Another Kentucky high school football season means another fierce rivalry meeting between the area’ top two programs in Bowling Green and South Warren, who will battle for the sixth time at 7 p.m. Friday at El Donaldson Stadium.
The Purples and Spartans are both off to 2-0 starts to the 2020 season and have each had one game canceled due to the novel COVID-19 pandemic, as Bowling Green was scheduled to play Corbin on Sept. 25 and South Warren was slated to meet Louisville Central on Sept. 18.
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While Bowling Green has had two weeks to prepare for South Warren after opening the season with wins at both St. Xavier and Pleasure Ridge Park, the Purples are beyond ready to play a game on their home field.
“It’s our first game at our stadium this year and here we are all the way into October,” Bowling Green coach Mark Spader said. “I’d imagine our kids are going to be very excited. I expect them to play at a high level, and I hope we’ve polished some things up from those first two games that we can play a clean game and give ourselves a chance to win.”
The Spartans are fresh off a 36-0 win over Glasgow and have yet to allow a point this year after also shutting out Warren East, 40-0, in their season opener back on Sept. 11.
Although South has outscored its two opponents 76-0 and is looking like the dominant team its been the past few years, Spartans’ coach Brandon Smith said that there is still plenty of room for improvement.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Smith said. “Usually this is your first district game and you’ve got five or six games under your belt. It looked like our first game, and it looked like our second game. We’ve still got a lot of progress to make coming into this because we’ve got some inexperienced guys in places. I don’t expect it to be pretty for either team; I’m thinking it’s probably going to look like the third game for both teams. You just have to try and limit the mistakes the best that you can.”
Bowling Green comes in averaging 315 yards and 19 points per game, while its defense is allowing just 196 yards and two points per outing.
Running back Javy Bunton has rushed for 200 yards and four touchdowns on 39 carries, while quarterback Conner Cooper has completed 28-of-44 passes for 348 yards and a TD. Wide receiver Dez Wilson has made 10 receptions for 144 yards and a score.
Defensively, Rece Jones has 20 total tackles — 12 solo — with three tackles for loss and a pair of sacks, while three different Purples have recorded interceptions.
“They’ve got a really nice team. You can say that every year about Bowling Green, but they really do this year,” Smith said. “They’ve got a really good squad. They’re solid everywhere and there’s not a place where you can say, ‘Eh, they’re kind of weak here.’ They’re really senior-heavy on offense — and seniors just tend to play different than underclassmen — and they’ve got a lot of talent on defense. I’m really impressed with how they’re playing through the first two games.”
South Warren makes the trip across town averaging 385 yards and 38 points, while the Spartans are giving up just 87 yards — and no points.
Quarterback Caden Veltkamp has completed 30-of-49 passes for 463 yards, six TDs and an interception, while running back Kobe Martin has rushed for 180 yards and three TDs on 22 carries. Wideout Jason Putman has two receiving TDs with 83 yards.
Luke Burton leads the Spartans’ defensive unit with 17 total tackles, three tackles for loss and a pair of sacks, and three different players — included Burton — have recorded interceptions.
“It’s going to be a big one,” Bowling Green tight end Jordan Dingle said. “It means a lot to us. We’re going to have to get after it and make sure we stay focused. It’s going to determine a lot this season and give us more momentum going forward into the season. It’s going to be a battle. We’re just going to have to come at them strong.”
With COVID-19 limiting crowd sizes at games, it won’t be the same type of atmosphere that the two teams have been accustomed to over the past few years, but El Donaldson Stadium will most definitely be as full as it can possibly be for the big game.
The community knows that this is Bowling Green-South Warren week, but there’s just a different feeling due to what’s going on in today’s world. Although it makes things feel a bit off, there’s still a very important Class 5A, District 2 contest happening Friday night.
“It’s definitely a different year — there’s no question,” Smith said. “Typically, the last couple years, this has been a big week — a big prep week — and a lot of excitement. I think that’s still there, but this year — the best way I can say it — is just ‘different.’ There’s so many other things going on even within our own program with protocols and uncertainty that it’s got a different feel this year, but you still try to block that out and prepare to the best of your ability.”
Bowling Green has a 3-2 lead in the all-time series against South Warren and won both meetings in 2019 — a 14-3 win in the regular season on Oct. 4 and a 20-13 victory in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs on Nov. 15.