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LOUISVILLE - Football is often a game of inches.
Those inches affect games, seasons and state championships. Just ask the Bullitt East Chargers.
In a classic contest on Saturday in the Class 4-A Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, the outcome was not decided until the last second. Two teams played hard and two teams left it all on the field.
When the clock ticked to :00, Bell County just happened to have a 15-13 lead.
It’s not always what you get out of an endeavor that shapes your life, but what you put into it.
The Bullitt East Chargers were obviously frustrated after the loss. Still, in the long run, the memories of what went into getting to the championship game will far outweigh the disappointment of losing.
This was a season and year filled with emotion. In the spring, long-time head coach Mike Settles left for Lincoln County. A month later, Doug Preston was hired and a new era started in Mount Washington.
It didn’t exactly get off to a great start. The Chargers struggled early in the season. There was a 2-4 start that included an emotional loss at Bullitt Central. There were many in Shepherdsville that night that never could have imagined how the season would turn out for Bullitt East.
The only saving grace during the first two-thirds of the regular season was the fact that the team won all three of its district games, including a victory over North Bullitt. All three district games were won by three points. Not exactly numbers to impress coaches around the state.
But, in the closing minutes of the final district game against LaRue County, the Chargers made a big play. The Hawks were driving for another score when they fumbled inside their own five-yard line. Zach McCarthy picked up the loose ball and raced 90 yards to the endzone.
The Chargers were a different, and more confident, team since that time. The only setback before Saturday was a double overtime loss to Class 6-A power Manual. That outcome opened a few eyes.
Bullitt East played its best football in the post-season. Wins over Atherton, Marion County, North Bullitt and Calloway County showed the team getting better each week.
The Chargers deserved to play for the championship. They showed that on Saturday.
During the big finish, McCarthy became the face of the Chargers. He was the player who put up the big numbers and answered the questions after the games for the newspapers and radio broadcasts.
After the final he was asked if the past five weeks were the most fun of his life?
“The whole season has been the most fun of my life,” he said. “I’ve been with these guys since I was 8-years old. Even when it was bad, it was a blast.”
Yes it was.