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HEBRON ESTATES - You would have to think that nothing that happens on Friday night in the 30th meeting between North Bullitt and Bullitt East on the football field will surprise anyone.
Amazingly, this will be the fifth meeting over the past three seasons between the rivals. Only Trinity and St. Xavier have battled each other as many times over the same time span.
The biggest change this year is that both teams come into The Clash with losing records. The past four meetings have had key bearing on the Class 4-A district race, but this year both teams are looking up at LaRue County and Marion County. The battle is not to advance and fight another day, but just to get a chance at a home play-off game for the winner.
Because the three district games are being played on consecutive weeks late in the campaign this fall, the district part of this showdown overshadows the rivalry part to some degree - at least for the coaches. Fans and players probably see the rivalry part as the key on Friday.
“With both of us having a loss in the district, it makes this one more important in the district than in the rivalry,” North Bullitt head coach Brett Newton said on Monday. “Back-to-back-to-back makes these three games as important as the rivalry part.”
LaRue County and Marion County will be playing each other at the same time that Bullitt East and North Bullitt play on Friday. There are still a lot of scenarios, but the winner of the LaRue-Marion contest will probably win the district while the winner the North and East encounter will play the following week for the second spot and the home-field in the first round of the post-season.
There will be one new wrinkle at least as far as Bullitt East is concerned. For the first time they will look at a North Bullitt team that will prefer to put the ball in the air and will line-up in a no-huddle attack. In the more recent meetings, the Eagles were run first and often.
“It’s not something totally new to us,” Bullitt East head coach Doug Preston said on Monday. “I think that Holy Cross tried to do some of that and Shelby County did that also. It is definitely different from what they were doing last year.”
Behind quarterback Dalton Hadley, the Eagles have slowly grown into the present passing attack. There have been some bumps in the road, but after seven games the green and gold are more comfortable in what they are trying to accomplish.
“The quarterback is a good player and number seven (Travis Ridley) is a good looking player,” Preston pointed out. “Up front, their center and nose guard is just so big. They are big.”
Newton knows more about Bullitt East than any opposing coach will ever know about most teams. In addition to the recent meetings, two of the key Charger players have ties to North Bullitt.
Bullitt East quarterback Matt Bowles, who will start for the fifth times against the Eagles, is the nephew of North Bullitt assistant coach Bill Robinette. In addition, Bowles’ father, Jeff, was once the freshman coach at North Bullitt when Newton was also on the staff.
The top Charger lineman, Mason Kelly, as well as his younger brother, running back Wade Kelly, spent time around the North Bullitt program when their father was an assistant coach for the Eagles.
“He has been there a long time,” Newton said of seeing Bowles on tape for so many games. “We know the family well and so it makes for an intriguing situation.
“Matt is a pretty good quarterback and athletic,” the coach added. “He is a heck of a baseball player and he throws and runs it well in football and does a nice job for them.”
Bullitt East doesn’t hide the fact that they will run behind Mason Kelly most of the time. The Chargers even flip the 6-4, 310-pound tackle from side-to-side and run behind him to the left or the right.
“He’s a big ol’ boy. He always has been,” Newton said of Mason Kelly. “He is big, but he anchors that line and he does a great job there.
“LaRue County flipped their best lineman at times last week,” Newton said. “It’s one thing to know about it and see it coming and another to stop it. Bullitt East does a great job of the linemen coming off the ball and driving their feet and driving people off the line.”
On Monday, Preston felt that his team would have everyone ready who played against Marion County last week. There were no new injuries this week.
Newton did say on Monday that linebacker Duke Tomlinson suffered a mild concussion against LaRue County. He won’t be involved in contact during the week and will be evaluated before the game before a decision is made about him playing.
This will be the last home game of the regular season for North Bullitt and so it will be Senior Night on Friday.
Game time at North Bullitt on Friday is set for 7:30 p.m.