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Mistake free Eagles shoot down Rockets

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By Mike Farner

 HEBRON ESTATES – Getting a rare stop from the defense with less than five minutes remaining in the game, North Bullitt marched 45 yards for a touchdown with 19 seconds remaining to beat visiting Shelby County 48-42 on Friday.

     In a game in which there was 850 yards of total offense, both coaches knew that the team with the ball last would have the best shot at winning.

     It was that philosophy that had Shelby County trying an on-sides kick after the Rockets had gone ahead 42-40 late in the game. The visitors didn’t want to score again as much as they didn’t want North Bullitt to have the ball.

     The on-sides kick worked, but then the North Bullitt defense made a key stand, getting the ball back for the offense when the Rockets failed to convert on fourth down.

     North Bullitt marched all the way to the 1-yard line. On second down with 19 seconds to play, quarterback Logan James found Dalton Casey free in the endzone for the go-ahead touchdown. Josh Exton then ran in the two-point conversion to make it a six-point game.

     Shelby County completed one long pass to move into North Bullitt territory, but the game ended on an incomplete pass at the Eagles 10-yard line.

     “We just wanted the ball last,” North Bullitt head coach Brett Newton said after the game. “Our defense did have two stops in the fourth quarter.”

     North Bullitt has been able to generate some offense over the past three games after switching to a more spread attack with the quarterback in the shotgun. The green and gold scored four touchdowns against Bullitt Central, but lost because of five lost turnovers and miscommunication on an unsuccessful fake punt that wasn’t supposed to be a fake.

     Against Shelby County, the Eagles did not turn the ball over at all.

     “We felt good after the Bullitt Central game except for the turnovers,” Newton pointed out. “We gave them six chances last week that we didn’t have.”

     To help cut down on the turnovers, the Eagles switched to a rotating quarterback system with James, Casey and Exton all taking snaps. All three players also play on defense. James took every snap against Bullitt Central, but coaches noted on the film that the sophomore was struggling to get back to the huddle at times.

     Newton said it was the same offense no matter who was at quarterback, but all 15 passes that the Eagles attempted were thrown by James.

     “Logan, Dalton and Josh all had big games,” Newton said. “Those are the three players that we need to have big games and they all executed tonight.”

     The game on Friday was close throughout. Shelby County led 7-6 after the first quarter but North Bullitt moved ahead 26-21 at halftime. Both teams added two touchdowns in the third quarter before the Rockets scored midway through the fourth quarter. That was when the visitors converted the on-sides kick.

     All of the North Bullitt points were scored by Exton, James or Casey.

     In the first quarter, the Eagles’ touchdown came on a five-yard run by Exton. With Shelby County ahead, North Bullitt answered with a 48-yard touchdown pass from James to Exton early in the second quarter. Before halftime, James darted 66 yards to the endzone and just before halftime the final points came when Casey scored from five-yards out.

     With no kicker this season, the only conversion by the Eagles in the first half came when James connected with Exton after the fourth touchdown.

     In the second half, Exton scored on a 36-yard run and then got the ball again and dared 32-yards for a touchdown. A two-point conversion on a pass from James to Casey put North Bullitt up 40-35 entering the fourth quarter.

     North Bullitt finished with 409 yards of total offense with 284 of those yards coming on the ground. Exton led the offense with 123 yards on the ground and he caught passes for 81 yards. James rushed for 115 yards while Casey picked up 25 yards on the ground.

     Through the air, James completed 10 of his 15 passes for 125 yards. Two of those completions went for touchdowns.

     Shelby County actually had more yardage in the game despite the final score. The Rockets finished with 440 yards with a balanced attack that accounted for 205 yards on the ground and another 235 through the air.

     Rocket quarterback Dalton Thompson completed 18 of 30 passes and he was not intercepted. One of those completions went for a touchdown.

        Three of the touchdowns for Shelby County were scored by sophomore running back Malik Manica with all three coming on the ground. Overall, Manica’s three touchdowns covered 49 yards, but for the game he only had 48 yards as the defense kept him bottled up.

            “We expected what we got, but maybe not what they got,” Newton said after the game. “They had run more power stuff. Coach (Todd) Shipley had told me that they were a little like us in that they hadn’t found yet what was working for them. They thought they wanted to try the spread tonight and they did that.

            “We’ve picked up the speed that we want to play,” the coach added. “It worked well. As long as we don’t turn it over we’ll be fine.”

            Next Game: North Bullitt (3-4) will be back at home on Friday for The Clash, the annual showdown with Bullitt East. The Chargers are coming off a spectacular performance as they mauled Bullitt Central 56-6 on Friday to move to 6-1 overall.

            Game time at North Bullitt on Friday is set for 7:30 p.m.