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Playing defense can be difficult when you’re not sure who has the ball and that was the situation Spencer County faced much of the evening Friday during a 42-14 loss at Bullitt East.
The Chargers use a veer option attack that often includes the quarterback making a last-second hand-off or pitch to a running back or he could decide to keep the ball himself. The defense is often forced to commit to follow the wrong player and Bullitt East took full advantage of that ploy most of the evening.
“You don’t see the veer a lot and it is very difficult to simulate it during practice,” said Marksbury. He said the kids continued to battle hard and he doesn’t feel fatigue factored into the defensive struggles, but it was more a product of good quarterback play by Bullitt East and the complexity of that offense. He said defenders have to key on the quarterback and other players. Late in the game, Marksbury said, his players were just trying to make something happen and often guessed wrong.
“Once you get down it is natural for the kids to start trying to make plays and in that case they start guessing and that will lead to big plays.”
Even with that difficult task, the Bears kept it close during the first half.
Bullitt East struck first on the opening possession, driving 65 yards on eight plays, all on the ground, and scoring on a 6-yard run to go up 6-0. Following a lengthy delay after a celebratory firework went off on the Spencer County sideline, injuring two young people, the Chargers made their PAT for a 7-0 lead.
The Bears struck back quick when sophomore quarterback Jacob DeRudder took the snap at his own 40, fired a pass 20 yards downfield to Shawn Boykin, who made an elusive move and was off to the end zone for an impressive 60-yard play. Derek Clemens was good on his PAT and it was 7-7 with less than four minutes gone in the first quarter.
Bullitt East would score again on its next possession, running the ball exclusively on the drive and punching it in from two yards out to go up 14-7 late in the first quarter.
Offensively, the Bears were struggling to get things going following the early touchdown pass. Facing a fourth and long, Clemens booted a high, long punt that Bullitt East then fumbled and Spencer County’s Jon Brackob recovered and the Bears were showing life. But again the offense stalled in four downs and Bullitt County retained possession.
Two big runs, one for 27 yards and then two plays later, a 43-yard touchdown run put the Chargers up 21-7 with just over five minutes remaining in the first half.
The Bears battled back however. Facing a 2-and-10 at their own 41-yard-line, Boykin took a handoff and was able to get free and outrun the defenders all the way to the goal line to keep the Bears close. A fumble recovery by Spencer County’s Aaron French gave the Bears a late first-half opportunity to inch even closer, but a third down pass by DeRudder was picked off and the Bears trailed 21-14 at the half.
The Bears took their first possession and converted a fourth down when Logan Holbrook scrambled 22 yards, but were unable to convert a second fourth down after a questionable spot of the ball after a short run. Bullitt East took over and would soon score on a 51-yard touchdown run that set the tone for the second half.
The Chargers were up 28-14 when a Bears’ miscue on a fumble gave Bullitt East the ball at the Spencer County 7-yard line. They quickly scored and went up 35-14 right before the end of the third quarter. They would add one more touchdown in the fourth, and effectively kept the ball on the ground to run out the clock to send the Bears to 2-2 on the season. Bullitt East improved to 4-0.
Marksbury said the offense Friday night was inconsistent and he took responsibility for some of that with his play calling. He said the Bears want to run the football to open up some passing, but admits that was a bit backward Friday night as they passed early.
“I feel as though we are trying to throw it to loosen up the run,” he said. “We just haven’t been able to put several plays together and keep drives going. It has been either big play or we have to punt. We have a quarterback that can make all the throws and we have great backs in Shawn and Logan. We just have to get more consistent in our running game and the entire offense will improve.”
The Bears get an open date this week and Marksbury said it will be an opportunity to spend a week not having to focus on an opponent, but to concentrate on improving themselves.
“We will work on fundamentals this week because we have to get better at blocking and tackling. We will spend this week just worrying about us because we have some things to clean up.”
When the Bears do take the field again in two weeks, they will be on the road at North Oldham for a district game against the Mustangs, who are also 2-2.