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EARLIER; After big hit, Axline delivering them

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By Todd Martin

No sense taking it easy after returning from a concussion.

Shelby County’s Ben Axline was back in the lineup last week against Seneca after missing the North Hardin game. All he did was lead the Rockets with seven catches for 139 yards, score two TDs and deliver the two biggest hits of the game.

In fact, Axline, a junior, has been involved with the three biggest hits this season.

The first one came a helmet-to-helmet smack he received from a Bryan Station tackler on a fake punt in the season-opener. Axline got the first down, but a concussion knocked him out for the end of that game and the next one.

But last Friday he got a little revenge at the expense of Seneca.

Axline caught a pass early in the third quarter and steamrolled a defensive back, causing a Rockets celebration on and off the field.

He then saved the game on fourth-and-4 late in the fourth quarter with a punishing blow on Seneca’s quarterback. The hit caused a turnover on downs and secured the victory for the Rockets.

But that’s just how Axline plays. He said he wasn’t worried about getting hurt again and didn’t even think about it.

“They kept me off punt and kick return to be safe, but after the first hit, I was fine,” he said. “I was a little worried about that last hit. I thought I might miss him because my helmet had gotten turned a little.

“I’ve never really been like that [shy to hit] because I used to be a running back.”

It did, however, take Seneca a while to get that first hit on him. Axline took the second play of the game 52 yards to the end zone.

“It felt really good to get out there and come back,” he said. “And then to be the leading receiver in my first game back was really good.”

Axline’s big frame (6 feet 3, 185 pounds) makes him a great target in the middle of the field, and he provides the Rockets with a physical presence at the receiver position.

“He’s just a big target in the middle of the field, and that helps open things up,” SCHS Coach Todd Shipley said.

With Axline in there, it helps free receivers to the outside, much like Tavis Elzy’s isolated routes on one side help pull safeties away from the middle.

In just two games, Axline trails only Elzy in catches, 14 to 12, and shares the team lead in TDs (3).

Teams should get used to seeing Axline’s number called a lot during the season.

“He sucks the safeties and linebackers into the middle, so we can get the passes outside,” Shipley said. “And if they don’t collapse on him, he’s shown that he can make them pay.”

Although a lot of teams have had success running against Bullitt East, this week’s opponent, Axline said he thinks the Rockets can exploit the Chargers with the pass as well.

“We’re going to do a lot of the same things that we already do well,” he said. “But a lot of times Bullitt East will only play with one safety, so I think we’ll be able to go over the middle.”

So will he be looking for another 52-yarder to start the game.

“I hope so,” he said.

Donations for Jesse Bratcher

SCHS will be accepting donations for Bullitt East football player Jesse Bratcher at a table near the entrance. Bratcher suffered a brain injury during a JV football game earlier this season. An account at National City Bank has been set up to help the Bratcher family with medical expenses.