Big second period lifts East over Dunbar 35-7

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By Mike Farner

RADCLIFF -- The Bullitt East Chargers picked up right where they left off last season, running the ball powerfully straight ahead, as they opened the 2009 season with a 35-7 victory over Paul Dunbar High School.

The victory came in the Joe Jaggers Classic at North Hardin High School, an opening week 'bowl' game that also included a later game between the host school and Bardstown High School.

After the score was tied at 7-7 late in the first quarter, Bullitt East took control up front on both sides of the ball. The Chargers scored 21 consecutive points in the second quarter and then never had to look back.

Coach Doug Preston's offense ran 57 plays in the game and 52 of those were on the ground. The Chargers finished with 444 yards rushing and had another 20 yards through the air. Dunbar finished with 242 total yards on offense.

It was an overpowering performance for the Class 4-A State Runners-up from last season against the largest public school in the state.

"I'm happy with the effort and most of the execution," Preston said after his team carried the trophy off the field. "I was disappointed in some penalties and a couple of mistakes. We will have to work on that. We'll also see what the film shows."

Despite heavy graduation losses, the Chargers were the dominant team, especially up front.

"I'm real happy with the way they played," Preston said of his two interior lines. "I'll look at it on film, but they came off the ball and maintained blocks."

Bullitt East lineman Mason Kelly, at 311 pounds, has been called the best run blocker he has seen in a number of years by Preston.

"Today the goal was to get 400 yards," the senior said after the game. "For the season we haven't set any goals."

The big tackle prefers to run block over pass blocking.

"Oh yeah," he said with a smile. "You get to hit people."

Offensively, the line opened huge holes for running backs Jonathan Bernard and Matt Husband. Bernard carried 20 times for 197 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns, including a 72-yarder in the second quarter. Husband added another 122 yards on 13 carries and he scored the first touchdown of the game.

Husband's opening score came on the Chargers' initial possession of the game. The red and gold had run three straight plays and gained nine yards, but on their own 41-yard line, Preston sent the punt team on the field. It was a fake, and when Jesse Bratcher took the short snap, he was all alone around the left side and rumbled all the way to the Dunbar 28 yard line.

Two plays later, Husband found the big hole on the left side and raced 23 yards to the endzone.

"I give all the credit for that (the fake punt) to coach (Darrell) Vincent and the kids," Preston said. "He put it in. He has worked hard on that. It was a big play in that situation."

Bullitt East has run fake punts for a lot of years, but in Preston's first season, put it on the back burner a year ago.

"We faked one last year," the coach said. "I hadn't done that in six years (at other schools). It was fun."

It might have been a harbinger of the night for Bullitt East when Caleb Noe's extra point kick was low, hit an interior lineman, and ricocheted over the crossbar.

Dunbar did answer with a 57-yard drive of its own. Twice Bullitt East had penalties in the series. The touchdown came on a 5-yard fun by Thayer Burgess.

The Bulldogs did not do anything that surprised Bullitt East and the Chargers didn't make any major changes after the opening drive.

"Not really," Preston said. "We kept things pretty simple on defense. We just got the kids lined up in the right spots."

From that point, Bullitt East took charge. The Chargers did have to punt on its second possession, but then scored the next three times it got the ball.

The first big play was Bernard's 72-yard dash on the first play of the second quarter. The senior took the ball and went right up the middle and was untouched after getting through the line.

After a Dunbar punt, Bullitt East went 50 yards in nine plays. The big play was the team's only pass completion of the game as on fourth down quarterback Matt Bowles dropped back and connected with Derek Keisler for a 20-yard gain to the 5-yard line. Three plays later, Bowles rolled left and went in for the score.

The Bulldogs did get as deep as the Bullitt East 27-yard line on the next series, but were then stopped on downs with 2:43 remaining in the half. The Chargers quickly went the other way, helped along by a pair of Dunbar face-mask penalties. Bernard got the touchdown from a yard out with 50 seconds remaining before halftime.

With a comfortable lead, Bullitt East kept it simple in the second half. The only points either team scored came in the third quarter when Bullitt East covered 66 yards in 12 plays. Husband covered 34 yards in three plays late in the drive before Brandon Hanna got the touchdown on a 1-yard plunge.

Bowles is one of just three returning starters for the Chargers on offense this season and as a three-year starter, gave some advice before the game

"I just told them not to be nervous," the senior quarterback said. "We knew there would be mistakes with the new guys. We just told them to just play the next play.

"We had a few dumb penalties early," Bowles added. "I was surprised with the offensive line. We have a younger guy on the left side (Logan Pruitt) and he did a better job. I just told him I expect that all the time now."

Next Game: Bullitt East will play Class A power Holy Cross on Friday in Louisville. The Cougars were 7-5 a year ago and got the season off to an impressive start on Saturday as they beat Franklin County 35-7. Coach Mike Fletcher's team was ranked tenth in Class A in the pre-season coaches' poll.

Game time along Dixie Highway is set for 7:30 p.m. on Friday.