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SHEPHERDSVILLE - A loss in Week 10 of the high school football season is not the end of the world with one exception - if it affects how you play in Week 11, the first week of the play-offs.
That was the message that Bullitt Central head coach Danny Leasor was trying to instill in his team on Friday night after the Cougars dropped a 35-6 decision to unbeaten Warren East.
Bullitt Central lost the first two games of the season and then won six in a row before dropping the final team games of the regular season. With or without momentum, the Cougars will enter the post-season at home on Friday when they take on Grayson County, a number three-seed with an impressive 8-2 record.
"The regulars season is over," Leasor said in his office after the game. "Everybody is 0-0.
"Like I just told the kids, you can't let this week's game affect next week's game," the veteran coach pointed out.
Bullitt Central had their hands full taking on a Warren East squad that came into the game with nine straight wins and ended up as only one of ten undefeated teams in Kentucky this season.
"I congratulated their coach after the game on an undefeated season," Leasor said. "I told him to enjoy it, because it doesn't happen very often."
Despite the two late losses to good teams, the Cougars are vastly improved over the team that won just three games last season.
"We set goals for the season and we met many of those goals," Leasor pointed out. "We had a winning season and then we beat North and East to win the Bullitt Cup. Then we got a home play-off game.
"Now, that is all in the past," the coach added. "We just can't have this game affect the play-offs. You want momentum of course, but Warren East played with a lot of confidence."
After have a week off, the Cougars struggled in the driving rain to generate an offense. Bullitt Central's only score came on a 91-yard run by sophomore Trevor Carnell early in the second quarter that pulled the maroon and gray within 14-6.
For the most part, Warren East managed to bottle up Carnell. The Cougars' top rushing threat carried the ball 20 times for 131 yards, but on 19 of those carries Carnell managed only 40 yards.
Bullitt Central twice turned the ball over on interceptions and there was also a lost fumble. Cougar senior quarterback Brad Combs completed only three of his 12 passes for 43 yards.
Warren East managed 402 total yards in the win and the Raiders had a 17-6 advantage in first downs. Bullitt Central had only 219 yards of total offense.
"We helped them," Leasor lamented. "You can't throw the interceptions like we did and have the missed tackles. In the second half we didn't tackle.
"I'm not down in the dumps," the coach added. "Of course I wanted to win this game, but I won't hand my hand and feel sorry for myself and I don't think my coaches or players will do that. We got beat.
Bullitt Central won the toss before the game and opted to take the ball to open the second half. That gave Warren East the ball to start the game and they certainly took advantage of that.
On the very first play of the game, Warren East quarterback Jimmy Burns connected with wide receiver Chase Bryant for 21 yards. Five players later, the same two players found each other again for a 31-yard completion with Bryant going all the way to the 7-yard line. Two plays later, Dane Stivers scored from the 6-yard line.
Bullitt Central, with the help of a personal foul penalty on the extra point, got all the way to the Raiders' 32-yard line on the next drive, but on fourth down Carnell was stopped behind the line of scrimmage.
This time it took the visitors just two plays to score. Burns connected with Christian Flores on a short crossing patter and when Flores slipped one tackle he was in the open field. Flores did most of the work on his own, covering 66 yards for the touchdown.
Bullitt Central seemingly calmed down at that point. The offense picked up a first down and was again in Raider territory when they were forced to punt. The defense then made a stop, getting the ball back after a punt that rolled dead at the 6-yard line.
Carnell covered all the yardage for the touchdown. After a short run, the sophomore ran to his right and he was the first to the corner, darting down the home sideline without being touched on a 91-yard scoring run.
Unfortunately, that was the Cougars' only score of the game. Late in the first half, Warren East added to the lead when Burns scored on his own from a yard out to make it 21-6 at halftime.
The second half was played in constant rain and the Cougars' offense suffered for it.
On the second play of the half, Combs was intercepted trying a pass from his own 21-yard line. Warren East returned the interception to the 15 yard line and three plays later Burns hit Khyree Boards with a 10-yard touchdown pass.
The Cougars did manage two first downs the next time they got the ball and drove all the way to 19-yard line. Combs then went for the end zone but his pass was intercepted.
Warren East picked up a first down with the help of a personal foul penalty, but they were still at their own 25-yard line when Burns dropped a short screen pass to Boards. The senior broke a number of tackles and bounced off several more Bullitt Central players before finding open room and racing 75-yards for the touchdown.
The fifth extra point kick by Flores made it 35-6 and closed out the scoring.
"On that little screen pass we hit him two or three times," Leasor lamented. "We just missed tackles. You would think that we don't practice tackling, but we do it every day. Every day.
"I'm not going to sit here and feel sorry for us," the coach added. "I'll take responsibility."
This was the first game for the Cougars in two weeks after they had a 'bye' week. There was also a big gap in work-outs as Bullitt Central did not practice for four days during Fall Break.
"I don't think that had anything to do with it," Leasor said.
Bullitt Central did not have any injuries to speak of in this game
NEXT GAME: Bullitt Central will be at home for a play-off game for only the third time in school history. The Cougars will be playing host to Grayson County, a team they have never faced. The other 'Cougars' closed out the regular season with an 8-2 record after beating McLean County 41-0.
The game will be played at 7:30 p.m. in Shepherdsville at George Valentine Field.