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MOUNT WASHINGTON - During his first stint as the Bullitt Central football coach some 25 years ago, one of Danny Leasor’s favorite acronyms was KISS - which stands for ‘Keep It Simple Stupid.’
It took the Cougar coach half a game on Friday to remember that philosophy.
When Bullitt Central went KISS in The War, the maroon and gray found a lot of success.
After a first half in which the team had chances to put a lot of distance between themselves and Bullitt East, especially in the first quarter, the Cougars at times seemed to be out thinking themselves on offense. The ‘pistol’ offense often calls for misdirection and running backs crossing in front and even behind the quarterback. It can also be an offense that can throw the ball.
Bullitt Central tried all of those things and more in the first half. Twice they fumbled (but recovered each time) and a couple of times they were flagged for illegal motion (and probably could have been a few other times). Plus, there was a glaring pass interception when the Cougars could have easily gone ahead 14-0.
Instead, The War was tied at 7-7 at halftime.
But, Bullitt Central had a card in hand - they were to receive the second half kick-off. Shelving color for black and white, the Cougars opted to go north-south more instead of east-west. It worked for touchdown drives of 53 and 93 yards the first two times they got the ball in the second half.
That led to Bullitt Central winning 20-14 and going back-to-back in the big series.
In the first half, Bullitt Central ran 22 plays from scrimmage and eight were pass plays (a couple more might have been pass calls, but didn’t get that far). In the second half, the Cougars’ 27 plays involved just two pass plays.
Leasor’s team moved quarterback Damion Wibbels under center more and the quarterback gave the ball to senior tailback Jeremaie Bennett and let him go. He carried the ball on 21 of those 27 plays and scored both of the touchdowns for the team in the second half.
Just an added note - the two pass plays were both completions for a combined 37 yards.
There may well be times later in the season when the Cougars will need to throw the ball, especially after teams see them chewing up big chunks of yardage between the tackles. And yes, this is just the third game of the season and so the team needs to work on other things than to just run straight ahead.
Still, on Friday night, keeping it simple was a stroke of genius.
Bennett Runs Strong
On Friday night there was no doubt that the most accomplished of the ‘skilled’ players on the field was Bennett. The Cougar senior rushed for 121 yards and scored twice on the ground and he also had two pass receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown.
He was also a terror on defense, making four tackles from his safety position.
Oh yeah, he also did the punting for the Cougars.
Leasor has said it before and he said it again after the game on Friday.
“No doubt he’s the best player in the county,” the coach said of the reigning Bullitt County ‘Player of the Year.’ “He might be one of the best ever out of Bullitt County.”
Then Leasor may have paid Bennett the ultimate compliment.
“I’ve had a lot of great running backs,” the coach said. “He could have started on any of the teams I had at Pleasure Ridge Park.”
End of the World?
Don’t for a second think that the season is lost after two straight setbacks for Bullitt East. It won’t happen this year just like it didn’t happen last year.
Remember, a year ago Bullitt East lost to Bullitt Central and then fell a week later to Henderson County and found themselves 2-4. All the Chargers did from that point was win seven of the next eight to reach the Class 4-A championship game.
Don’t believe me? Listen to Leasor.
“They lined up and came at us,” the Cougar coach said. “I commend them for that. That was a good team that we beat tonight. They could be back in the state finals.”
Obviously, Bullitt East head coach Doug Preston isn’t going to scrap his offense and start over like he did last year, going from the veer to the wishbone.
The key for Bullitt East at this point is injuries. The team just cannot afford any more injuries than they already have. This squad is not quite as deep or as experienced as it was a year ago. Last year, the team also stayed away from injuries, especially during the second half of the season.
A Real Rivalry
Fans who think the renewed rivalry will be short-lived, mainly because of the recent arrivals of the Bennett brothers and a few other high-level players at Bullitt Central, and that there will be a return to a time when Bullitt East won ten straight games, mainly by lopsided margins, will either be delighted or dismayed to know that Bullitt Central won’t be reverting back to their old ways anytime soon.
Friday night’s win was not the only one for Bullitt Central football this past week. On Thursday, the Cougars beat Bullitt East in the freshman contest 7-6, scoring a touchdown on a blocked punt in the final two minutes of the game.
On Monday, Bullitt Central’s junior-varsity team beat Bullitt East’s JV team 28-14. Both of those games were played in Shepherdsville.
While those two games are certainly no indication of who will win future meetings, it does show that Bullitt Central should keep the rivalry competitive for the foreseeable future.