NICHOLASVILLE - After trailing 8-7 at the end of the first quarter, the Bullitt Central Cougars on five straight possessions on Friday and beat homestanding East Jessamine 39-23.
Other than allowing a long kick-off return for a touchdown midway through the second quarter, Bullitt Central was in control for most of the game. The Cougars led 26-15 at halftime and it was 39-23 after three quarters as neither team scored down the stretch.
The win was the third in a row for the Cougars after a rough start that saw them drop games to good teams in South Oldham and Glasgow. After the second loss, Bullitt Central head coach Danny Leasor talked about winning the next four games to prepare the team for the first district contest of the season on Sept. 28 when they travel to North Bullitt.
That has worked three times with only a home game this coming Friday against Henry County remaining before the district wars. This week's game against the Wildcats will be homecoming in Shepherdsville.
After making the long trip into central Kentucky to take on East Jessamine, Bullitt Central won with strong play over the final three quarters. In fact, except for the kick-off return, Leasor was pleased with the level of play in the third win of the season. Bullitt Central won just three games all of last season.
"That is all that kept them in it," Leasor said of the third quarter return. "Thank goodness we have a potent offense."
Bullitt Central's offense, which scored a school record 74 points a week earlier against Valley, accounted for basically 500 yards in this win. The Cougars rushed for 392 yards and passed for another 105 yards.
Coming into the game, Bullitt Central sophomore running back Trevor Carnell was fourth in the state in scoring with 14 touchdowns and he scored three more in this game.
Overall, Carnell carried the ball 35 times for 298 yards. At the start of the season, Carnell was starting on both offense and defense. In the past several games, he has been pulled off the defense and that has shown in his offensive performance.
After the game, Leasor jokingly told the team in various forms that Carnell is picking up the offense.
"We had a little too much Trevor Carnell for them," the veteran coach said when the team got back to Shepherdsville. Still, we have to block for him and we did that. He made some good cuts."
Bullitt Central associate head coach Mike Gossett, who calls the offense, keeps a stat for his linemen on 'pancake' blocks, those times that they put an opponent on their back. The Cougars recorded 30 of those in this game, more than any time since they started keeping count.
Carnell also took off on a fake punt that covered 25 yards and picked up a first down.
"He has the green light if he thinks he can go," Leasor said. "It's a rugby kick and it's his call. We were in the right place and he made the right call."
Bullitt Central drew first blood in this game after the defense held and forced a punt. The Cougars answered with a 70-yard drive that took six plays. Carnell carried the ball on three of the plays and quarterback Bradley Combs twice completed passes. The touchdown came when Dakota Montgomery ran 42 yards to the endzone on his only carry of the night.
D.J. Dennison's extra point made it 7-0.
On the final play of the first quarter, East Jessamine capped an 80-yard drive with a 1-yard run by Ronnie Carson. The Jaguars then ran in the two-point conversion to take an 8-7 lead.
The second quarter belonged to the Cougars. The maroon and gray gook the lead for good on the third play of the frame when Carnell broke free for a 19-yard touchdown that made it 12-8.
After holding East Jessamine at the 20-yard line on down, Bullitt Central went the other way for 80 yards in seven plays. Combs completed a 17-yard pass to Tyler Bray early in the series and then Carnell broke free for a 40-yard run before being hauled down at the 9-yard line. On the next play, Zack Patton scored.
That led to the big miscue as East Jessamine's Jared Caudill returned the ensueing kick-off 90 yards for a score to pull his team within 19-14.
Bullitt Central got all the way to the East Jessamine 32-yard line on the next drive before Combs was intercepted with 1:27 remaining in the half. The defense held and with use of their time-outs, Bullitt Central forced a punt with 50 seconds remaining in the half.
Starting at midfield, the Cougars managed to run five players. The Jaguars were called for pass interference on first down and then Carnell broke loose for a 23-yard game. After an incomplete pass, two runs by Carnell put the ball in the endzone as the score came from 2-yards out with only :03 showing on the clock.
Bullitt Central's defense came up big to open the second half, forcing an East Jessamine punt after three plays. The offense then marched 71 yards. The big play was Carnell's run on the fake punt for 29 yards. In fact, all the yardage in the drive came on the ground including the touchdown when Carnell scored from the 18-yard line.
Another long kick-off return haunted the Cougars on the next series. East Jessamine only had to go 25 yards and they got all of that in one play as Skylar Stigall scored. The two-point conversion made it 33-23.
The final points of the game came when Bullitt Central marched 65 yards in ten plays. Carnell ran for 20 yards on the first play and he carried it four more times in the drive. Combs kept the ball for the touchdown on a 1-yard run.
In the second half, the Bullitt Central defense did not allow a first down. In fact, the Jaguars ran just seven plays in the fourth quarter and 16 plays in the entire second half.
"It was a perfect night," Leasor said. "We weren't rushed n the warm-ups. That first time we stalled, but then a big hole opened up for Dakota Montgomery on the counter play. It was so beautiful.
"They were pretty good," the coach added. "There at not too many 0-4 teams as good as they are."
Bullitt Central lost to East Jessamine 15-10 in Shepherdsville last season.
"I feel good about where we are," Leasor said. "I'm not satisfied but I feel good that we can be 4-2 heading into 9-28. That's what we are looking for. It's one game at a time."
NEXT GAME: Bullitt Central will look for that fourth straight win on Friday when they return home to take on Henry County. The Wildcats are 2-3 after falling 21-0 to Shelby County on Friday.
Game time in Shepherdsville on Friday is set for 7:30 p.m. with the crowning of the Queen and King set for halftime.