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Depleted Chargers falter late

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Shelby County 32, BULLITT EAST 13

By Mike Farner

 SHELBYVILLE - On Friday night, in the final district game of the regular season, the Bullitt East Chargers went hunting bear with a stick.

As if that wasn’t enough, the stick kept getting shorter as the battle with Shelby County continued. In the end, the depleted Chargers gave up 22 points in the fourth quarter and fell to the homestanding Rockets 32-13.

Bullitt East (4-5) led 13-3 at halftime and still maintained a 13-10 lead heading into the fourth quarter before the roof collapsed. Over the final 10 minutes of the contest, Shelby County scored on a 36-yard pass play and then had scoring runs of 59- and 77-yards as they pulled away for only the team’s second win of the season.

With the win, Shelby County threw Class 5-A, District 4 into a madhouse. North Bullitt had already wrapped up the number one seed with a 3-0 record, but now Bullitt Central, Bullitt East and Shelby County all have 1-2 marks. That tie will not be broken until after the regular season ends this Friday. The only Region 2 contest known at this time is Grayson County playing at North Bullitt on Friday, Nov. 4.

At this point, first-year Bullitt East head coach Darrell Vincent is trying to piece together offensive and defensive units with limited numbers. Even before play started on Friday, the Chargers were without both of their starting offensive tackles, Logan Pruitt (shoulder) and Andrew Okruch (leg), as well as top running back Buzz Hadley (concussion). All three of those players also play key roles on defense.

To make matters worse, midway through the second quarter, sophomore quarterback Nathan Christmas took a hard shot and did not return with concussion like symptoms.

It all added up to a brew of trouble.

“That’s about the size of it,” Vincent said outside his team’s locker room after the coach took them immediately off the field after the game and straight into the dressing room.

Even after Christmas exited the contest, Bullitt East was able to add a touchdown just before halftime after Shelby County bobbled a punt snap and got tackled at the 15-yard line with 45 seconds remaining in the half. Two plays later, back-up quarterback Anthony Doran rolled left and then threw back to the right to Dylan Lewis who darted to the endzone for a 13-yard score.

That put the Chargers up 13-3, but there was trouble on the horizon. Most notably the fact that Doran has only been playing quarterback for the past few weeks. Christmas actually started the season as the back-up quarterback and the junior-varsity starter. Doran didn’t start playing quarterback until after Christmas moved up. The touchdown pass to Lewis was the first throw by Doran in a varsity game.

“We’ve gotten him some reps in practice,” Vincent said of Doran working with the varsity team. “Then he has played JV the last few weeks.”

Vincent went on to say that Doran, who is a junior and who also plays defense, played quarterback as a freshman.

“He’s a good athlete,” the coach pointed out. “He was always a good option. He’s capable of making plays.”

However, under the tough circumstances on Friday, the Charger offense was not able to function in the second half. The Chargers had one first down in the second half and only 32 yards of total offense, including just eight yards on eight plays in the third quarter.

Doran did complete a 25-yard pass to Lewis late in the game and there was also a 50-yard completion to Lewis that was wiped out by a holding penalty, negating a late touchdown.

While there are a number of new problems for the Chargers to work on, there was also the return of an old nemesis - poor tackling. On both of the long touchdown runs in the fourth quarter, Bullitt East players got to the runner, but could not bring them to the ground.

“We had some missed tackles,” Vincent said. “We had them bottled up at the line of scrimmage and we just didn’t make the play.

“We got bogged down there on offense and then they popped a few plays,” the coach lamented. “We just didn’t make tackles. We had guys there to make tackles and they don’t do it. It was nothing new tonight. It’s just youth and inexperience.”

Bullitt East had started the game on a strong note. Late in the first quarter, Jesse Porter picked up a bad pitch at the Shelby County 35 yard line and returned it all the way to the 2-yard line. On third down, Christmas kept the ball on the veer and walked into the endzone.

Shelby County did get a 38-yard field goal from Stuart Orange in the second quarter for their only points of the first half. In the third quarter, the Rockets pulled closer when Brandon Ford took a pitch around the left side and then cut back to the middle of the field on a 68-yard run that made it 13=10 entering the fourth quarter.

The final frame belonged to the Rockets.

After Ford intercepted Doran on the first play of the fourth quarter, Shelby County went 44 yards in four plays. After a 28-yard touchdown run by Ford was called back because of a holding penalty, quarterback Zach Shipley stepped back and found senior Zakk Bailey wide open down the middle of the field for a 36-yard touchdown that put the Rockets ahead for good.

Following a Bullitt East punt, it took just three plays before Chase Manica broke free up the middle and raced 59-yards to the endzone. The final score came with 3:14 remaining in the game when Manica broke free down his own sideline en route to a 77-yard touchdown run.

Shelby County finished with 354 yards of total offense with 287 of that coming on the ground. Shipley completed six of ten passes for 67 yards.

Bullitt East was limited to 97 yards of offense with 58 coming on the ground and 39 through the air.

Next Game: Bullitt East will close out the regular season at home on Friday as they take on Nelson County. The Cardinals have not won a game this season after falling to Central Hardin 35-21 last week.

Game time on Senior Night in Mount Washington is set for 7:30 p.m.