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Shelby County Coach Todd Shipley said he isn’t expecting any sort of emotional letdown from his football team tonight.
That’s because the Rockets, who are coming off last week’s 1-point loss to crosstown-rival Collins, are a senior-laden squad that's had its eyes on the prize all season.
In this case that prize is the Class 5A, District 4 title, and Shelby County’s quest for it begins at 7:30 tonight, when the Rockets host defending district champ North Bullitt.
“That was our main focus going into the season, and the players have been focused,” Shipley said. “No letdown. It’s district time.”
The Eagles (3-3, 0-1) appeared to be the preseason district pick on paper. That’s because they returned 13 starters (seven on offense, six on defense) from a team that went 10-2, including 3-0 in the district, last season.
North Bullitt, however, comes in having lost three of its last four games, including to Nelson County, 76-36, two weeks ago and to county-rival Bullitt Central, 7-6, in the district opener for both last week.
In that game the Eagles outgained the Cougars, 203-196, including 165-143 on the ground, but failed to get more than one touchdown.
As usual North Bullitt, which averages only 6.3 passes per game, is a run-first, run-second and run-third team. The Eagles average 265 rushing yards per game, and last week they ranked sixth in 5A in that offensive category.
Junior Josh Exton leads North Bullitt with 668 rushing yards on 94 carries (111 yards per game) and nine touchdowns. Sophomore Mitchell Allen follows with 56 carries for 448 yards (75 per game) and five touchdowns ,and senior Travis Downing is third with 59 rushes for 318 yards (53 per game) and seven TDs.
“We have to control the line of scrimmage,” Shipley said.
North Bullitt rushed for 224 yards against the Rockets last year, when the Eagles rallied from a 13-0 deficit for a 14-13 victory. Shelby County had 159 rushing yards and only 5 passing in that game, which featured several missed opportunities for the Rockets.
Led by its seniors Shelby County has made vast improvements on offense – the Rockets are averaging 31.7 points (all but six of their 190 points have been accounted for by their seniors), 162.5 rushing yards and 184.3 passing per game – as well as defense – Shelby is giving up 19 points, 123.5 rushing yards and 140 passing yards per game.
“Senior leadership has been great,” Shipley said.
The Rockets will look for that to carry over – letdown free – tonight.
North Bullitt at Shelby County, 7:30 p.m.
Radio: WVKY-FM (101.7).
Records: North Bullitt 3-3; Shelby County 4-2.
Coaches: NB - Brett Newton (16th year, 84-88); SC – Todd Shipley (13th year, 60-78).
Last year’s meeting: North Bullitt 14, SCHS 13.
NB key players: RB/LB Josh Exton (No. 27; 94 rushes for 668 yards & 9 TDs); RB/DB Mitchell Allen (No. 23; 56 rushes for 448 yards & 5 TDs); RB/LB Travis Downing (No. 29; 59 rushes for 318 yards & 7 TDs); QB/DB Patrick Egnor (No. 6; 10-for-36 passing for 154 yards with 4 INTs).
SCHS stat leaders: QB/S Zach Shipley (66-for-123 passing for 1,068 yards with 11 TDs & 1 INT and 60 rushes for 293 yards & 5 TDs); WR/CB Michael Barry (26 catches for 517 yards & 8 TDs and 6 INTs on D); WB/LB Chase Manica (37 rushes for 309 yards & 4 TDs); WB Earl Stoudemire (12 catches for 138 yards & 1 TD).
Class 5A, District 4 standings: Bullitt Central 1-0, Bullitt East 0-0, Shelby County 0-0, North Bullitt 0-1.