Tick, tock … It’s BGHS-South Warren week

Senior running back Tyler Moore, left, and the Bowling Green football team travels to face veteran coach Brandon Smith’s South Warren squad on Friday night. BGHS is 3-3 on the season while South checks in at 4-1.

High school football in South Central Kentucky has more than its share of colorful rivalries.

Allen County-Scottsville and nearby Franklin-Simpson. Russellville High School and the considerably larger crosstown school, Logan County. Glasgow and Adair County, Warren Central and Warren East, Clinton County and Butler County …

You get the picture.

Over the last decade or so, and certainly in the last few years, no rivalry looms larger than the one between Bowling Green High School, with its sprawling campus on Rockingham Avenue, and South Warren High School, located about 10 miles from BGHS on Nashville Road.

You know what they say.

Familiarity breeds contempt. And all that stuff.

The Purples, the defending KHSAA Class 5A state champions, avenged a regular-season loss to South Warren last November on their way to the seventh state title in school history. In 2019, Bowling Green defeated South Warren 20-13 on its way to the state semifinals.

South Warren toiled its way to state championships in 2015 and 2018 under veteran coach Brandon Smith, the former Western Kentucky University quarterback, and the Spartans were the KHSAA Class 5A runner-up in 2017, too.

Impressive track records, to be sure.

“Motivation isn’t an issue,” Smith said. “You almost have to calm them down … Our team is mentally focused, we’ll be playing at home. Bowling Green is very, very good.”

BGHS coach Mark Spader made a similar observation in early August.

“That game, that’s something different,” he said. “You turn another switch on.”

That’s what Purples running back Tyler Moore has in mind. Gradually, of course.

“We met (as a team) this weekend,” Moore said. “We talked about this game. It’s a big game. It’s always a big game. Yes, sir.”

Moore was the MVP in last year’s KHSAA Class 5A state championship game, making plays all over the field from his inside linebacker position, sparking the Purples to a 17-7 victory over Owensboro High School in a game decided by defense and field position.

On opening night, at WKU’s Houchens-Smith Stadium, Spader moved Moore, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior, from linebacker to running back. Moore gave the Purples an immediate lift, getting Bowling Green back in the game, but Highlands held on for a 21-18 victory.

Spader likes to challenge his squad in non-district play, and the Purples will take a 3-3 record into Friday night’s showdown at South Warren. The Spartans, meanwhile, have won three straight and take a 4-1 mark into the big game.

There’s a strong chance, maybe a likelihood, that South Warren and Bowling Green will square off again in the second round of the KHSAA Class 5A playoffs in November.

“We’ve got to be sharp, mentally,” Moore said. “That’s what is going to make a difference in this game. I actually grew up playing with some of the South guys, Caden Veltkamp, Jake Jackson and a few others, on a travel team when we were kids called the Rebels.”

Veltkamp, in his third year as the Spartans’ starting quarterback, has verbally committed to WKU. The South Warren defense took the initiative on Friday night in Louisville, after Veltkamp’s two touchdown passes in the first half staked the Spartans to a two-touchdown halftime lead.

“We played almost the entire game on their end of the field,” Brandon Smith said. “I don’t think they had more than 100 yards of total offense. Caden did a real nice job with his feet, moving in the pocket and running the ball when he needed a few yards.”

Bowling Green, on the other hand, has been breaking in a freshman quarterback, the fast, athletic Deuce Bailey, over the last three weeks. After a 38-7 victory over Hopkinsville, the Purples’ first in their sparkling new stadium, BGHS got shut out by Boyle County 31-0 before Friday night’s loss to Father Ryan.

“We do our best, to encourage Deuce, to protect him in the pocket, anything we can to help the offense,” Moore said. “He’s a true freshman, and he’s learning, but you can see he’s going to do a lot of great things at Bowling Green.”

South Warren used a sturdy defense to knock off the Purples 10-6 in regular-season play last year, at BGHS, before Bowling Green turned the tables with an impressive 41-24 victory over the Spartans in second-round play of the KHSAA Class 5A playoffs.

Three weeks later, the Purples would win a state championship in Lexington.

On Friday night, another chapter in this high-stakes, high-intensity rivalry will unfold.

Buckle up.