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Before the football season began Shelby County Coach Todd Shipley surveyed the landscape in Class 5A’s District 4.
“Coming in, we felt like the district was up for grabs,” he said. “We felt we had a chance to go three-and-oh in the district.”
The Rockets (6-2, 2-0) can do that tonight when the play at Bullitt East (4-4, 1-1). But an outright district title isn’t the only thing riding on the outcome of this game, which is slated to kickoff at 7:30 p.m. So too is Shelby County’s postseason positioning.
If the Rockets win, they could conceivably have home-field advantage for the first four rounds of next month’s state playoffs.
“Every year you talk about your goals. It’s nice that we have put ourselves in position to accomplish a goal we wanted,” Shipley said. “Now it’s time to follow through.
“I think our kids understand what’s at stake here. We like playing at home, we’d like to have that number one seed in the district [for the playoffs].”
But first they’ll have to outrun the Chargers, one of the top rushing teams in 5A, or at least stop the run.
Bullitt East, which was eighth in 5A in rushing (252 yards per game) last week, split its first six regular-season games and its first two district contests.
“They’re a typical Bullitt County team, they’ve got some big linemen,” Shipley said. “They don’t pass the ball great, but they run the ball well.”
The Chargers, who run the outside Veer, rushed for 304 yards in their 28-21 loss to county-rival Bullitt Central two weeks ago.
“They frustrate you…it’s the old three yards and a cloud of dust,” Shipley said. “We can’t give too much penetration and we have to play assignment football. We have to play very disciplined, sound defensive football.”
Through Bullitt East’s first seven games, junior running back Brandon Samuels led the team in rushing with 81 carries for 531 yards (76 per game) and seven touchdowns. Three others, though, averaged 40 or more rushing yards per game. They were senior running back Blake McGill (52 rushes for 376 yards and three TDs), senior quarterback Anthony Doran (67 rushes for 330 yards and six TDs) and senior running back Jesse Porter (48 rushes for 283 yards and three TDs). Doran had also completed 31 of 62 passes for 530 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions. The Chargers also have a potent kicking game, according to Shipley.
Shelby County notched its only district victory of last season over the Chargers. In that game Chase Manica rushed for 179 yards and two touchdowns as the Rockets rallied from a 13-3 halftime deficit to defeat Bullitt East, 32-13. Shelby lost its other two district games last season, falling, 14-13, to North Bullitt and to Bullitt Central, 35-21. The Rockets have avenged both of those defeats on the past two Friday nights.
“It’s also a little bit more of redemption for us after not being able to follow through on two of those games,” Shipley said.
The Rockets, however, may not be at full strength again tonight. Senior fullback Justin Stewart, who missed last week’s game against Bullitt Central, is still nursing an ankle injury, as is senior offensive lineman/linebacker Jacob Hudgens, who injured his in the first half against the Cougars.
The Rockets, though, were able to get contributions from sophomores Tanner Bryant (before he went out with his own injury) at fullback and Britton Woolwine at linebacker.
Shelby County at Bullitt East, 7:30 p.m.
Records: Shelby County 6-2, Bullitt East 4-4.
Radio: WXLN-FM (93.3).
Coaches: SC – Todd Shipley (13th year, 62-78); BE – Darrell Vincent (2nd year, 8-11).
SCHS stat leaders: QB/S Zach Shipley (89-for-160 passing for 1,387 yards with 17 TDs and 1 INT & 88 rushes for 432 yards and 9 TDs); WR/DB Michael Barry (37 catches for 682 yards and 11 TDs & 9 INTs); WB/LB Chase Manica (54 rushes for 417 yards and 7 TDs & 11 catches for 191 yards and 3 TDs); FB/DE Justin Stewart (63 rushes for 346 yards and 1 TD); TE/LB Deric Hyman (6 catches for 85 yards and 2 TDs); WB Earl Stoudemire (25 rushes for 103 yards & 14 catches for 148 yards and 1 TD); FB/LB Malik Manica (9 rushes for 118 yards and 1 TD); WR/DB Dalton Thompson (10 catches for 103 yards and 1 TD).
BE key players: RB/LB Brandon Samuels (No. 25); QB/LB Anthony Doran (No. 9); RB/DE Blake McGill (No. 35); RB/CB Jesse Porter (No. 14); RB/SS Robert Hartley (No. 9); OL/LB Evan Kerr (No. 52); TE/FS Trent Meredith (No. 81); OL/LB Gage Logsdon (No. 53).
Class 5A, District 4 standings: Shelby County 2-0, Bullitt Central 2-1, Bullitt East 1-1, North Bullitt 0-3.
Football: Atherton at Collins, 7:30 p.m.