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THE WAR: Bullitt Cup overflows for the Cougars

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Bullitt Central 28, Bullitt East 21

By Mike Farner

      SHEPHERDSVILLE - For 15 seconds during the second half on Friday night, Bullitt Central and Bullitt East were tied at 21-21 in the 24th renewal of The War.

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     That 15 seconds was as long it took Bullitt Central sophomore sensation Trevor Carnell to run through a huge hole on the right side of the line and dash 80 yards to the end zone for his fourth touchdown of the game.

     That gave Bullitt Central a 28-21 lead that they never surrendered, repulsing a late Charger push that reached the 10-yard line before an incomplete pass on fourth down gave the ball back to the Cougars. The maroon and gray then ran the final 2:56 off the clock for the victory.

     The win was the sixth in a row for the Cougars this season and paired up with a victory over North Bullitt a week before, gave Bullitt Central the Bullitt Cup, the annual trophy given to the top team in the county each year. This was the third time in the past five years that Bullitt Central has claimed the award presented by Schmid Funeral Home along with The Awards Center, WFBR-95.3 and The Pioneer News.

     Bullitt Central will play for another key piece to the season this week when they travel to Shelby County with the top spot in Class 5-A, District 4 up for grabs. The Cougars have not won a district title since 1979.

     With the win, Bullitt Central snapped a two-game losing streak to the Chargers and pulled the series tally to within 17-7.

     In the end on Friday, the win came down to Carnell's running combined with five Bullitt East turnovers including four in the first half.

     Carnell was once again an unstoppable force as he ran for 254 yards on 28 carries. He scored all four of Bullitt Central's touchdowns and also added a two-point conversion.

     "I thought Trevor had a tremendous game," Bullitt Central head coach Danny Leasor said.

     Carnell now has 1,560 yards through the first eight games of the season.

     "We knew we were playing a good team," Carnell said of the Chargers. "We weren't doing a lot of trick plays.

     "I wouldn't say worried," he added of the Bullitt East rally before he had his long run. "We knew we had to stay the course. We wanted to have that first play-off game at home. We didn't want to lose at home."

     After Carnell's big run put them down a touchdown again, Bullitt East came right back down the field. Charger quarterback Anthony Doran connected with tight end Cruise Coulter for 23 yards on a third down and after two runs by Brandon Samuels picked up 14 yards, Jesse Porter carried for 10 yards down to the Bullitt Central 15-yard line.

     Two more running plays put the ball on the 10-yard line, but on third down Bullitt Central's Dylan Downs, who recovered two fumbles in the fist half, broke through the line and tackled Porter for a 2-yard loss. After calling a time-out, Doran stepped back, but his pass over the middle to Porter was too high at the goal line.

     "I was a little worried," Bullitt Central senior defensive lineman and tight end Dylan Downs said of Bullitt East tying the game at 21-21 with 7:31 remaining. "I knew we could hold them and then let the offense do their job.

     "We have plenty of better games ahead of us," the lineman said. "I look forward to playing more."

     With all three Bullitt County schools now in the same district for football, the game takes on even more meaning...if that is possible...than being a big rivalry.

     "The coaches this week were talking about us playing Bullitt East and it being a big rivalry and that it was just a big game," Downs said. "It's a big game for me. I'm glad to get this one my senior year."

     This was a big game with a number of key plays that swung the momentum as wildly as the wind blew in the second half.

     While admitting that his team had trouble containing Carnell, Bullitt East head coach Darrell Vincent was focused more on the five turnovers. Two of the four miscues in the first half led to Bullitt Central scores as did the one in the second half. In fact, Carnell's long run for the final score was the only Cougar score that didn't come off a mistake.

     Bullitt East had a 7-6 lead when Loudenslager scored on a 7-yard run with 3:21 remaining in the second quarter, countering Carnell's 91-yard touchdown run early in the game. The Chargers then held the Cougars on three downs and forced a punt. However, two plays later, Doran's pass over the middle was intercepted by Zack Patton, giving Bullitt Central the ball on their own 43-yard line.

