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East's Preston has been on this stage twice previously

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By Mike Farner

MOUNT WASHINGTON – A million things to do and only a few days to get it all done.

No, it’s not your holiday Christmas shopping.

It’s the job this week for Bullitt East football coach Doug Preston. Reaching the Class 4-A State Championship game will do that to coaches.

There is time to be spent with the local newspaper reporter as well as a reporter from the big city newspaper. The local radio station will need some of your time. In Mount Washington, four television stations will probably pop in one day during the week to get your thoughts. That list doesn’t even include the news outlets from Bell County that want to talk with you.

In addition, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association needs a roster, a two-deep depth chart, up to the minute team and individual statistics, and a team picture. At some point you need to organize transportation for Saturday as well as maybe a bus one day during the week if you can find a place with field turf like that at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium where you can practice.

Oh yes, there are also four or five opponent tapes to break down and practices to conduct. Fans expect you to come up with the perfect game plan to score lots of points against a defense that has allowed just 4.0 points a game this season.

Of course, in Bullitt County, we expect our coaches to also be teachers. Although, under the circumstances, I do hope that some leeway is given this week for Preston’s teaching duties.

“It’s already starting to get crazy,” Preston said on Monday during his time with the local newspaper reporter.

Obviously, it’s a good crazy this week. Coaches dream of having crazy weeks like this. This is why you get into the profession.

Fortunately, Preston has at least been around this situation before. He was an assistant coach at Danville High School in the late 90s when the Admiral program won two state championships (but he did not work at Danville in 1994 when they beat Bullitt East in the title game). So, the coach at least has some point of reference to keep his sanity this week.

“A whole lot goes into getting everybody else ready,” the coach said.

It might be a crazy week for Preston, but he is determined that the players do one thing – stay in the routine that has worked so well in the play-offs.

“We want to stay in our routine as much as we can,” the coach explained.

At this point, there is very little hitting being done at practice. Most of the hitting that is being done is with the padded dummies, not on each other. The players are spending more time watching film and doing game preparation and walk throughs.

If the routine stays the same this week, that Preston says he has no concern about the team peaking midway through the week.

BE Returns to Papa John’s

One minor advantage that the Bullitt East players might have over their coach in terms of game day readiness is that the Charger players have already played a game at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. That happened in the first game of last season. Preston was not the coach then and he has never coached at the University of Louisville facility.

“That helps,” Preston said of a minor advantage that Bell County does not have. “Our kids have been there and been around that facility. I don’t know if it is an advantage, but it helps.”

It might have helped more if the team had returned to that field this season. That was the original plan, but the organizors couldn’t work things out last winter. Bullitt East eventually played at Butler to open the season.

On Monday, Preston was still working on trying to get one practice on a field turf facility like the surface at Papa John’s Stadium. St. Xavier was the most obvious call and that could be the spot. The KHSAA does not set aside practice time for the teams at Papa John’s. Preston said you just have to know the right people to get on the field and he was making phone calls to try to get that to work out.

Bullitt East will be the home team on Saturday, not that that is a big advantage, but the team will wear the red uniforms that they have been in for the first four play-off victories.

“We’ve had a lot of luck in the red jerseys so I like that,” Preston said.

One obvious advantage for Bullitt East is that the game is only 20 miles from home. Adding to that is the fact that Bell County will have to travel over 200 miles.

What might be even more of an advantage for Bullitt East is that this is the first game away from home that Bell County has played since Sept. 26. Incredibly, the Bobcats have played their last nine games at home. Bell County has played 14 games this season and ten have been played in Pineville. Three contests were played on the road and one game was played on a neutral field.

Another oddity in looking over this game, is that maybe it was pre-destined that these schools would meet this season. Bell County opened the season playing in a ‘bowl’ game at Lincoln County High School, the school that hired Mike Settles away from Bullitt East after last season. The Bobcats didn’t play Settles’ team, but they did open the season with a 50-6 victory over Garrard County.

