Chargers rip victory away from Grayson

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By Mike Farner

 MOUNT WASHINGTON – Tied at 14-14 midway through the second quarter and still reeling from a pair of big plays for touchdowns by Grayson County, the Bullitt East Chargers were in need of a big play Friday night in the second round of the Class 5-A play-offs.

     So often, when the Chargers need that spark, they get it from senior linebacker/running back Brandon Samuels. Against Shelby County four weeks earlier, he did it on offense. On Friday, he did it on defense.

     With 5:10 remaining in the first half, Samuels scored a touchdown on a 2-yard run that tied the game at 14-14. The short run capped a 52-yard drive in eight plays with all of the yardage coming on the ground.

     Following the kick-off, Grayson County quarterback Talon Gary kept the ball and turned into the heart of the Bullitt East defense. The last time he had done that, Gary broke through the line and raced 75-yards for a touchdown.

     This time, Gary was hit just behind the line of scrimmage by Bullitt East tackle A.J. Romine. While Gary fought to get back to the line of scrimmage, Samuels came in and in a single motion ripped the ball out of Gary’s hands. The ball hit the ground before Samuels fell on it, giving the Chargers the ball at the 25-yard line.

     Samuels then bolted 20-yards on the next play and the Chargers went ahead for good when Robert Hartley covered the final five-yards on the next play.

     Bullitt East added another touchdown just before halftime to go up 28-14 and then pulled away late for a 49-27 victory.

     With the win, Bullitt East (11-1) advance to the regional final for the first time since 2008 where they will take on John Hardin (10-2). That game will be this Friday night in Radcliff.

     “A.J. hit him so he was standing there,” Samuels recalled of the big play. “I saw the ball and went for it. It was a big play and I’m glad it was me.

     “We work on it a lot,” the senior added. “We do it at least once a week in practice. It was fortunate that A.J. made the play and I was there.”

     Samuels has become the team leader. Bullitt East head coach Darrell Vincent says that after he speaks to the team before the game that he then lets Samuels speak.

     “That young man for the last three or four weeks when we have to have a play, he makes the play,” Vincent said. “When Shelby County tied that game at 10-10 it was Samuels who had the big run. Then tonight it was like the same situation.

     “He just ripped it out and that was a tremendous play,” the coach added. “That’s what senior leaders do.”

     Bullitt East may have played well after the fumble, but it was a rough start for the red and gold. Grayson County was up 7-0 just 14 seconds into the game despite the fact that they had kicked off. There was also Gary’s 75-yard run on basically a quarterback sneak in which he was not touched by a Charger defender.

     “We didn’t start when they started the game,” Vincent said with an uneasy laugh after the game. “We talked all week about early on and holding onto the ball and holding onto the ball and on the first play the ball squirts out and goes 10 yards forward and they recover.”

     On the very next play, Grayson County tossed the ball out to a wide receiver who threw it to a wide open receiver for a 40-yard touchdown.

     Bullitt East did manage to hold onto the ball in the next series, marching 63-yards in 12 plays. The Chargers even overcame back-to-back penalties that forced a first and 25 situation. Tight end Trent Meredith went 16 yards on a reverse on second down and on the very next play, the other tight end, Cruise Coulter hauled in a 20-yard pass from Pierce Kelly for the touchdown.

     Still, the Chargers were behind again after Gary’s long run.

     “The kids showed a lot of resiliency,” Vincent said of the early travails. “Then we had the two touchdown cushion (at halftime). They kept their poise and bonded together. There are games where you have to overcome things.

     “When you get in the post-season, everybody is good,” the coach added. “There will always be games where one or two plays decide the game.”

     That touchdown just before halftime came as Bullitt East covered 61-yards in the final 2:51. The big play in the drive as a bounce lateral that Kelly skipped off the wet surface to Cruise. Cruise then threw it downfield to Meredith for a 23-yard gain. Kelly also connected with wide receiver Trevor Payton twice in the drive for 35 yards. Samuels scored the touchdown from a yard out with 13 seconds remaining in the half.

     Bullitt East needed that cushion as the Cougars took the second-half kick-off and marched 65 yards with Gary scoring on an 8-yard run.

     Grayson County did miss the conversion after the second.

     Bullitt East scored on each of its three possessions in the second half. With 5:37 remaining in the third quarter, Kelly powered up the middle for a 15-yard touchdown. Early in the fourth quarter, the red and gold pushed the lead to 42-20 when junior Austin Colvin went up the middle for a 62-yard touchdown.

     Grayson County did score again as Gary went in from 25-yards out late in the game.

       Bullitt East countered that when Chad Caldwell scored on a 3-yard run late in the game. That drive had started with a 50-yard run by Caldwell.

            The Chargers finished with 463 yards of total offense with 342 of that coming on the ground. Grayson County had 293 yards of offense on ten fewer snaps. Of that total, the Cougars had 239 yards on the ground.

            Colvin led the Bullitt East ground attack with 101 yards on ten carries. The Chargers also got 84 yards from Kelly and 74 yards by Samuels. Kelly completed six of his seven passes for 98 yards.

            Gary led Grayson County with 167 yards on the ground.