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MOUNT WASHINGTON – The Bullitt East Chargers will get a golden chance at glory on Friday when the red and gold travel to Radcliff for the Class 5-A, Region 2 Championship Game against John Hardin.
This will be the sixth straight season that John Hardin has played in a regional final. The Bulldogs have won the previous five times.
Bullitt East will be playing in a regional final for the first time since 2008. On that night, the Chargers defeated North Bullitt en route to the state championship game that season in a smaller class than the present Class 5-A alignment.
This is the best Bullitt East team since 2008, but John Hardin could be the best team the Chargers have faced in the past five years.
“No question. They are a very good football team,” Bullitt East head coach Darrell Vincent said on Monday. “They have been to this level for several years and for a reason, they are good on both offense and defense. They play good football.”
Since the start of the 2008 season, John Hardin has won 75 of 83 games. Only three of those losses came in the regular season. The other five losses came in either the state semi-finals or final.
The Bulldogs are ranked second in Class 5-A at this point in the season and are ranked 16th overall in Kentucky. Bullitt East is ranked ninth in Class 5-A.
Two of those three regular season losses that John Hardin has suffered over the past six seasons did come this year. The Bulldogs are 10-2 at this point after having suffered losses to DeSales (25-20) and Highlands (33-26) this fall.
Bullitt East is 11-1 after four straight four-win seasons. The only loss came by a 28-19 score to Central Hardin. Amazingly, despite being located just a few miles from each other, John Hardin and Central Hardin did not play this season. In fact, until the past two weeks in the cross-district games, the Chargers and Bulldogs had not played any common opponents.
The winning has not changed in recent years for John Hardin, but there were changes this season. Gone was long-time John Hardin head coach Mark Brown and he was replaced by long-time assistant coach Chad Lewis.
Lewis has changed very little as John Hardin still lines up in the Wing-T attack. John Hardin is as well known for the Wing-T as Bullitt East is for the split-back veer.
The Bulldogs do not need to throw the ball very much as they have a powerful running game. In the 10 regular season games, the Bulldogs averaged 306 yards on the ground while throwing for just 81 yards a contest.
“A lot of it is the Wing-T look, but they will run some power stuff and some sweeps,” Vincent said. “They have a good play-action passing game so they can hit some deep stuff on you.”
The quarterback for the Bulldogs is senior Patrick Anderson (number 15). Over the first 10 games, Anderson completed 48 of 121 pass attempts with nine touchdowns and four interceptions.
Leading the way on the ground for John Hardin is senior Khalil Frazier (3) who had 902 yards on only 104 carries in the regular season. The Bulldogs also have junior Elijah Smith (11) on the other wing. The fullback is senior DaQuan Deville (33) and he rushed for 720 yards through 10 games.
“They will be like 70-30 to the run,” Vincent said. “But, when they want to pass, they want to go deep. They prefer to run it.”
Up front, Vincent thought that John Hardin had roughly the same size linemen as the Chargers.
Even with all of that offensive firepower, the first thing any fan is going to notice is John Hardin defensive lineman Matt Elam. The 6-2, 350-pund lineman is one of the top college prospects in the state and has scholarship offers from Alabama, Louisville and Kentucky along with many others. Still, Vincent was saying that you cannot over-focus on Elam.
“Of course, most teams are going to double-team him,” Vincent said. “You can quickly lose track that they are a 4-4 alignment and all of the linebackers are coming downhill.
“They are a very good defensive team,” the coach added. “That is the strength of their team. Their offense feeds off their defense and the defense puts the offense in good spots.”
Vincent pointed out that Elam plays more over the guard or center in the John Hardin alignment. That will present few opportunities for Bullitt East’s 275-pound tackle Dylan Ferguson to battle with Elam.
On Monday, Vincent did say that the news on starting offensive guard Jake Rush was fairly positive after he left the game against Grayson County last week with a knee injury. Doctors could find no tears in the knee. Rush will rest early this week and it is hoped that he can play on Friday. If not, then either T.J. Rayhill or Jacob Caudill will take the right guard spot.
Bullitt East and John Hardin have not met since the first couple of years that John Hardin was a school. However, the Bullitt East juniors and seniors have played against John Hardin at both the freshman and junior-varsity levels in recent years with some success so there shouldn’t be any early game ‘awe.’
“We’re not going to change our approach from what is working,” Vincent concluded. “We have good senior leaders so I think we’ll be fine in that category.”
Game time at John Hardin on Friday is set for 7:30 p.m.