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JEFFERSONTOWN - It was a game only those who like defensive struggles could love.
And the statistically ugly game got real ugly late in the contest.
But as frustrated as the Bullitt East Chargers may have been on Friday night, it showed the resilient nature of the past season and actually had an opportunity to pull off a first round playoff victory.
Unfortunately, as has been the case all season, Bullitt East fell in a close contest to the Jeffersontown Chargers 17-16.
For a game in which there was a combined 31 tackles for losses, the defense ruled.
After falling behind and having to rally in its past couple of games, Bullitt East got off to a quick start thanks to a major penalty, the first of many on the evening.
Punter Devyn Noe was called upon to kick when the opening Bullitt East drive stalled after three plays. However, as Noe kicked the ball, a Jeffersontown defender hit him.
With the penalty, Bullitt East would cover the next 55 yards in eight plays.
On second down from the one, Blake McGill scored the touchdown with 7:54 left in the first quarter. Noe converted the extra point.
That drive would produce the final first down for Bullitt East until seconds remained before halftime.
Jeffersontown would get its first break of the night at the 4:17 mark in the first quarter as Bullitt East fumbled at mid-field.
The second-seeded Chargers would go 43 yards in 13 plays as quarterback Kendrick Gardner scored from the 1.
In a play which wound up being very important, and also was typical of the night, Jeffersontown placekicker Mandera Jackson needed four attempts to finally connect on the extra point to tie the score.
On the three previous plays, penalties against each team moved the ball back and forth.
With 5:08 left in the first half, the speedy Richard Deloney took the handoff at his own 27 and broke a couple of tackles before finding daylight and the end zone 73 yards away. Jackson’s extra point made it 14-7.
The Bullitt East defense, which head coach Darrell Jackson provided a superb performance, stopped a potential back-breaking touchdown late in the second quarter.
After a snap to Noe on a punt sailed over his head, Jeffersontown would have had the ball at the 5. However, because of a late hit on the punter, Jeffersontown would start at the 20. Trent Meredith would later intercept the Gardner pass in the end zone to stop the threat.
The offensive struggles for Bullitt East continued after intermission. Jeffersontown would take over at its own 38 and Gardener had a big pass play to Mikal Howard down the sideline for 46 yards. A defensive holding call would later take the ball to the Bullitt East nine.
However, the defense held again and Jackson converted on a 30-yard field goal to make it 17-7 with 3:42 to go in the quarter.
Down but not out, Bullitt East got possession of the ball with 3:53 left in the game at the Jeffersontown 40.
After a 10-yard sack on the first play, Anthony Doran connected on his first pass play of the night thanks to a pass interference call. From the 32, Doran calmly hit Jesse Porter for a 17-yard gain.
The two seniors connected again on a 14-yard play. From the 1, Doran called his own number with 1:33 left. Noe’s kick made it 17-14.
It was after this extra point that things got real ugly. Players from each team got into a fight and that resulted in parents coming onto the field to restore order.
When the melee cleared, Noe was lined up for the on-side kick, which he successfully recovered himself at the 45. Doran and Meredith connected for a 15-yard play to the 30, which was close to field goal range for Noe. However, a holding call would set the Chargers back.
Doran’s pass to the end zone was intercepted by Deloney at the 13 with 55 seconds left.
Jeffersontown chose to take a knee in the next three downs. However, each time the knee was taken, the losses mounted. Finally, on fourth down from its own 1 yard line, two intentional procedure penalties took the ball back to the six-inch line with 19 seconds left.
At that point, Jeffersontown snapped the ball to Gardner, who took the safety.
Taking the free kick at the 47, Vincent was looking for a short pass play to get Noe into field-goal range. With seven seconds left, Doran was sacked and time ticked off the clock.
“I’m so proud of these kids,” Vincent said following the 17-16 setback. “There is no quit in these guys.”
Even though the offense sputtered most of the night, Vincent put the credit on a very athletic Jeffersontown defensive unit.
“We played great defense all night but so did Jeffersontown,” said Vincent. “Not many teams have run against that defense.”
In an offense that is run first, Bullitt East had its share of troubles.
On the night, 38 rushing attempts resulted in 63 total yards. Through the air, Bullitt East was three of 22 for 46 yards and two interceptions.
On third down conversions, Bullitt East was three of 16.
Jeffersontown made 13 tackles for losses, accounting for 90 yards. Bullitt East had 18 tackles for losses of 61 yards.
Both teams also had a tendency to commit penalties. Jeffersontown was flagged by the crew from Lexington 15 times for 105 yards. Bullitt East had eight penalties for 47 yards.
The Bullitt East defense allowed just 228 in total offense and only 122 on the ground, most of which came on the Deloney touchdown.
“We just couldn’t get going offensively,” said Vincent. “They put a lot of pressure on you and it’s hard to throw the ball. We’re much better throwing the ball when we want to throw the ball, not when we have to throw.”
Even though it was a struggle all evening, Vincent said the coaches and players were still confident that they would find a way to snatch a victory from defeat.
“We knew we would find a way to win,” said Vincent.
In the end, Vincent said he watched a team grow over the course of the 4-7 season, of which five of those losses were decided by a touchdown or less.
“The seniors provided great leadership and they will be missed,” said Vincent. “But we’ve seen some of the younger players grow and improve so much.”
“I’m very proud of the effort all season and I’m proud of the way we played tonight.”