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The Shelby County football team didn’t simply move into the driver’s seat in Class 5A, District 4, the Rockets forcefully kicked Bullitt Central out of it.
Shelby County clobbered the Cougars, 38-18, at Robert Doyle Stadium to improve to 2-0 in the district. The Rockets (6-2) can clinch the regular-season district title with a victory at Bullitt East (4-4, 1-1) on Friday night.
“This is another step on our way to a district championship,” senior quarterback/safety Zach Shipley said afterward.
Shipley threw four first-half touchdown passes, and senior wide receiver/defensive back Michael Barry caught two of them and added three interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown, as Shelby County won for the fifth time in its past six games.
“Our goal at the beginning of the year was to win district, and I think we proved we can win it,” Barry said.
The Rockets did that with a balanced offensive attack – they had 165 rushing yards and 150 passing yards – and a defense that forced five turnovers and held Bullitt Central sophomore running back Trevor Carnell 90 yards below his average.
Carnell, who came into the game, averaging 195 yards rushing - No. 2 in 5A and No. 3 in all six classes - was limited to 105 yards on 24 carries (4.4 yards per rush). The Cougars, who had been averaging 272 rushing yards per game (fifth in 5A), were limited to 150 by the Rockets, who were in sixth in 5A in rushing defense (giving up 116 yards per game).
“I’m pleased with our defense, but I hated to give up three touchdowns,” Shelby County Coach Todd Shipley said.
The first of those came on the opening drive of the game. The Cougars (6-3, 2-1) needed only six plays to cover 61 yards – the biggest was a 37-yard run by Carnell – and reach the end zone on Carnell’s 3-yard run.
The Rockets couldn’t score on their first possession, but their defense forced Bullitt Central to lose 8 yards on its next three plays, which were followed by a 13-yard punt.
Taking over at the Cougars’ 25, Shelby County converted a pair of key third downs to tie the score. On the first, a third-and-7 from BC’s 22, Shipley ran for a 13-yard gain. Then on the second, third-and-goal from the Cougars’ 8, Shipley scrambled to his right and threw to Dalton Thompson, who made a juggling catch in the end zone. Barry’s PAT kick made it 7-6, Shelby.
Bullitt Central responded with an 8-play scoring drive. The biggest of those was a 54-yard pass play between Cougars quarterback Bradley Combs and Carnell, who eventually scored on a 4-yard touchdown run 5 seconds into the second quarter.
But Shelby County, which had good field position most of the night, responded by going 56 yards in five plays. The final of those was a 25-yard pass from Shipley to Barry that made it 14-12 9:26 before halftime.
The Rockets rolled from there.
After forcing Bullitt Central to go three-and-out on its next possession they scored on Shipley’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Chase Manica. It was the sixth consecutive completion for Shipley, who finished 10 for 15 for 150 yards.
“When they started bringing pressure, we started throwing,” Todd Shipley said.
The Cougars botched a handoff on the first play of their ensuing series, and Deric Hyman recovered for the Rockets.
Four plays later Shelby County was back in the end zone when Shipley threw a 30-yard pass to Barry on fourth-and-15. That gave the Rockets a 27-12 lead 2:02 before halftime.
Bullitt Central began the second half with back-to-back turnovers – a Carnell fumble (which Devin Ashton recovered) and interception of Combs’ pass (when the ball bounced off a Cougars’ receiver and into the hands of Barry). Shelby County converted the first miscue into points, when Barry buried a 30-yard field goal.
Carnell’s 10-yard touchdown run, which was set up by Combs’ 47-yard run, on the first play of the fourth quarter, made it 30-18. After starting the game with 69 yards on his first 10 carries, Carnell had 36 on his final 14.
“He was real fast, but he didn’t break any long runs. We wanted to keep him inside and contain him,” Ashton said. “I think that was a big key to winning.”
“I was worried at first,” Zach Shipley said. “But he’s about eighty-five percent of their offense, so we knew if we could hit him enough, he’d start wearing down. He took a couple of shots in the second quarter and the third quarter. He seemed to wear down a little bit. Their O-line did a good job. We just outlasted them.”
Shelby’s offensive line outlasted the Cougars in the second half, when the Rockets rushed 26 times. Freshman Malik Manica led with seven runs for 68 yards, and sophomore Tanner Bryant ably filled in for injured senior Justin Stewart (ankle), carrying times for 45 yards before getting a stinger in the second half.
“I think Tanner played big for us,” Todd Shipley said. “He was our go-to guy in practice this week.”
In addition to limiting go-to guy Carnell, the Rockets also caused Combs to complete just 3 of 15 passes for 71 yards (54 of those came on one pass to Carnell) and throw three interceptions – the last by Barry was returned 10 yards for a touchdown.
“It was almost like he was throwing to me,” said Barry, who finished with five receptions for 87 yards. “I just kind of backpedaled, and it was a good throw.”
Hyman led the Rockets’ defense with six tackles, and Malik Manica had 5.5. Ashton and Shipley each tallied four tackles, and Ashton also recovered a fumble. Senior linebacker Jacob Hudgens had 3.5 tackles, including 2.5 for loss – the Rockets had nine of those – before injuring his left ankle at the end of the first half.