CRESTWOOD – Bowling Green is one of the final four teams still standing.
Behind a strong defensive outing and an explosive rushing attack, the Purples recorded a 28-14 win over South Oldham in the quarterfinals of the 2019 Class 5A UK Orthopaedics/KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl on Friday night at Irvin Stadium in Crestwood.
Facing a South Oldham team that entered scoring 45 points per game behind its Veer offense and only allowing 6.3, the Purples (9-3) held the Dragons (11-2) to just two touchdowns while scoring four of their own. Javeius Bunton (two touchdowns), Conner Cooper, Jordan Dingle and JaVyan Collins each scored TDs for Bowling Green.
“To still be alive, so proud of our kids,” Bowling Green coach Mark Spader said. “We knew coming in over here, particularly for us defensively, we were gonna have our hands full. They’re so smart in what they do formation-wise. Even when we felt like we were settled in on ‘em, they would find something else. It was a real chest game between us.
“Proud of our offense – offensive line, running backs – for pounding the ball and eating some clock and scoring some points, and really gave us a chance to kind of settle in on some things defensively. That was a luxury for us.”
South Oldham led 7-0 after the opening quarter before the two sides were tied 14-14 at halftime. Bowling Green went on to outscore the Dragons 14-0 in the second half to come out on top.
The Purples – who are back in the state semifinals for the first time since 2016 – will travel to Covington Catholic next Friday to face the Colonels (13-0). Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. CST.
“It feels great, man,” Bunton said. “It feels great to be back. We took so much things for granite ‘cause we’re a good program here, but we’re gonna fight the fight – and that’s what we proved tonight. We’ve just gotta move on to the next.”
South Oldham assembled a lengthy opening drive – one that knocked 5:15 off the clock – and scored on a 10-yard TD run from Ethan Bednarczyk to lead 7-0 near the midway point of the first quarter.
Bowling Green responded at the 8:49 mark of the second with a 10-yard TD pass from Cooper to Dingle to make it 7-7, and then scored 4:07 later on Bunton’s nine-yard run to jump in front 14-7.
The Dragons answered with a 15-yard TD strike from Anthony Pierce to Bednarczyk with just over a minute left in the half to even the scoreboard at 14-all at the break.
“It was what I thought it was gonna be,” Spader said. “I thought they would score their first drive or two. I knew it was gonna be hard to settle in. I knew we’d fight back. We came in at the half and just felt like we’d been in games like this all year, and I don’t know that they have been – they’ve kind of rolled through their schedule – so we said, ‘Keep the pressure on ‘em and keep pounding the drum.’”
South Oldham was threatening to score midway through the third, but Bowling Green forced a fumble and Terrion Thompson recovered it to give the Purples possession – and they took advantage of it as Collins soon ran in from five yards out to make it 21-14 at the 5:33 mark.
Bunton’s second score – this one from three yards out – extended Bowling Green’s advantage to 28-14 early into the fourth.
On the defensive end, Thompson recovered another Dragons’ fumble with 6:24 left to give the ball back to the Purples and seal it.
“It feels amazing,” Thompson said. “All the work it took since January all the way up to now in order for us to win this. It’s a great team – and we’ll keep battling.”