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THE CLASH: Everything on the line in grudge match

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Football

By Mike Farner

 HEBRON ESTATES - It will all be on the line on Friday when North Bullitt and Bullitt East collide for the 32nd time in The Clash.

Because of timing and alignment, this might be the most important regular season meeting between the two teams ever. Not only will the normal local bragging rights be on the line in this meeting, but the winner will secure the Bullitt Cup as well as moving into the top spot as well as the district alignment is concerned.

It is the perfect storm for a big football game on so many levels.

(If North Bullitt wins on Friday, the Eagles will wrap up the Class 5-A, District 4 title and will be at home for the first two rounds of the post-season. If Bullitt East wins, then next weeks’ game for the Chargers at Shelby County will be for the top spot in the district as well as leaving open the possibility of a three-way tie at the top if Bullitt East beats North and then loses to Shelby, if Shelby beats Bullitt Central this week.)

“It’s all wrapped up into everything this week,” North Bullitt head coach Brett Newton said on Monday. “The district and the rivalry and then the county championship. It’s a big game.”

For sure, the one trophy that will be awarded after the game on Friday is the Bullitt Cup since both teams have already beaten Bullitt Central. North Bullitt is presently in possession of the traveling trophy that goes to the county football champion each fall. The award is sponsored by Schmid Funeral Home, The Awards Center, the Pioneer News and WFPR-93.5 radio.

The Eagles won 18-6 in Mount Washington last season. In the five meeting before that, Bullitt East had a 4-1 advantage that included the two teams splitting a pair of post-season meetings.

North Bullitt enters the game on a four-game winning steak and has the better overall record at 6-1, but the green and gold have struggled each of the past two weeks, trailing at halftime before rallying to dominate play in the second half of wins over Bullitt Central and Shelby County.

First-year Bullitt East head coach Darrell Vincent expects to see the best from the Eagles from the outset this week.

“Some of that was like us last week,” Vincent said of both teams perhaps getting a little lost in the homecoming festivities leading up to the game. “There are a lot of distractions. They came out and did what they wanted to do and that was run it.”

Newton wants to see 48 strong minutes from his team this week.

“For the second week in a row, we played lousy the first half and pretty good in the second half,” the coach said. “You can’t have that if you want to keep winning. We held Shelby County to minus-13 yards in the second half. We didn’t take advantage of some things early. Overall, the defense played well for the spots the offense put them in.”

Before the Bullitt Central game, Vincent was worried about what Cougar team he would see as they had used a number of alignments in previous games. That won’t be a problem on Friday as the Eagles will line-up and come straight ahead with their rushing attack.

“They execute their stuff,” Vincent said. “They simplified the things they do and the kids are confident in that. When you are confident, you will make plays.”

North Bullitt senior running back Todd Asbury, who has already rushed for over 1,100 yards this season, can run inside or outside. Between the tackles, junior Travis Downing provides the strength. For the second week in a row (after Bullitt Central’s Trevor Carnell ran for 96 yards last week), the Chargers will see an impressive freshman as Mitchell Allen fuels North Bullitt’s rushing attack to the corners.

First, Vincent and the Chargers will work at containing Asbury.

“He is obviously our first to focus on,” the Charger coach said. “They have those other guys that you can’t forget about. The Allen kid can get loose on a sweep. Asbury is the first guy (you have to stop), but they have other guys.”

Newton also knows very well what his team is going to get from the Chargers - a steady dose of the old split-back veer attack. After shifting to the wisebone the past three seasons, the Chargers are back in their familiar veer offense which attacks you at the tackle positions.

Bullitt East is getting a big season from senior tackle Logan Pruitt, but the red and gold lost junior tackle Andrew Okruch last week late in the first half and he will not play this week. Also, guard Gage Logsdon is still out with the dislocated kneecap that he suffered in the loss to Central Hardin.

Vincent hopes to have both players back in the next few weeks. Over the past few weeks, only Pruitt has played on both sides of the ball as far as the interior players are concerned. The Chargers are getting some players back this week that should help fill the holes on the line.

“It definitely looks like the Bullitt East of old,” Newton said. “It’s pretty much the old school Bullitt East. They have very good technique all around. They are pretty impressive up front.

“The quarterback looks pretty good,” Newton said of freshman Nathan Christmas who will start for the fifth straight game. “Then number 24 (Tyler Cowgell) looks pretty good as a receiver. As always, their backs, no matter who is in there, runs hard. You see them run into a big pile of people and then they keep going.”

North Bullitt also has some injury problems. Sophomore Josh Exton will not play for the second week. His absence led to some woes in the kicking game that led to Shelby County’s two first-half touchdowns last week. While Exton was also playing offense and defense, it is his punting that is the most obvious loss. Senior Derek Schwinhart, who has been doing the place-kicking, is now also punting.

The Eagles also played last week without two-way starter Zach Foster who was hurt in the middle of last week in a PE class. There is a chance that Foster could play this Friday.

This will be the first time ever that Bullitt East has played their two county rivals on back-to-back Friday nights. Even Vincent admitted that he wasn’t real sure how his team would handle that situation.

“It’s a big emotional game,” Vincent concluded. “We have to come back and be focused for this week.”

Game time at North Bullitt on Friday is set for 7:30 p.m.