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SHEPHERDSVILLE - A pair of defensive lapses in the fourth quarter on Friday spoiled Bullitt Central’s homecoming game against East Jessamine.
Leading 10-9 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Cougars had the table set for a happy homecoming. Instead, the team managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, falling 15-10 to their fellow Class 5-A opponents.
On the third play of the fourth quarter, East Jessamine standout running back Cameron Thomas, the leading returning rusher in the state this season after going for over 2,400 yards last season, went down with a cramp after a short gain. He was helped to the sideline and while he would return to play defense, he would not carry the ball again in the game.
Still, on the very next play, Jaguars’ quarterback Cody Garrett stepped back to pass for only the second time in the game. The senior threw down his own sideline, finding senior Brian Recktenwald for a 35-yard gain to the Bullitt Central 40-yard line.
Again, Bullitt Central’s defense held East Jessamine to short gains on two running plays. However, on third down, junior Blake Hinkle got to the corner and then outran the Bullitt Central defense to the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown run.
East Jessamine missed the extra point, but the damage was done.
“We got everything that we wanted,” a somber Bullitt Central head coach Danny Leasor said on the field after the game. “We shut down number one (Thomas) as he had only the one long run. Then he goes out of the game and we allow someone to get behind us and then we let their third best running back break it big.
“Our kids should be upset with this outcome,” the veteran coach added. “We played hard and we played physical. The table was set, but we didn’t sit down and eat. There comes a time where a team has to make the plays. We had them where we wanted them.”
The loss snapped a two game winning streak for Bullitt Central. They have one more game remaining before playing three straight district games starting on Sept. 30 at home against North Bullitt.
Bullitt Central still had eight minutes left on the clock after East Jessamine moved ahead. The Cougars responded with an 11-play drive that covered 40 yards, but stalled at the 15-yard line. The Cougars converted one fourth down in the drive when quarterback Bradley Combs connected with Trevor Carnell on a screen pass to the 30-yard line. Two plays later, Combs ran the quarterback sneak for 7-yards, giving the Cougars a first down at the 15-yard line.
Twice the ball went to Carnell on running plays and he gained no yardage on either play. Combs had an incompletion on second down and on fourth down, Bullitt Central ran the slant and had an open receiver, but the pass was off target with 1:49 remaining.
Bullitt Central did get the ball back near midfield with 25 seconds remaining, but the game ended on four straight incomplete passes.
The Cougars scored first in the game when after a Thomas fumble at the 12-yard line, the maroon and gray went 88 yards in the other direction. Carnell had a 38-yard run in the drive ad the touchdown came when Combs connected with T.J. Moore on a 10-yard pass.
East Jessamine then scored early in the second quarter when they got the ball back following a Bullitt Central fumble. The Jaguars went 28 yards in eight plays with Garrett scoring from a yard out.
The Jaguars missed the extra point.
It looked like the score would stay that way at halftime when Bullitt Central was forced to punt with less than 90 seconds remaining. The Cougars got a break when Wade Curtsinger’s punt bounced off the Jaguars’ James Russell and was recovered by James Joiner at the 9-yard line.
Still, despite a face-mask penalty, the Cougars could not get the touchdown. They finally settled for a 23-yard field goal by Curtsinger to take a 10-6 lead into the break.
Late in the third quarter, East Jessamine went 47 yards on ten straight running plays, eight by Thomas, before stalling at the 13-yard line. Aaron Penman came on at that point and kicked a 30-yard field goal to pull the Jaguars within 10-9.
East Jessamine finished with 291 yards on the ground and while the numbers on Thomas showed him with 210 yards on 24 carries, he certainly did not dominate the game.
“We took number one away and we still don’t win,” Leasor lamented. “We shouldn’t have let this one slip away. I’m very disappointed that we lost this game.”
Bullitt Central rushed for 128 yards with Carnell accounting for 86 of those yards. Combs completed six of 17 passes for 93 yards.
Next Game: Bullitt Central will go on the road on Friday to take on Henry County. The Class 3-A school is suffering through a winless season (0-5) after falling to Shelby County 35-13 last Friday.
Game time in New Castle is set for 7:30 p.m.