     For the second week in a row, Bullitt Central marched down the field and scored in the final 10 seconds of the first half. This time, the Cougars managed to run eight plays in 59 seconds. The first big play was a 20-yard pass from quarterback Bradley Combs to Jesse Sharp and on the next play, the two teamed up again for 10-yards to put the ball on the 15-yard line.

     On the next two plays, Combs' passes fell incomplete. With everybody expecting another pass (although Bullitt Central still had a time-out remaining), the Cougars crossed everyone up with Combs handed the ball to Carnell. The sophomore was hit at the line of scrimmage, but put his hand down and managed to keep moving forward, reaching the end zone as the clock ticked to :09.

     D.J. Dennison's extra point kick gave Bullitt Central a 13-7 lead at halftime.

     Bullitt East got the ball to start the second half and on the very first play from scrimmage, Samuels broke loose for a 34-yard gain. On the next play, Porter got around the left end, but when he was hit, the ball came free and Bullitt Central recovered.

     Carnell got the next drive started when he ran for 22 yards on the first play and then Combs combined with Downs for 39 yards before later hitting Tyler Bray for 24 yards to the 3-yard line. Three plays later, Carnell got the final yard for the score.

     To make up for an earlier missed extra point, Carnell then ran in the two-point conversion to make it 21-7.

     Bullitt East answered with a 57-yard drive. Doran and Coulter had a 15-yard connection and later Porter ran for 20 yards. Doran then kept the ball for the 3-yard touchdown.

     As the second half continued, a strong north to south wind increased dramatically. Playing into the wind in the fourth quarter, Bullitt Central had their only turnover of the game to end a promising scoring chance. Facing fourth down on the Bullitt East 16-yard line, Combs tried to pick up the four yards for a first down by throwing into the flat. The pass fluttered badly and intercepted by Porter who returned it 60-yards to the Bullitt Central 21-yard line.

     It took six plays, but the game was tied when Doran scored on fourth down on a 2-yard keeper over the right side.

     Devyn Noe's third extra point kick of the game knotted the score at 21-21.

     With the wind at his back, Noe easily drilled the kick-off out of the back of the endzone, giving Bullitt Central the ball on the 20-yard line.

     On first down, Combs turned to his left, but then handed the ball back to Carnell who was running to his right. Bullitt East had collapsed to their right on Combs' fake. Carnell had a huge hole to run through and he motored 80-yards without being touched for the go-ahead touchdown.

     Bullitt Central offensive coordinator Mike Gossett said that the team had only added the little counter move that week in practice, but that they had run it earlier in the game. Vincent said later that they had seen it last year, so should have been prepared for it.

     Vincent thought the game turned on the two turnovers on each side of halftime.

     "The turnover right before halftime led to them scoring," the coach said. Maybe we should have just taken a knee and gone into halftime up by one. Then to start the second half we go down with two long runs and we fumble. We could have led 14-6 instead of being down 21-7.

     "Carnell is a nice runner," Vincent noted. "We took some chances, but if he finds a slot, he can go. It just comes down to the turnovers."

     Leasor was not pleased with his defense as they struggled to halt the split-back veer option at the line of scrimmage.

     "When you play poorly on defense and still win, something went right," the veteran coach said. "It was us coming up with big plays at the right time.

     "I thought we played a more physical game," Leasor added. "I'm pleased with the win. I just wish we had played better on defense."

     Bullitt Central finished with 388 yards of total offense which included 269 yards on the ground. Combs completed nine of his 19 passes for 119 yards and the one interception.

     Bullitt East had almost as much offense, finishing with 360 total yards with 296 of that on the ground. Doran completed five of 11 passes for 64 yards with two interceptions.

     Doran kept the ball 12 times for 113 yards. On the ground, both Samuels and Porter finished with 79 yards.

     NEXT GAMES: Bullitt Central will head to Shelbyville on Friday for a classic showdown as they will battle Shelby County. The Rockets are 5-2 after blasting North Bullitt 49-0 last week to go to 1-0 in district play. Bullitt Central is 2-0 in district action.

     Bullitt East will be at home on Friday to tangle with North Bullitt in The Clash. Both teams now stand at 3-4 for the season.

     Each of the games is set for 7:30 p.m.