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One (more) is a wonderful number for BC

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THE GAME

By Mike Farner

 HEBRON ESTATES - A close rivalry couldn’t get an closer.

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A failed two-point conversion attempt with 2:48 remaining in the game was all that separated Bullitt Central from North Bullitt on Friday in the annual mega-battle known as The Game.

The 37th meeting between the two schools was a defensive struggle throughout. The shouting and celebrating couldn’t start until the final seconds ticked off the clock with Bullitt Central clinging to a 7-6 victory.

The win by the Cougars snapped a two-game winning streak in the series by North Bullitt. Bullitt Central now has a 21-16 lead in the rivalry which dates back to 1976.

“That was one helluva game,” Bullitt Central head coach Danny Leasor said as he sat near his team’s buses waiting to head back to Shepherdsville. “I said it could be high or low scoring. I just wanted to have one more point and we did that.”

North Bullitt had only 220 yards of total offense in the game and 69 of those yards came on two plays in the late scoring drive.

“I thought our kids did well defensively against a good offensive team,” Leasor said. “They played well also. This was one of the best games I’ve been associated with in the rivalry.”

North Bullitt head coach Brett Newton was obviously frustrated with the final score, but proud that his team snapped back and played so well after losing by 40 points a week earlier on the road at Nelson County.

“It was a great high school game,” the veteran coach said. “We just came up a play or two short. There was a personal foul penalty that kept alive their scoring drive and then we under threw a wide-open receiver. We have to have all 11 players contribute on every play. If we did that all the time we wouldn’t have been in that position at the end.”

Despite managing only seven first downs in the entire game, North Bullitt needed just one of those in the closing minutes of the game as they covered 72 yards in only four plays. The Eagles faced a third-and-seven situation at their own 31-yard line when Josh Exton got the ball on a counter play and raced 36 yards before being tackled at the Bullitt Central 33-yard line.

On the very next play, North Bullitt quarterback Patrick Egnor tossed the ball to sophomore running back Mitchell Allen in the flat. This time, the speedster got to the corner and then raced down his own sideline to the endzone.

There was no decision here for North Bullitt head coach Brett Newton. The Eagles have not kicked an extra point this season. This wasn’t Western Kentucky opting to end the game on one play against Kentucky. This was North Bullitt’s only option.

First, North Bullitt had to use its second time-out of the half because one of their players lined up in the wrong position. Once the Eagles lined up, Bullitt Central called a time-out.

Finally, Egnor took the snap and gave it to Exton who was running to his right. Bullitt Central smelled out the option play and there was a swarm of white-clad players on that side of the field. Exton finally let the ball go but it went directly to Bullitt Central safety D.J. Dennison for an interception.

Still, the game wasn’t over. North Bullitt’s on-sides kick actually traveled backwards and Bullitt Central got the ball at the Eagles’ 34-yard line. Bullitt Central ran Trevor Carnell on two plays for 5-yards with the Eagles using their final time-out at 2:38 after the first play.

On third down, Bullitt Central took the big gamble. Quarterback Bradley Combs faked the hand-off to Carnell, stood up and fired a pass to Tyler Bray who was wide open as the Eagles had sent everyone on an all-out blitz. Bray was hauled down by Allen at the 5-yard line, but the damage was done.

Combs ran for a yard on first down and then twice took a knee as the clock ticked to the final horn.

The victory was the fifth on a row this season for Bullitt Central and they now stand at 5-2 heading into another big game as they will play host to district rival Bullitt East on Friday.

Bullitt Central’s senior defensive tackle Jeremy Flener was a handful for North Bullitt all night.

“I really thought it would be low scoring,” Flener said on the field after the game. “I know they had a good offense and defense. But I knew our defense could hold them. We played good defense.”

Both Leasor and defensive coordinator Lewis Clark were on the field giving instructions during the two time-outs before the Eagles’ attempt at the two-point conversion.

“They said you had to step it up like it was the final play,” Flener recalled.

Bullitt Central was bottled up on their own end of the field for most of the first half as North Bullitt won the battle of field position after winning the toss and opting to take the ball to start the game. The Cougars did not cross midfield until less than a minute remained in the first half and that was only because of a North Bullitt penalty.

The Eagles had stopped Bullitt Central at their own 40-yard line with 48 seconds remaining in the first half. The Cougars punted, but on the play North Bullitt was flagged for a personal foul. That gave the maroon and gray new life at the North Bullitt 45-yard line.

Combs completed three straight passes for 21 yards, but there was only :10.5 showing on the clock when the Cougars called their final time-out with the ball sitting on the 24-yard line. Bullitt Central coaches were calling for the field goal team to be ready, but Leasor and offensive coordinator Mike Gossett opted to run one more play.

This time Combs dropped back and then took a few steps to his left before connecting with Bray right at the goal line. Bray was hit by two North Bullitt defenders but fell into the endzone for the touchdown.

Dennison then came on and kicked the extra point, making it 7-0 at :03.1.

That was pretty much it for the offensive chances for either team. There were two drives and two scoring chances. Other than their scoring drive, North Bullitt got no closer than the Cougars’ 27-yard line the rest of the night.

Bullitt Central did reach the 12-yard line midway through the third quarter, but two penalties pushed them back and Dennison was forced to try a 43-yard field goal that came up short.

That left it a 7-0 came until the final four minutes of the contest.

‘Job One’ for the Eagles in this game was to contain Carnell who came into the showdown averaging just over 200 yards a contest on the ground and three touchdowns a game. North Bullitt held the sophomore to 99 yards on 22 carries and he did not reach the endzone.

“We just challenged the kids,” Newton said. “The defense responded well.

“If you saw last week’s game we weren’t doing anything. We made the tackles tonight,” the coach added. “On offense, we’re just not as physical as we would like at this point.”

Bullitt Central finished the game with 214 yards of total offense. The Cougars rushed for 132 yards and Combs completed eight of his 14 passes for 82 yards, but did have two interceptions.

North Bullitt did have 189 yards on the ground, but their passing game continued to sputter. The final numbers showed just four completions in 13 attempts for 31 yards.

NEXT GAMES: Bullitt Central will be at home for another district contest as they will play host to Bullitt East. The Chargers are 3-3 after having a ‘bye’ last week.

North Bullitt will be on the road on Friday as they will travel to Shelbyville for a district meeting with Shelby County. The Rockets had their big intra-county game last week as they were beaten 34-33 by cross-town nemesis Martha Layne Collins. Shelby County stands at 4-2 and this will be their first district game.

Both games are scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.