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HEBRON ESTATES - The North Bullitt Eagles will get another shot at redemption on Friday when the green and gold travel to Marion County for the second time in a month.
This time, the stakes will be much higher as the Eagles and Knights will battle in the second round of the Class 4-A play-offs. North Bullitt is coming off a scintillating 40-14 victory at Bullitt East while Marion County needed a touchdown in the final minute to defeat LaRue County 17-14.
But, perhaps the score that stands out most now is the 27-20 decision that Marion County hung on the Eagles back on Oct. 19 in Lebanon.
North Bullitt head coach Brett Newton doesn't like to use the word 'revenge' when it comes to games like this. Instead, he wants his team thinking redemption to prove that they are better than the outcome in the first meeting.
That plan worked to perfection in round one as the Eagles played the underdog role to perfection, beating Bullitt East after falling to their arch-rivals 42-35 in the regular season.
The situation is pretty much the same this week and that suits Newton just fine.
"It's just like Bullitt East," Newton said on Monday. "We felt like in that first game we kind of let the game get away from us. It was the same thing with Marion County with turnovers."
In that first meeting, North Bullitt led in the game 20-13 before Marion County scored the last two touchdowns of the contest. Both of those scores came in the third quarter. North Bullitt drove as deep as the Marion County 21-yard line in the fourth quarter, but could not get the tying score.
After that victory, Marion County was 8-0 and the talk of Class 4-A. The Knights sort of hit a wall at that point, losing the last two games of the regular season 21-19 to Anderson County and then 35-6 to Green County. Both Anderson and Green were undefeated when they beat Marion County.
The Knights got back in the win column last week, but it was a struggle against LaRue County. The Hawks had the ball with 3:30 to play, but could not get a first down at midfield. The visitors then got a bad snap on the punt and Marion County got the ball. The winning touchdown then came with just 30 seconds remaining.
"It seems like with a group of kids they might have gotten a little settled and relaxed," Newton said of Marion County's late woes. "Then they played a good Green County team that is undefeated and they were struggling."
But North Bullitt knows how good the Knights can play. It will take another strong Eagle effort to keep the season alive.
Marion County will keep predominantly keep the ball on the ground. They almost try to lull you to sleep before throwing the big pass play.
Quarterback Eric Miles, a junior, is the starting quarterback and in the ten regular season games he completed only 43 passes, but for 750 yards. Miles completed 46 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and six interceptions.
The base offense for the Knights is the triple option. The way they do it reminds many fans of Bullitt East's veer attack but it differs in slight ways. The quarterback does slide down the line and looks to read what the defensive end does. He can either give it to the dive back or keep it to the wing where he can run it or pitch it to the trailing back.
In the regular season, Marion County ran for 2,528 yards while passing for only 778 yards.
Miles doesn't really keep the ball that often. Instead, the Knights have a balanced three-pronged attack at running back. Elliott Hazelwood (number 40) is the power back and he has 11 touchdowns this season while the speed backs are Quan Calhoun (5) and Jake Thompson (31). Hazelwood has 793 yards in the first ten games while Thompson has 690 yards and Calhoun 476 yards.
Many of the Marion County players compete on both sides of the ball.
"The quarterback is a good runner when he gets outside," Newton said. "They have two or three good backs and some speed at tailback. You have to be in the right spots and get them before they get going."
Marion County's passing attack is much more effective when they are behind. They struggled to throw the ball at times against LaRue County when they were behind.
It was homecoming the first time North Bullitt played at Marion County and the atmosphere will be even more intense with it being in the post-season this time.
"Going on the road means another tough atmosphere," Newton said. "If we don't turn it over, we'll be there and then have to play better defense."
North Bullitt will be without senior Ryan Vincent for this game. It wasn't thought that an injury he suffered on Friday night against Bullitt East was that serious, but he was in such pain that night that he was taken to the hospital the next morning. As it turned out, he suffered a broken neck. He will be in a brace for the next four to six weeks.
While Vincent plays some other positions, it is his duties as the long snapper that will be the first concern this week in practice.
The rest of the injury news is good for the Eagles. Of course, R.D. Reynolds had a big game against Bullitt East and other than a little soreness that night, his knee responded well. He did not play at all in the first meeting against Marion County.
Still, Reynolds will start on defense and then play on offense as much as his knee will allow. Jordan Mayberry will start at quarterback, but Reynolds will also take some snaps as well as playing as a wide receiver.
"We'll approach the quarterback position the same way we did against Bullitt East," Newton said. "He (Reynolds) is just such a good athlete that things happen. But he's such as asset to our defense that we don't want to push him too much and hurt his defense."
For the third straight game the Eagles will be without senior middle linebacker Jimmy Blandford. He blocked a punt in the first meeting with Marion County. He has had some non-football issues that will keep him from practicing for another week. With a win this week, Blandford would be available for the third-round play-off contest.
North Bullitt is peaking at the right time.
"The kids had a different attitude on Friday," Newton said. "They finally played on both sides of the ball like what we expected (when the season began). It's the first time we've put things together on both sides of the ball."
The winner off this game will move into the quarter-finals of the Class 4-A play-offs. With a win, North Bullitt would go on the road in round three to take on the winner of the Calloway County (7-4) at Lone Oak (11-0) game. That means a trip into far western Kentucky as Lone Oak is located in Paducah.
Beating Bullitt East last week was the first post-season win for the Eagles since 1997, Newton's first year as the head coach. That team beat Harrison County and then fell to Valley. The year before, North Bullitt got to the regional final game only to lose a spectacular game to Montgomery County in the last game under head coach Don Biggs.
Game time in Lebanon on Friday is set for 7:30 p.m.