the goal line.
The Cougars turned the ball over after picking up a first down. This time Southern got as deep as the Bullitt Central 11-yard line before a short loss led to a holding penalty and then a sack of Armstrong that led to the Trojans turning the ball over on the 30-yard line.
That was the end of the threats for Southern. In the fourth quarter, they could get no closer than the Bullitt Central 41-yard line.
“Overall, I was pleased,” Leasor said. “There were some good tings that we did and some things we didn’t do. We didn’t get a break.”
Leasor was not happy with the officiating most of the night and those calls carried over to the team on the field.
“You know I don’t like to complain, but the officiating was atrocious tonight,” Leasor said. “We didn’t get a break. We didn’t get a break in the game and we didn’t from the officials.
“There were a lot of controversial calls,” the coach added. “It was a poorly administered game and that led to things that happened on the field.”
All of the scoring happened in the first half. Southern drive 50 yards on its second possession and scored when Compton scored from six yards out.
Bullitt Central moved it right back down the field, going 72 yards in just five plays. The biggest play in the drive was the touchdown as Flener motored 43 yards to the endzone.
Because of some penalties, Bullitt Central missed on the extra point kick.
On the very next play from scrimmage, Southern fumbled and Bullitt Central’s Jeremy Vanmeter recovered at the Trojans’ 19-yard line. The Cougars faced a fourth down play at the 10-yard line with quarterback Damion Wibbels keeping for a five-yard gain. Bennett got the touchdown on the next play.
Wibbels then connected with Flener on a two-point conversion pass to put the Cougars up 14-7.
Southern had a 54-yard pass play on the next series and also was helped by a roughing the quarterback call that put the ball on the Bullitt Central 6-yard line. Armstrong was sacked on second down and then the sophomore quarterback was intercepted at the goal line by Terry Coulter who returned the ball 75 yards.
On the very next play, Bennett bolted 25-yards for the touchdown.
Bullitt Central seemingly had Southern on the ropes at this point and they could have made it much easier game after the Trojans fumbled when they got the ball back. The Cougars had the ball at the Southern 22-yard line, but they could not get a first down and then had a bad snap on the field goal attempt.
“It was 21-7 and if we could have gotten the points there, instead of missing the field goal, we could have broken them,” Leasor said.
Given new life, Southern took over on the Bullitt Central 45-yard line. Southern got to the 13-yard line on a 29 yard run by Antonio Rudolph. The defense pushed the Trojans back to the 25-yard line, but on fourth down, Armstrong connected with Austin Koch on a touchdown pass.
That was it for the points in the game.
Bullitt Central’s defense got eight tackles each from Larry Brown and Coutler along with seven tackles each from Shane Williamson and Bennett.
“I’m pleased with the way we overcame adversity,” Leasor noted. “We bounced back and were resilient. We did good things when the game was on to win.”
Next Game: The first two games were just a warm-up for The War when Bullitt Central travels to Mount Washington to battle Bullitt East on Friday. The Chargers are coming off a 45-30 loss to DeSales and stand at 2-1 this season.
Game time at Bullitt East is set for 7:30 p.m. on Friday.