STANFORD, KENTUCKY – Putting touchdowns on the board the first two times they had the ball, the Bullitt East Chargers jumped out to a 14-0 lead early in Friday’s season-opening game against Frankfort and then held on down the stretch to win 21-7.
For the week leading up to the game played at Lincoln County High School in the second contest of the 16th Annual Death Valley Bowl, Charger head coach Darrell Vincent had been preaching about a fast start after his team had struggled mightily early in its only scrimmage against South Oldham.
Bullitt East did all that and more as they beat a team that posted an 11-2 record last season before being knocked out in the Class A regional final.
“We came off the ball early and did some things we felt we could do,” Vincent said after the game. “We probably left two touchdowns out there with some turnovers. It was kids trying to make that extra yard.
“That’s a pretty good football team we beat,” the coach added. “Still, we have a lot to work on.”
Frankfort actually ran more plays and had more yardage in the game, but Bullitt East’s defense buckled down when the Panthers moved inside the 25-yard line.
“That was a lot of it,” Vincent said of the defensive stops. “They moved it down the field. Then we buckled down and got some great pass rush. We did some things when they moved inside the 25.”
There wasn’t a lot surprising about what Bullitt East did early in the game. They ran the ball between the tackles in the traditional ‘veer’ attack, winning the battles up front, giving backs Brandon Samuels and Austin Colvin room to operate.
“We just basically do the same thing,” Bullitt East offensive tackle Dylan Ferguson said. “We want to score each time we touch it. It worked out in this game.
“It was a good improvement,” the big lineman added of time between the scrimmage and the first game. “We’ll continue to get better.”
Both Vincent and senior linebacker Evan Kerr said that the Chargers did not practice well on Monday, but that the practices got better as the week went on, much like the scrimmage had worked out.
“He (Vincent) preached all week about coming out and hitting people and we did that,” Kerr said. “Consistency is a big thing for us. I feel like we shouldn’t have had the turnovers late. We played pretty well on defense, but our offense can play better without the turnovers.”
Frankfort won the coin toss at the start of the game, but made the mistake of giving the ball to Bullitt East first. The Chargers responded with a 72-yard drive in ten plays that started the scoring.
The first eight plays in the drive were all running plays before quarterback Pierce Kelly had an incompletion. On the next play, Samuels got the ball and went around the left side for a 15-yard touchdown.
The Panthers responded with a quick drive of their own. Going without a huddle for most of the drive, Frankfort got all the way to the Bullitt East 1-yard line. On third down, the Panthers attempted a reverse, but Kerr sliced into the backfield and tackled Jalen Washington for a 6-yard loss. On the next play, quarterback Anthony Robinson was pressured and his pass fell incomplete.
Bullitt East turned the ball around and responded with an 18-play march that covered 93 yards. The first nine plays in the drive were all on the ground, but Kelly’s intended pass to Trent Meredith was whistled for pass interference, moving the ball into Frankfort territory at the 35-yard line.
As the drive moved into the second quarter, the Chargers kept the ball on the ground. Six more running plays moved the ball to the 13-yard line. Kelly then crossed up the defense, stepping back and hitting tight end Cruise Coulter on the slant with the senior racing into the endzone.
Dillion Hecklebeck kicked his second extra point of the game and the score was 14-0 six plays in to the second quarter.
For the rest of the first half, Bullitt East’s defense bent, but didn’t break.
Frankfort got all the way to the Bullitt East 34 yard line the next time it touched the ball, but a loss and two incomplete passes forced a punt. After Bullitt East punted the ball back, the Panthers marched to the Charger 7-yard line, but an off-sides penalty and a 9-yard loss on a sack forced a fourth-down pass and then time Robinson’s pass was badly underthrown and Colvin intercepted the ball with 10 seconds remaining in the half.
The third quarter was more of the same. Frankfort took the opening drive of the third quarter and reached the Bullitt East 34-yard line, but Robinson threw two incomplete passes and then had to leave with cramps. After a Bullitt East fumble ended a promising drive, the Panthers reached the Charger 39-yard line, but the drive stalled there on three straight incompletions.
In the fourth quarter, Frankfort ran 25 plays to just 11 for Bullitt East, but the Chargers had the advantage in field position after cornerback Robert Hartley picked up a fumble after a pass completion and raced back 50 yards to the Panthers’ 33-yard line. On the next play, Colvin went after the left side for 31 yards.
Unfortunately, fighting for the goal line, Kelly fumbled the ball two plays later. Just inches from their own goal line, Frankfort gained no yards on three plays and then attempted a fake punt that ended up being an incomplete pass.
On the next play, Kelly got to the endzone this time for the touchdown.
Frankfort controlled the rest of the game, but the Panthers could not reach the endzone until 1:38 remained when Robinson and Washington connected on a 16-yard scoring pass.
For the game, Frankfort ran 75 plays from scrimmage to just 57 for Bullitt East. The Panthers. The Panthers put the ball in the air 38 times, but completed just 17 of those attempts.
Bullitt East threw the ball just four times and one of those was on a reverse. Kelly’s only completion in three attempts was the touchdown pass to Coulter for 13 yards.
The Chargers kept the ball on the ground 46 times for 218 yards. Samuels had 13 carries for 95 yards with the touchdown while Colvin ran the ball 13 times for 85 yards.
After the game, Kerr was named the Most Valuable Player for the Chargers and received a trophy from the bowl game representatives. Bullitt East also got a trophy for winning the game.
Next Game: Bullitt East will be at home on Friday for the annual battle for the bourbon barrel with Nelson County. The Cardinals opened the season with a 41-12 victory over Woodford County.
Game time in Mount Washington on Friday is set for 7:30 p.m.