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SHEPHERDSVILLE - The Game, the oldest football rivalry in Bullitt County will be renewed for the 34th consecutive year on Friday when the North Bullitt Eagles invade George Valentine Field to take on the Bullitt Central Cougars.
The two teams have been on pretty much opposite courses this season as the Cougars are 7-2 and have already secured a post-season play-off berth at home for the first time in 30 years.
It has not been such a smooth season for the Eagles. They have now lost five straight games and stand at 2-7 overall. Coach Brett Newton’s team finished fourth in their Class 4-A district and will travel to Western next Friday in the play-offs.
Still, both coaches are pretty much looking at the game the same way. Both are preaching that the Eagles can make their season memorable by knocking off the Cougars on their home field.
“This is The Game,” Bullitt Central head coach Danny Leasor said earlier this week. “It always will be The Game.”
Bullitt Central snapped a five-game skid to North Bullitt with a 26-17 road victory last year.
“It’s sort of like what we had last week against a good Marion County team,” Newton said on Monday. “Beat them and it would be our season. It’s pretty much the same this week. It would be a big one.”
In fact, after the loss to Marion County, Newton said very little to his team, knowing they knew the importance of this game.
“We didn’t have to say a lot after that game,” Newton said. “These kids have grown up playing against those kids. They will be up for it.”
Of course, Bullitt Central has a lot to play for also. The Cougars can post a second consecutive 8-2 regular season mark which would be the best back-to-back records in 35 years. That is not to mention the added momentum boost heading into the play-offs next week.
“I always respect what they do,” Leasor said as this will be his 14th meeting against the Eagles. “He (Newton) takes the kids he has and coaches up. He has some good kids and some good size.”
In fact, Leasor feels that North Bullitt is a much better team than their record would indicate.
“I’ve seen them on tape in four or five games and they have improved since the first of the season,” the Cougar coach said. “They are more comfortable in what they are trying to do.”
The Eagles are different than the team that the Cougars faced last season. Running back Dalton Cissell is gone and so is the run-first attack. Now, North Bullitt is spreading the field and looking to throw the ball. The Eagles pretty much use junior quarterback Dalton Hadley when they want to throw and at times will shift Travis Ridley under center if they want to run.
Like Bullitt Central, the Eagles do not huddle very often. It’s not so much an effort to speed up the game, but to limit the substitutions that the defenses can make. The basic spread offense for North Bullitt is something that the Cougars have seen a number of times this season.
“It’s a spread off with three or four wide and a lot of empty (no running back) sets,” Leasor said. “They run a lot of screens and traps and counters. Doss ran a lot of it.”
Bullitt Central is in the ‘pistol’ offense that they used last year against the Eagles. While it’s not exactly what North Bullitt in the past, the philosophy is much the same as when Cissell was present in that the Cougars want to run first in a single back alignment.
Obviously, the single back that the Eagles will have to focus on is senior Jeremaie Bennett who has rushed for over 1,100 yards this season. Quarterback Damion Wibbels has had mixed results throwing the ball this season as the Cougars have almost four times as much yardage on the ground as they do through the air.
Bullitt Central’s two wing backs, T.J. Flener and Terry Coulter, also have big runs this year and also serve as the top receiving options.
Still, while both teams at times like to do some fancier things like throwing the ball and running outside, that might not be an option this week. Bullitt Central’s field was in horrible condition last week for the John Hardin game and rain is expected for most of this week. Five straight rainy Fridays have left a lot of fields in bad condition.
That might mean both teams will be limited to a more straight ahead approach with an emphasis on the interior line play.
The two rivals have three common opponents this season. Both teams have beaten Waggener by safe scores, but Bullitt Central has beaten both Doss and Bullitt East, teams that turned the tables on the Eagles.
Bullitt Central can wrap up a second straight Bullitt Cup Championship with a win on Friday. The Cougars hold the traveling trophy now and have won three straight games against their two county rivals.
The Bullitt Cup trophy will be presented after the game if Bullitt Central wins. The Bullitt Cup is presented by Arch L. Heady and Sons/Dignity Memorial, Awards Center and The Pioneer News.
Game time in Shepherdsville on Friday is set for 7:30 p.m.