Good Fortune

There are no bad teams at this point in the play-offs. There also are very few teams that haven’t needed a lucky break along the way.

Just ask Bullitt East about Calloway County’s dropped pass that would have been a touchdown with less than 90 seconds remaining in the game last Friday.

For Bell County, their good fortune came in the 19-14 victory over Knox Central, a team they had beaten 21-0 in the regular season.

In the regional final, Bell County trailed by a point in the closing minutes when quarterback Shawnta Zachery hit Matt Raines with a shovel pass and Raines turned it into a 72-yard gain that set up the winning points a few plays later.

Second Winningest Coach

Bell County head coach Dudley Hilton is in his 34th season coaching at Bell County. He reached the 300-win plateau last season and now has a 319-97 lifetime mark, making him the second winningest coach in Kentucky history behind Bob Schneider of Newport Central Catholic.

Hilton has coached long enough that this year’s team includes his grandson, John Dudley Hilton who is the leading tackler for the Bobcats this season.

Schedule Oddity

Bullitt East and Bell County have never played each other in football. I can’t really recall the two schools meeting in any other sport, but it is possible that at some baseball or softball tournament it happened.

That is no surprise given the distance between Mount Washington and Pineville. That city is located about 25 miles north of the Cumberland Gap where Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia meet.

Amazingly, Bullitt Central did play a football game against the Bobcats. Bell County, which was coached by Hilton at that time also, came to Shepherdsville and beat the Cougars 28-7 in 1989. It was a one-year contract and Bullitt Central never made a return trip.

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Tale of the Tape

                                                         East        Bell

Record                                             9-5          14-0

Points Scored                                 426          629

Points Allowed                               297            57

Total Rushing Yards                     3694        3393

Total Passing Yards                      1175       1675

Total Yards                                    4869        5068

Total Rushing Yards Allowed      2274        1199

Total Passing Yards Allowed      1298        1095

Foes’ Regular Season Record    68-49      46-56

Foes’ Overall Record                   98-70      76-76

Class 6-A Opponents                        5               1

Class 2-A or 3-A Foes                       1               2

Winless Opponents                          0               2

Opponents with Winning Records 10              7

Shut-outs                                           0               8

State Championships                       0               1

1,000 Yard Rushers                           2              1

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Two Successful Seasons

Bullitt East Chargers 9-5:

Aug. 29    A    Butler    48-13

Sept. 5    A    DeSales    0-14

Sept. 12    A    Bullitt Central    30-27

Sept. 19    H    Henderson Co.    50-14

Sept. 26    H    Marion Co    13-10

Oct. 3    A    Fairdale    35-40

Oct. 10    H    North Bullitt    17-14

Oct. 17        Open

Oct. 24    A    LaRue Co.    22-19

Oct. 31    H    Manual 2-OT    23-24

Nov. 7    A    Nelson Co.    51-14

Play-offs:

Nov. 14    H    Atherton    63-6

Nov. 21    H    Marion Co.    35-7

Nov. 28    H    North Bullitt    26-7

Dec. 5    H    Calloway Co.    52-49

 

Bell County Bobcats 14-0:

Aug. 29    N    Garrard Co.    50-6

Sept. 5    H    Whitley Co.    38-8

Sept. 12    A    Knox Central    21-0

Sept. 19    A    Rockcastle Co.    38-0

Sept. 26    A    Churchill Vol (TN)    52-7

Oct. 3        Open   

Oct. 10    H    Madison Southern    65-0

Oct. 17    H    Sheldon Clark    48-0

Oct. 24    H    McCreary Cen.    70-0

Oct. 30    H    Leslie Co.    62-0

Nov. 7    H    Tates Creek    38-0

Play-offs:

Nov. 14    H    Lawrence Co.    62-0

Nov. 21    H    Rockcastle Co.    49-7

Nov. 28    H    Knox Central    19-14

Dec. 5    H    Boyle Co.    17-15