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BARDSTOWN - If nothing else, the Bullitt East Chargers are determined and resolute.
For the second week in a row, the red and gold found themselves in a big hole early, but then battled back with strong play to put themselves in position to win in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the end of both games was unsatisfactory as they lost for a second straight week.
Against Nelson County on Friday, the Chargers trailed 28-0 two minutes into the second quarter. Coach Darrell Vincent's team battled back to tie the score at 28-28 early in the fourth quarter. The team even had the ball with three minutes to play before failing to convert a fourth down.
That gave the ball back to the Cardinals and they marched down the field and scored the winning touchdown with 12 seconds showing on the clock.
It was the second week in a row that Nelson County had won a game in the closing seconds. A week earlier the Cardinals had scored with 30 seconds to play to beat Central Hardin 28-27.
"I'm proud of the kids," Vincent said after the team returned to Mount Washington. "We've been in that situation two or three times this season and they don't quit. They find a way to battle back. It was 21-0 last week and then 27-21. They don't quit. They are resilient."
The loss dropped Bullitt East to 4-6 for the season heading into the Class 5-A play-offs where they will face Jeffersontown on Friday in Louisville at 7:30 p.m. Bullitt East lost to the Jefferson County Chargers 28-27 in the second game of the season.
"We're excited about another chance with Jeffersontown," Vincent said.
There really wasn't a lot of reason for the Bullitt East faithful to think that the team could rally from that big early deficit. Before the first half was over, the Cardinals would run 40 plays from scrimmage and gain 359 yards. The state's top-passing team had completed 17 of 27 passes for 251 yards in the first 24 minutes of play.
But Bullitt East had gained some momentum late in the first half with a touchdown and a few minor adjustments at halftime helped hold Nelson County to just 117 yards in the second half.
"We were so scared of the deep ball that we played back," Vincent said of the early defensive strategy. "We decided we had to close down and we did. And a little rain helped. In the second half we got some pressure on him."
The target of the pressure was Nelson County senior quarterback Dylan Beasley who came into the game having thrown for 3,425 yards and 33 touchdowns. Beasley completed 17 passes in the first half for 251 yards, but had only seven completions in the second half for 56 yards.
"Blake McGill got to him and so did Austin Story," Vincent said. "We just started making plays. We also kept the ball away from them and that was a big part of it also."
Nelson County had scored the first four times they touched the ball. On the first possession of the night, the Cardinals marched right down the field to a touchdown.
"It is hard for us to emulate in practice what they do because their quarterback is so good," Vincent pointed out. "They are well schooled."
It didn't get any better for the Chargers when they got the ball as they quickly turned it over. Nelson County went in for another score and they got the ball right back when Bullitt East fumbled the ensuing kick-off. Another touchdown soon followed. Bullitt East did manage to hold onto the ball on the next drive before having to punt. The home team scored again to make it 28-0.
Finally, the offense moved the ball down the field and got a touchdown. The defense did its job just before halftime, stopping Nelson County without any more points being scored.
The third quarter belonged to Bullitt East. Quarterback Anthony Doran scored twice to add to the touchdown McGill scored in the first half. The Chargers then knotted the score when Jesse Porter scored.
Devyn Noe's four extra point kicks evened the game at 28-28.
Bullitt East got the ball back on another defense stand and the Chargers were moving when they faced a fourth down at the Nelson County 40-yard line with just over three minutes remaining in the game. Vincent opted to go for it, but the play came up short.
That gave the Cardinals a final chance. It took ten plays for Nelson County to move down the field with six passing and four running plays. The touchdown came on a short-yardage plunge by Ben Jones, his fourth touchdown of the game.
Bullitt East's defense got a boost when senior Gage Logsdon moved from linebacker to the defensive front. That gave the Chargers more rush as well as more speed.
He played really well for us," Vincent said of the team's leading tackler. "It's a credit to him and that group of seniors. I'm proud of what he did. We asked him if he would move and he said he would do what was best for the team."
The Chargers did play without lineman Trey Hurley for a second straight week with a knee injury. Junior tight end Cruise Coulter also did not play on Friday after suffering a shoulder injury earlier in the week during practice.
Bullitt East finished with 365 yards of total offense on 60 plays. Nelson County ran 70 plays and gained 476 yards.
The Chargers did not pass much as Doran completed three of his seven attempts for 87 yards. The big play was an 81-yard completion to Kevin Carter on the second drive of the third quarter. Carter went down at the 2-yard line and Doran later scored.
Beasley ended up completing 24 of 44 passes for 307 yards. Nelson County had 23 first downs to 21 for the Chargers.
NEXT GAME: Bullitt East will go on the road for the first-round of the Class 5-A play-offs when they make a return trip to Jeffersontown where they lost 28-27 back on Aug. 25. The other Chargers finished the regular season 6-4 after losing on Friday 16-12 to Oldham County.
Game time at Jeffersontown is set for 7:30 p.m. on Friday.