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HEBRON ESTATES - When Western Warrior coaches were looking at game film to scout the North Bullitt Eagles, they probably didn’t focus on a guy named Travis Ridley flying around in the defensive secondary.
And they probably didn’t see James Whitfill streaking across the field for a touchdown reception or Dalton Hadley coming into the game to spark a key scoring drive.
And the coaches never imagined the golden-shoed David Elmore would be the leading Eagle rusher.
But coaches for the Valley Vikings will get to see all those players on film as the North Bullitt Eagles won a hard-fought 18-6 first-round playoff contest against Western.
There is no fault to the Western coaches but nagging injuries to quarterback Jordan Mayberry and running back Dalton Cissell resulted in a few changes for the Eagles.
“We had kids step up tonight,” said Eagle coach Brett Newton, whose team will travel to Valley on Friday night for second-round playoff action. “This was one of our best all-around games, especially late in the season.”
Concerned with a talented and athletic quarterback in Cortez Ricketts, Newton said the game plan was to control the ball on offense and contain the signalcaller on defense.
Neither offense could get much going in the first quarter. The visitors drove to the Eagle 27 before Ridley made the first of three interceptions.
Cutting in front of the intended receiver at the 5 and returned it 84 yards to the Warrior 16.
The offense stalled and senior C.J. Parker hit a 36-yard field goal to open the second quarter.
Western had two long drives in the second quarter as the North Bullitt offense was stagnant.
The first drive for Western ended on downs at the Eagle 38 and the second got to the 15. The second ended on downs with an incomplete pass into the end zone.
Starting at its own 20, Newton inserted sophomore Dalton Hadley at quarterback. On his second play, Hadley hit Ridley on a 12-yard completion. That was followed by a 16-yard completion to Ridley.
After Hadley hit Justin Higdon on a six-yard pass, Mayberry returned to the lineup for a fourth-and-4 from the 41. The senior connected with Tim Hardin for a 20-yard pickup.
On the next play from the 21, Mayberry found Whitfill for a touchdown with 38 seconds left in the first half. The extra point was no good but the Eagles went into the locker room with a 9-0 lead as Ridley made his second interception.
The Eagles avoided potential disaster on the opening second half kickoff. Parker booted the ball into the end zone for an automatic start at the 20; however, an offside penalty forced another kick.
This time, Leon Melvin returned the kick to the Eagle 45.
Western marched to the Eagle 2 on third down but Elmore busted through and sacked Ricketts at the 11.
Taking over at the 11, the Eagles took six minutes off the clock leading to another field goal by Parker.
Cissell, who was limited to 48 yards on 15 carries, had his biggest gain of 27 yards on the drive. But it was Elmore doing the heavy work up the middle that led to the score.
From the 41, Parker nailed his second field goal with 3:59 left in the third quarter for a 12-0 lead.
The final Eagle scoring drive was aided by a personal foul.
After the drive stalled at its own 41, Ridley was hit as he punted the ball.
With possession back, Elmore ran up the middle and Mayberry found Hardin on another 6-yard pass. The key, however, was Elmore was there to recover Hardin’s fumble on the 10.
From the 6, Shae Ellis took the ball and reached the end zone with 10:02 left.
Craig Williams came into the contest as the Warrior quarterback and Ricketts became his primary receiver. The visitors marched 55 yards on 11 plays to reach the scoreboard. Williams hit Ricketts from the 10 to cut the margin to 18-6 with seven minutes left.
Ridley made his third interception to stop the next Warrior drive but North Bullitt fumbled right back.
Brandon Campbell came up with the Eagles’ fourth interception at the 32 with 12 seconds remaining to seal the win.
“I just tried to read the eyes of the quarterback,” Ridley said of the interceptions.
During the past week of practice, Ridley said the coaches told them that the ball would be thrown a lot and the key was containing Ricketts.
On the first interception, Ridley agreed that it was a key play to change the momentum.
The junior also said it was important for the team to know that it can win with Cissell not at 100 percent.
Elmore likes defense but he doesn’t mind running the ball. At the same time, the senior said he had a new appreciation for Cissell, who normally runs 25-30 times a game.
“I’m tired,” said a happy Elmore. “It was my turn to run the ball. The line did a great job tonight. I just had to run hard.”
In practice, Elmore had run a lot of plays this week in the tailback position.
“I was ready tonight,” said Elmore.
His real love is the defensive side of the ball and Elmore said the key was keeping Ricketts in the pocket. Elmore said it was great to see the defensive backs make so many big plays.
Newton said it was exceptional week of practice, even though several had to be held in the gym due to rain.
“The kids were focused and I felt better about this game than I have all season.”
Newton said it may have helped knowing that Western may have an official record of 2-7 but the team had beaten defending 3-A state champion Central and 4-A district winner Valley. The team had to forfeit four wins due to using an ineligible player.
“We knew Western was a very good team,” said Newton. “That probably helped us prepare.”
Overall, Newton said it was probably the best defensive effort of the season. The team was able to get pressure and still do a good job in the secondary. And he couldn’t remember having four interceptions in a game.
Offensively, Newton said not having Cissell hurts; however, he was pleased with the way the team stepped up.
While it may have caught Eagle fans by surprise, Newton said there was no hesitation putting the sophomore Hadley into the contest.
“He will stay in there and throw the ball,” said Newton. “He gave us a spark.”
Whitfill had his first touchdown reception and Newton said besides the catch, the junior played a big game defensively.
The touchdown just before halftime gave the Eagles a lot of confidence. Newton said that is something he’s been looking for this season.
“Our line controlled the ball on both sides and we didn’t make any key turnovers,” said Newton, whose team is now 7-4. “That’s what we need to do to keep winning.”
For the game, North Bullitt had 102 yards on the ground and another 96 in the air on 7-of-11 passing.
Cissell’s three punts averaged 47 yards.
NEXT GAME - The Eagles will travel to Dixie Highway on Friday to take on the Valley Vikings, who came from behind to defeat LaRue County 36-19. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. The teams scrimmaged each other in the pre-season and are former district foes.