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MOUNT WASHINGTON – One of the most common sayings of high school football coaches is that ‘it is hard to beat a good team twice in the same season.
Of course, not a lot of coaches get the opportunity to make that happen.
On Friday night at home, Bullitt East head coach Doug Preston will get that chance when his Chargers play host to district rival Marion County in the second round of the Class 4-A play-offs. Bullitt East beat the Knights 13-10 back on Sept. 26 on the same field.
The Kentucky High School Athletic Association changed the rules this year to prevent automatic rematches in the first round of the post-season by playing cross-district games instead of playing back within the district for the first two rounds.
The first meeting was a hard fought and that is what everyone expects on Friday.
“I think so,” Preston said. “We all know that this will be a war on Friday. We won’t be overconfident. We respect Marion County. They have a pretty good football team.”
This will only be the fourth meeting ever between the two schools and they have all come since 2005. That year, Bullitt East beat the Knights 62-18 in the first round of the play-offs. The teams have split close regular season games each of the past two seasons.
(Bullitt East and Marion County will be in the same Class 4-A district for the next two years at least).
Marion County forced the rematch last week when they pulled away from Fairdale in the fourth quarter, winning 35-21 in Jefferson County when they scored the last two touchdowns in the final ten minutes of the contest.
The Knights have been one of the area’s top teams all season. In fact, both of their losses this fall came within the district and on the road. First, to Bullitt East and then they were beaten 21-14 by North Bullitt on Oct. 24. Marion County has won the nine other times they have taken the field.
If nothing else, the Knights have played a lot of close games. Of their 11 contests this year, nine have been decided by two touchdowns or less.
Since the loss to North Bullitt, Marion County defeated a strong Anderson County team 42-39 and then got past Green County 24-20 before the win over Fairdale.
“It’s a tough task to beat any team twice,” Preston said on Monday. “I think it is very tough. Especially against a good team like Marion County.”
Bullitt East fans need look back only a year to get that message. North Bullitt finished third in the district last season and then beat both Bullitt East and Marion County on the road in the play-offs. Marion County is the number three seed this year.
In that first meeting back in September, Bullitt East unveiled its new wishbone attack. It was very limited in that meeting against Marion County and the Chargers have gone through some growing pains with it. The dividends have come over the last three games as the Chargers have played their best football of the season.
The Bullitt East coaches didn’t see a lot of differences in the Knights from the team they saw two months ago.
“They are running a new counter play and a few different pass routes that we hadn’t seen,” Preston noted. “But, their base offense is still the same.”
The player that makes coach Jeff Robbins’ team go is senior quarterback Eric Miles. He was recently named the Co-Player of the Year in the district along with North Bullitt’s Dalton Cissell.
In the ten games during the regular season Miles completed 47 of 118 pass attempts for 749 yards. He had nine passes for touchdowns as well as throwing nine interceptions.
Marion County’s leading receiver is junior Bryson Bell with only 17 receptions, but eight of those went for touchdowns.
But passing is not Marion County’s bread and butter. The Knights threw for less than 800 yards this fall while collecting 2,623 yards on the ground. Amazingly, six different Marion County players rushed for at least 226 yards.
The leading ball carrier is junior Dylan Peterson who had 693 yards on 95 carries during the regular season with eight touchdowns. Preston was also impressed with junior power back Jacob Tabor who finished the regular season with 441 yards on 63 carries. In addition, Jordan Bell rushed for 485 yards while Miles added 305 yards. The Knights also got 319 yards from David Litsey and 226 yards from Buster Hazelwood.
“They are running a few backs that we didn’t see before,” Preston pointed out. “They are pretty fast. We saw those backs early, but not a lot. They are getting more time now.”
Marion County also has some big lineman. The best of which is senior Chris Means who plays both center and nose guard. In fact, both teams will play roughly the same number of players on both sides of the ball.
In that first meeting with Bullitt East, Marion County rushed for 190 yards with Peterson getting 91 of that total. Miles completed four of seven pass attempts for 30 yards.
Bullitt East got 113 yards on the ground from senior running back Curtis Logsdon in the first game with the Knights. Logsdon has not played the last two games for reasons that Preston will not disclose and on Monday the coach was not sure if Logsdon would play on Friday or not.
Other than Logsdon, Preston did say that everyone who has played the past few weeks will be able to go on Friday.
Rematches are just a fact of life at this point in the season.
“I’ve always got a play or two that nobody has seen,” Preston pointed out. “But, we’ll stick to what we do well and do that well.”
The winner of this game will take on the winner of the North Bullitt at Valley game that will be played at the same time on Friday. Bullitt East would host that third-round game while Marion County would face either team on the road.
Game time in Mount Washington on Friday is set for 7:30 p.m.