Downing, Eagles put pain on Fairdale

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Regular season ends; playoffs start on Friday

By Thomas Barr

 HEBRON ESTATES - The senior wasn't thinking about what could have been. He really wasn't thinking about the pain shooting through his foot.

What Travis Downing was relishing on a cool, rainy, windy Friday night was that he had just had his best offensive game of the year and his Eagles were closing out the regular season with a 50-25 victory over the Fairdale Bulldogs.

In a season in which the hopes were high for the Eagles, things haven't gone as planned.

But as North Bullitt goes into the post-season facing one of the state's best Class 5-A teams, coach Brett Newton's squad will be entering play following two of its best games of the season.

The Senior Night crowd went home cold and damp but the who braved the weather went home happy.

"I didn't know I'd get so many carries tonight," said Downing, whose action has been limited primarily to defense as he has nursed a bad foot the entire season. "I just had to fight through the pain."

Downing accounted for four touchdowns and a two-point conversion.

"I just wanted to help get the tough yards," said Downing. "The offensive line played great."

With an injury that won't get any better until the off-season, Downing said he just has to play through the pain.

It was a good night for Newton as another fullback, Brandon Cundiff, returned to action after missing several games.

"Brandon's our emotional leader," said Newton. "It was great to have him back in the lineup."

The North Bullitt runners accounted for 454 yards on the ground behind a line which Newton said has finally clicked.

The Eagles did not punt the entire evening and had 509 yards of total offense.

"We thought we could score tonight," said Newton. "It was just a matter of taking care of the ball and having our defense make some stops."

It wasn't until 7:31 remained in the second quarter that either team could cross the goal-line.

Nine plays covered 67 yards with Josh Exton capping off the drive with a three-yard touchdown. 

That would be one of two touchdowns and 199 yards on 24 carries for Exton. Brett McGlothin added another 152 yards on 13 carries.

Just three minutes later,  Downing would cross the goal-line on a one-yard run for a 12-0 lead.

Fairdale would come back behind quarterback Boo Crabtree, who found Darrius Clark in the end zone from seven yards out. The conversion by Max Cole made it 12-7 with 2:33 left in the first half.

On its first play of the next drive, quarterback Patrick Egnor found Exton open in the flat and the junior would score from 55 yards out. The two would then hook up for the two-point conversion and a 20-7 lead with 2:27 left.

Not quite finished before intermission, Crabtree drove his team 69 yards. With no time left on the clock, Crabtree's pass was tipped by a North Bullitt defender but landed in the hands of Bulldog Demonstrell Smith for the touchdown.

As Newton feared, Fairdale got the ball first in the third quarter and drove down to score. On fourth from the half-yard line, Crabtree scored with 7:22 left.

Thanks to a big 48-yard kickoff return by Blade Robinson, North Bullitt was back in business.

On third down from the 4, Downing punched the ball over the goal-line.

Aided by a personal foul on the Eagles, Fairdale came right back to bring the score to within 26-25. Crabtree found Bullitt Central transfer Tyler Cowgill in the end zone from the 17.

That would be the final score for the visitors and North Bullitt would put the final 24 points on the scoreboard.

McGlothin, Exton and Cundiff would lead an offensive drive on the ground. The final play of the 77-yard drive saw Egnor keeping the ball from the 3-yard line. Downing would score on the two-point run for a 34-25 lead with 10:47 left to play.

On the next Bulldog drive, McGlothin came up with an interception and North Bullitt followed with a 61-yard drive. The big play was a 50-yard run by Exton.

Downing would score from the one and Exton would score the two-point conversion with 8:33 left.

After Dalton Casey intercepted another Crabtree pass, Downing would cap off a eight-play drive with a run from the two. Egnor scored on the two-point run for the final 50-25 score.

"We felt that we could control the line of scrimmage," said Newton, whose team finished 5-5. "The line is starting to click."

He could only smile when talking about the play of Downing. There was no pre-game thoughts that the senior would have his number called more than normal. In fact, Newton thought the senior was limping worse than normal in pre-game warmups.

"You enjoy coaching a young man like that," said Newton.

While disappointed that running back Mitchell Allen would be lost due to an injury, Cundiff made his first appearance since the Shelby County game.

"It was big to have him back," said Newton, who added McGlothin had also had huge efforts the past few games. 

With two good games, Newton said the team is finally back to playing quality football after a month-long lapse.

"The offense answered all night and the defense got some turnovers,"  said Newton. "You never know what could happen next week."

NEXT GAME -- The Eagles will have the task of travelling to Radcliff to take on John Hardin, a perennial contender for the state title. Kickoff for the first round playoff game will be at 7:30 p.m.