Rockets look to spoil North’s homecoming

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 HEBRON ESTATES - The North Bullitt Eagles will try to make it two straight district wins on Friday when the green and gold play host to Shelby County in a key Class 5-A, District 4 contest that could assure coach Brett Newton’s team a home game in the post-season.

The contest will also be homecoming at North Bullitt and the game will cap a week of festivities celebrating the event.

This will be the fourth meeting all-time between the two programs and the second time they have met as district foes. A year ago, Shelby County was dropped into North Bullitt’s Class 4-A District with the opening of Martha Layne Collins High School. North Bullitt won that meeting in Shelbyville 40-18 en route to a second place finish in the district.

Before that, the two teams split a pair of games in 2007-08.

Just like a year ago, the Rockets continue to struggle with the opening of the new school. Shelby County posted a 1-9 mark last season and now coach Todd Shipley’s team is 1-5 with the only win coming three weeks ago in a 35-13 victory over Henry County.

Shelby County has allowed 226 points in six games this season while scoring only 100 points. Last week, the Rockets fell 39-0 to Collins.

“I thought they would be better this year,” Newton said earlier this week. “Still, they are having some big struggles.”

The key to the Shelby County attack is junior quarterback Zach Shipley, the son of the head coach. The Rockets opened the season looking to run the ball, but in recent weeks have relied more on Shipley throwing the ball.

“He is the one that they rely on,” Newton pointed out. “He had a big run on us last year. He has good speed. He throws it pretty well and makes good decisions.”

As the Rockets have struggled this season, they have tried a number of different offenses looking for the magic formula. Much like the Bullitt Central team that North Bullitt played last week, the Eagles will have to prepare for a lot of different looks.

“On different films we’ve seen different looks,” Newton said. “Sometimes it is one running back and two wide receiver and then other times it is double wide-out and other times the shot-gun or the pistol. It’s a lot like Bullitt Central.”

Through the first four games, Shipley was the leading rusher for the Rockets. The team also had gotten more than 100 rushing yards from seniors Zakk Bailey and Brandon Ford. When Shipley does put the ball in the air, his favorite receiver is junior Michael Barry.

Newton wasn’t planning any special defensive schemes to contain Shipley.

“We just have to be aware of where he is on the field,” the coach said. “At times in the option we have to account for him. Other times he’ll take off on broken pass plays.”

Shipley also starts on defense. This is one season in which the Eagles have fewer players going both ways than most of their opponents.

“Overall, we have less going both ways,” Newton explained. “I made a decision early not to play as many linemen (both ways) as in the past and that has worked out for us.”

North Bullitt will be without sophomore running back/defensive back Josh Exton this week after he was hurt against Bullitt Central. Newton was waiting for more information later this week on Exton, but the coach thinks that his knee injury will keep him sidelined for some time.

This will be homecoming week at North Bullitt and while Newton wants the players to enjoy the festivities this week, he does want them to focus on the game on Friday.

“It’s a high school event and a big week for them,” the coach said. “We tell them the reason we have homecoming is because of the game. All we ask is that we get their attention during practice and for the game. Then they can enjoy the other things.”

Game time at North Bullitt on Friday is set for 7:30 p.m. with the crowning of the Queen and King taking place at halftime.