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Bullitt East gets challenged, but still wins Bullitt Cup

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By Mike Farner

 HEBRON ESTATES – The Bullitt East Chargers won the Bullitt Cup on Saturday, beating their two county rivals in boys’ soccer.

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     That is no surprise as Bullitt East has never lost a game in the Bullitt Cup. This year, the red and gold beat North Bullitt 3-1 in the first game and then turned right around and defeated Bullitt Central 3-0 to retain the traveling trophy that has resided in Mount Washington since the inception of the event in 2008.

     In the third game, North Bullitt defeated Bullitt Central 6-0.

     It was the tight scores that will standout from this year’s event as the Chargers got challenged, something that hasn’t always been the case in the past.

     Bullitt East had beaten defending Sixth Region champion Fairdale 1-0 earlier in the week so the tight scores were not an indication of a slippage by the Chargers, but an increase in the level of play of the other two programs.

     “Both of those teams were much, much better,” veteran Bullitt East head coach Mike Brangers said after the second game. “We don’t gain anything by beating teams 10-0.

     “This was good to see,” the coach added. “I’m glad to see Bullitt Central get their act together and their best player is a freshman. North has some quality players also. I didn’t set this up to get easy wins. We do it to promote soccer.”

     Twice in the history of the Bullitt Cup Bullitt Central could not even field a team because of low numbers. Last year, the Cougars only played a junior-varsity schedule except for their district games. Now, head coach Dane Clark is building the program from the bottom up.

     “I expected North Bullitt to be good, but I didn’t expect Bullitt Central to be that good,” Brangers said. “After what they went through last year (the team did not win a match), they have to be the most improved team in the state. I don’t see any reason those two teams can’t meet in their district final.”

     Because of heat concerns when the event was set up months ago, the first game on Saturday started at 8 a.m. Bullitt East scored three goals before North Bullitt added a goal late in the game.

     The first goal for the Chargers came off the foot of junior Nick Heichelbech on an assist from Dustin Roeder. The next two goals came with Calvin Conaway and Michael O’Neill working together. Conaway got the second goal on an assist from O’Neill and then O’Neill scored with the assist coming from Conaway.

     The late North Bullitt goal was scored by Kyle Pursley.

     Against Bullitt Central, the Chargers managed just one goal in the first half and that came from senior Dillon Heichelbech. The Cougars got the ball to the back of the net late in the half, but the shot was erased by an off-sides penalty. In the second half, Bullitt East added a goal when Dillon Heichelbech fed his younger brother, Nick, for the goal. Late in the game, Nick Heichelbech assisted on a goal by Joe Watts.

     The 8 a.m. start to the tournament was really early in the morning for Dillon Heichelbech. The senior played football the night before for Bullitt East against Frankfort in a game at Lincoln County High School. Heichelbech is kicking for the Chargers this season and he had three extra point kicks in the game. He also kicked-off and on one play had a hand in stopping a long return.

     The team did not return to Mount Washington until well after midnight.

     “I just asked him what time he got to bed and he said 3 a.m.,” Brangers said. “I moved him up front (from his normal midfield spot) because he couldn’t run well after getting hit last night.”

     Bullitt East was 3-1 after the Bullitt Cup. There was the win over Fairdale the previous Monday, but then the team did not play as well the next day in a 4-0 loss at North Hardin.

     “The Fairdale win was a really good game for us,” Brangers said. “We didn’t equal that the next day against North Hardin.”

North Bullitt Start

     First-year North Bullitt head coach Alex Young thought his team got better the longer it played on Saturday.

     “We didn’t play particularly well in the first game with Bullitt East, but then in the second game we played well,” Young said. “Give Bullitt Central credit, they didn’t back down. They are young and will be an excellent group in the future.”

     North Bullitt’s only two wins last season came over Bullitt Central.

     The Eagles got three goals in the win over Bullitt Central from Tyler Whitmer along with single goals from Pursley, Jaren Lindsey and Alec Armstrong.

     North Bullitt had opened the season on the road, first with a 4-0 loss to Bardstown and then a 5-1 setback to Seneca. Whitmer had the one goal against Seneca.

     For Bullitt Central, the Bullitt Cup was the first action of the season. The Cougars played well against Bullitt East in the 10 p.m. game, but then ran out of gas playing North Bullitt at noon, especially as the heat increased.

     “The Bullitt Cup is the only time (this season) we’ll play back-to-back, especially in the heat,” Clark said of his schedule. “This was also our first games of the season. Both of the teams we played had a number of games under their belts.”

     Bullitt Central had a number of scoring opportunities, but just could not finish.

     “Especially against East,” Clark pointed out. “We had five then that all we had to do was put it past the goalie. We just missed the goal. We had 15 chances and five should have been in there.”

     Because Bullitt East is not in the same post-season district as their two county rivals, the teams are not scheduling as many matches against each other. In fact, these were only two games that Bullitt East will play against the Cougars and Eagles during the regular season.

     North Bullitt and Bullitt Central will meet again on Sept. 10 in a match on the Eagles’ home turf.