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MOUNT WASHINGTON – When his head coach makes a suggestion about quarterback play Bullitt East junior Pierce Kelly listens.
In the two weeks leading up to Friday’s annual rendition of The War, Charger head coach Darrell Vincent had been working with Kelly about reading the defense on the split-back veer instead of guessing at what the defense would do at the point of attack.
Kelly listened. On Friday, the junior kept the ball 11 times and rushed for 216 yards while scoring four touchdowns as Bullitt East rolled to a much easier than expected 56-6 blasting of arch-rival Bullitt Central.
“He has been on me to keep it more,” Kelly said on the field after the game. “He was telling me to make the read and don’t guess. I guess this is what happens when you listen.”
Not even Kelly expected the lopsided outcome on Friday. Bullitt East had 494 yards of total offense and scored each of the eight times they got the ball. The Chargers never had to punt in the game that had a running clock midway through the second quarter after Bullitt East went up 42-6.
“I thought they would put up a fight, especially after that win against North Bullitt last week,” Kelly said of a game many of the Charger players watched from the endzone as Bullitt East had a ‘bye’ in their schedule last week. “Of course, we had revenge on our minds after last year.”
This win avenged a 28-21 loss to the Cougars last year in Shepherdsville. Plus, since Bullitt Central beat North Bullitt a week earlier, it now sets up Bullitt East as the odds on favorite to win the Bullitt Cup as well as having a shot at the number one seed in Class 5-A, District 4 after North Bullitt defeated Shelby County on Friday.
Bullitt East’s next two opponents are North Bullitt and Shelby County with both games on the road.
Everything the Chargers touched on Friday night seemed to turn to gold but Vincent wasn’t taking much of the credit.
“I don’t know about that,” the coach said with a big smile. “I give most of the credit to the kids.
“It was incredible how the kids came out and worked hard even though it was fall break this week,” Vincent added. “They came to practice and worked three days last week and every day this week. They focused on the game plan and they bought into the game plan.”
This might have been The War, but Bullitt Central was firing blanks. The Cougars had only 156 yards of total offense. In fact, the maroon and gray needed two first downs on the final series of the game to finish with as many first downs as Bullitt East had touchdowns.
Bullitt East suffocated Cougar running back Trevor Carnell, holding the state’s second leading rusher to only 80 yards on 15 carries. That is the lowest output of the season for Carnell who came into the game averaging 254 yards a game on the ground.
Kelly set the stage early and the Chargers never let their foot off the gas.
“He’s had games like that,” Vincent said of his first-year quarterback. “It’s the way the offense is designed. He kept the ball and made the right reads.
“Brandon Samuels and Austin Colvin and Pierce Kelly all had around 500 yards this season coming into this game,” Vincent pointed out. “Tonight Bullitt Central was trying to stuff the run and he kept it and ran with it. It’s all about him making the right decisions. He was just doing what we execute in practice.”
Bullitt Central actually won the toss and as they want to do when that happens, that opted to receive. That didn’t work as three straight runs by Carnell amounted to just five yards and the visitors had to punt.
That started the onslaught. On the first play from scrimmage, Bullitt East benefited from a face-mask penalty and then Kelly ran for six yards. After a penalty moved the ball back to the 30-yard line. Kelly dropped back and connected with tight end Cruise Coulter who hauled in the pass at the 5-yard line and ran into the endzone.
Bullitt East needed just seven plays to score three touchdowns in the first quarter. After another Bullitt Central punt, the Chargers went 52 yards in two plays. Kelly kept it this time and went right up the middle and raced 47-yards to paydirt.
The next two-play drive followed a third Bullitt Central punt. The touchdown came on a 45-yard tight end reverse that Trent Meredith carried to the endzone.
A week earlier, Bullitt Central had fallen behind North Bullitt 14-0 in the first quarter, but roared back to win the game. This time there was no turnaround.
On the third play after the teams switched ends of the field, Kelly started his quarter to remember with a 27-yard keeper for a touchdown.
The only bright spot for the Cougars came on the next possession when sophomore quarterback Cameron Dukes pulled the ball out of Carnell’s belly and kept it around left end for a 60-yard touchdown run. The extra point kick was blocked.
That one play did not change the momentum. Before halftime, Kelly scored on a 5-yard run and then kick-started the running clock with a 47-yard dash that started outside the right hash marks and ended on the left side of the hash marks.
Dillon Hechelbeck kicked the extra point after each of those scores to make it 42-6 at halftime.
In the third half there was no suspense. Bullitt East added a touchdown in the third quarter when Kelly connected with Coulter on a 15-yard pass and in the fourth quarter the Chargers scored when sophomore Chad Caldwell scored from 11 yards out.
It might have been a short night on the field for the Cougars but it was a long one for head coach Danny Leasor.
“There is not much I can say,” the veteran coach said as he sat outside the Bullitt East gym on the steps as his team loaded its gear in the trailer. “Except for the first touchdown which was an illegal play since Coulter was covered (the coach felt there was a receiver outside of Coulter also on the line of scrimmage, making the tight end ineligible), they just massacred us. Now I know what Custer felt like, surrounded and with no hope.
“I thought McCracken County was the most embarrassing game of the year for us,” the coach added. “This topped that. They beat us up front. That’s all you can say. They didn’t do anything special. They just beat us up front.”
Leasor was lamenting that his team couldn’t even get in the right formations before the game in the warm-ups.
“I’m not going to jump off the Salt River Bridge,” the coach said. “We’ll be back in the office tomorrow and start working on Shelby County. If we win that game we’ll have a home play-off game.”
Next Games: Bullitt East will go and play for the Bullitt Cup on Friday when they travel to North Bullitt to take on the Eagles. The green and gold will be flying high after they defeated Shelby County 48-42 on a touchdown with 19 seconds left in the game on Friday to improve to 3-4 overall.
Bullitt Central will return home on Friday to take on Shelby County in the final district game of the season for the Cougars. With a win, the Cougars can do no worse than second in the district and will be assured of playing the first game in the post-season in Shepherdsville.
Both games will be at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.