For the second time in three seasons, the Cougar football team earned a victory in the first round of the Class 5A Russell Athletic/KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl football championships, defeating Bullitt Central 21-12 last Friday in Shepherdsville.
Grayson County got touchdowns from senior running backs Dalton Logsdon and Dustin Crain, and sophomore quarterback Talon Gary, and the defense held Central bottled up for nearly the entire game.
Bullitt Central’s scores came on a 55-yard kickoff return at the start of the game, when the Cougar defenders ran past the man with the ball, and then on a neat hook-and-lateral play that covered 37 yards with less than four minutes left in the game.
Central won the toss and elected to receive and they got a gift from the Cougars immediately. Lane Rackley’s squib kick went right to Central’s Austin Tucker at the Central Cougars’ 45-yard-line. As he picked up the skidding ball, all the Grayson County defenders ran past him, allowing Tucker to have a clear path, 55 yards down the right sideline, to the end zone to give his team the early lead. Grayson County blocked the extra-point attempt to keep the score at 6-0.
Gary then fielded the ensuing Bullitt Central kick at his own 36 and returned it to the 44. On first down, Gary hit Crain in the flat and he took the ball to the Central 43 for a first down.
Logsdon then carried three straight times, gaining a pair of first downs to the 17-yard line. Three more runs picked up a first-and-goal at the seven. Logsdon then carried to the one, and on the next play, took it into the end zone for the first Cougar score with 7:55 left in the first period. Michael Thomas added the extra-point and the Cougars led 7-6.
With the ease with which Grayson County drove the ball on their first scoring drive, it looked as though Grayson County would have an easy time of it, but that wasn’t the case. The two teams battled toe-to-toe over the next two and a half quarters with neither one reaching the end zone.
The Cougars drove inside Central territory on their second possession, but gave up the ball on downs at the 22. Grayson County then recovered a Central fumble at the Cougar 48, but gave it back a few plays later when Gary fumbled at the Central 25.
Bullitt Central then had its best drive of the night, taking the ball to a first and goal at the eight-yard line. But the Cougars stopped four straight running plays and took over at the two with a little over six minutes left in the half.
Grayson County then took the ball inside Central territory at the 34, but on the final play of the half, Gary threw an interception to end that threat.
The Cougars had the ball at the start of the second half, but wound up punting the ball away. Central then moved inside Cougar territory, but wound up giving the ball back to Grayson County on downs at the 32.
The Cougars then got it together and went on their second scoring drive. The Cougars faced a fourth-and-two at the Central 34, when Logsdon burst through a hole and took the ball to the 20 for a first down. On the final play of the third quarter, Gary raced to the four-yard line for a first-and-goal.
After switching ends of the field, Gary pitched the ball to Crain, who took it untouched around the left side for the touchdown. Thomas added the extra-point and with 11:50 left to play, Grayson County led 14-6.
The Cougars forced a punting situation on the next Central possession. Facing fourth-and-four, Central faked the punt and tried to run for a first down, but Grayson County’s defense stopped the try and took over at the Central 45.
But again, the Cougars could not stand prosperity as they turned the ball over again. On a third-and-four, Gary had gained enough yardage for the first down, but lost the handle on the ball, and Central covered it at their own 25.
Once again, though, Grayson County’s defense held and forced another punt which went out of bounds at the Central 45. The Cougars then put together the deciding drive of the night.
On a third-and-eight at the 43, Gary found Dylan Woodcock open at about the 12 and the sophomore receiver took the ball to the Central three for a first-and-goal. Woodcock was injured on the play and did not return to the game.
On first down, Gary took the ball for an apparent touchdown, but the officials ruled him down inside the one. Then, before they could run a play on second down, the Cougars were mysteriously flagged for delay of game, a somewhat dubious call at best.
That moved the ball back outside the five, but it turned out not to matter as on the next play, Gary powered over to make it 21-6 with 4:03 remaining to be played.
Sitting pretty, Grayson County was surprised on the next Central possession. On a first-and-10 at the Cougar 37, senior quarterback Bradley Combs hit senior receiver Tyler Branham with a pass at about the 30. Branham then lateraled the ball to a streaking Trevor Carnell, and the brilliant sophomore running back went down the left sideline for a score with 3:32 left.
Central then tried a two-point conversion, but Grayson County stopped the play for a loss to make it 21-12. Central then tried an on-side kick, but the ball never went the required 10 yards and Grayson County took over at the Central 49 with about three and a half minutes left.
On fourth-and-two, Central took their last timeout, stopping the clock with 2:35 left. On the ensuing play, Logsdon picked up a first down at the 38 and the Cougars were able to run out the clock from there.
With the win, Grayson County (9-2) will have the dubious distinction of facing the undefeated John Hardin Bulldogs (11-0) for the second time in three weeks. That game is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. in Elizabethtown.