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GOSHEN - This season, you almost get the impression that the Bullitt Central Cougars like to fall behind early in games.
The maroon and gray did it again on Friday, and again the Cougars rallied to pick up another spectacular victory as they beat previously undefeated North Oldham 21-17.
North Oldham scored the first two times they had the ball but then Bullitt Central scored twice in the second quarter to make it 14-14 at the break. The Cougars. After the Mustangs kicked a field goal, Bullitt Central got a touchdown from Jeremy Bennett and then turned it over to the defense.
On the next series, North Oldham got as deep as the Bullitt Central 32-yard line, but then in the fourth quarter did not take a snap past their own 40-yard line on three possessions.
The win moved Bullitt Central to 8-2 overall, marking only the fifth time in 38 years that the program has won that many games in the regular season.
“Overall, our coaches are very proud of this team,” head coach Danny Leasor said when the team returned home on Friday night. “We went out there and put the finishing touches on a great season.”
Now, the Cougars get a week off before heading to Richmond on Nov. 14 to play Madison Central in the first round of the Class 6-A play-offs.
Unlike some coaches, Leasor isn’t preaching the regular season as a springboard to the play-offs. Instead, he sees it as two different seasons.
“We told the kids before the game let’s go 8-2 and let’s finish what we started,” Leasor said. “We went into the week wanting to be 8-2. I don’t think anyone could have believed that we’d be 8-2. We took it one game at a time.
“We finished one season and now it is on to a new season,” the veteran coach added. “I couldn’t be any happier for the team or the coaches. They have worked so hard. It’s pretty incredible.”
The play-offs start with everyone on equal footing.
“We finished this season 8-2,” Leasor pointed out. “Now all we need is five (wins in the play-offs. Until we get beat out, we’re in. I want our kids to have a little swagger and dream big.”
Against North Oldham, Bullitt Central seemingly was ready to get off to a good start. On the opening kick-off, Bennett broke free and raced all the way to the Mustang’s 10-yard line. Unfortunately, on the next play Bennett fumbled and North Oldham recovered.
The next 15 minutes belonged to the undefeated Mustangs. Following the fumble, North Oldham ran 16 straight plays to cover 90 yards. The touchdown came on a 1-yard run by Matt Alward.
After the teams exchanged punts, South Oldham got the ball back with 6:30 remaining before halftime. After an incompletion, quarterback Chase Maddox stepped back and found Tyler Gears open for a 55-yard scoring play.
The second extra point kick by Paul Althoff made it 14-0 with 5:53 left in the half.
Bullitt Central’s offense, which had just one first down over the first 18 minutes of the game, suddenly came to life. Quarterback Damion Wibbels and Joey Tyrell connected on a 15-yard pass and on the next play Akeem Bennett darted 23 yards to the 15. Akeem Bennett got the ball on the next play and helped along by a penalty, put the ball on the 1-yard line. Two plays later, Wibbels pushed it in for the score.
It didn’t look like Bullitt Central would get another chance to score before halftime when Wibbels was intercepted the next time the Cougars got the ball. But, the defense got it right back when Shane Williamson stepped in front of a pass by Maddox at the Cougars’ own 22-yard line.
With less than a minute to play, Bullitt Central twice gave the ball to Jeremy Bennett for 13 yards. Then on the final play of the half, Wibbels hit Akeem Bennett for 15 yards at midfield. The senior was wide open before meeting defenders at the 30-yard line. A couple of nifty moves and he was free and in the ednzone.
Still, even with the big play, the Cougars could not carry that momentum early in the second half. North Oldham got the ball first and marched all the way down to the Bullitt Central 18 yard line. That brought Althoff onto the field and he converted the 33-yard field goal attempt.
Bullitt Central didn’t trail for long. On first down from their own 26-yard line, the Cougars opened with an 18-yard pass from Wibbels to Jeremy Bennett. Two plays later, Akeem Bennett covered 15 yards to the North Oldham 44.
Jeremy Bennett got the ball on the next play and raced through the defense before being tackled at the 1-yard line. The junior got the ball on the next play and completed what he started with the touchdown.
Wibbels converted his third extra point of the night, along with holder Tyrell who was filling in for Jesse Vittitoe, to make it 21-17.
North Oldham’s final push of the night got as deep as the Bullitt Central 32-yard line. On third down, Williamson broke free and had a six-yard sack, forcing the Mustangs to punt.
Bullitt Central was in control the rest of the way. The defense did not allow another first down until less than a minute remained in the game. The offense moved the ball and got deep in North Oldham territory before Wibbels was intercepted in the endzone with 5:19 remaining.
From that point on, the Mustangs never got past their own 28-yard line.
Bullitt Central finished with 343 yards of total offense in the game to 285 for North Oldham.
The Cougars collected 181 yards on the ground with Jeremy Bennett carrying 19 times for 100 yards. Akeem Bennett had five rushes for 64. Through the air, Wibbels completed six of his ten passes for 163 yards. Two of the completions went to Akeem Bennett for 67 yards and there was one 48-yard completion to Jackie Hornback.
North Oldham finished with 124 yards on the ground. Through the air, Maddox completed 13 of 22 passes for 161 yards.
“I commend all 11 of them on defense,” Leasor said. “They all helped shut down a pretty good football team.”
Bullitt Central played without Vittitoe and T.J. Flener in this game after both were hurt in the win over Southern.
Vittitoe has a hyper-extended knee. The ‘open’ week comes at the right time as he can use the time to get the knee better.
Flener suffered a broken thumb and was not released by doctors to play. Leasor doubts if he will return for any of the play-off games.
Bullitt Central already has some film on Madison Central. The Indians started the season 7-1 and were ranked among the top ten teams in the state before getting blown out by Highlands 46-0 last week. They have a game this Friday at home against Boone County.