BEARING DOWN/Butler County’s offensive line paves the way in 34-13 thumping of nearby rival Russellville


MORGANTOWN — Butler County offensive linemen Dalton Freeman and Carson Miller found themselves on a mission on Thursday night.

No. 1, protect sophomore quarterback Garrett Phelps, all night, against a quick, resourceful Russellville High School defense.

No. 2, create some big holes for Bears tailbacks Colton Dennells and his teammates in the backfield.

And third, dominate the line of scrimmage. Control the clock. Win on opening night.

Check, check, and check please.

Dennells rushed for a game-high 118 yards and fellow Butler County senior Brody Hall added 82 yards on 11 carries as the Bears cruised to a 34-13 victory over the visiting Panthers on Thursday night.

So, when it was over, Freeman and Miller found themselves flanking Garrett Phelps in the west end zone, savoring the victory over the Bears’ longtime rival.

Last year, Russellville trounced Butler County 45-0, on its way to a 12-2 season and KHSAA Class 1A championship game appearance. The Panthers took Pikeville to the wire in a splendid title tilt before dropping a gut-wrenching 30-27 decision, and fifth-year Panthers head coach Mikie Benton understood he’d have a lot of new faces, particularly under center and on the flanks.

“All of our skill position kids from last year have finished up,” Benton said in a telephone interview Tuesday morning. “You’re gonna have to build it back up, no doubt about it. I just told the guys, it’s going to be a learning process. There’s going to be a learning curve.

“(Butler County) did a great job running the football. They’re going to be a team to be reckoned with. Definitely.”

That’s what Butler County coach Brandon Embry, a former offensive lineman for the Bears himself, certainly had in mind beforehand.

“I believe it’s only the third time we’ve beaten Russellville,” Embry said. “There’s still a lot of stuff to work on, obviously. I knew coming in that we were bigger up front, and that we wanted to pound the football between the tackles.”

The Bears used a ball-control approach to finish with 304 yards rushing. Garrett Phelps, the sophomore quarterback, may have thrown the ball five or six times all night. Russellville’s defense knew what was coming. Butler County is expected to take a similar approach in next week’s road game against nearby Edmonson County.

Butler County went 6-5 last year, bowing out of the KHSAA Class 2A playoffs with a 41-16 loss to Owensboro Catholic.

Russellville’s fifth-year head coach, former UK defensive back Mikie Benton, pulled out all the stops to get back in the game in the second half. The Panthers recovered an onside kick to open the half, and senior Jovari Gamble came up a yard or two short on a 4th-and-18 fake punt in the third quarter. Gamble seldom leaves the field, doubling as a wide receiver and defensive back.

“We’ve got a lot of kids settling into new roles,” Benton said. “Jovari is a real athletic kid and I tell him if he thinks he can get outside the contain to go ahead and run it … Most of the punts that are blocked comes from pressure up the middle.

“We’ve got some things to look at before our game next week with Glasgow. They’re always a very talented team, and they’re coming to our place.”

Colton Dunnells, a 6-foot, 240-pound senior, emerged as the Bears’ workhorse, rushing for 118 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. Teammate Brody Hunt was an effective change of pace, rushing for 82 yards on just 11 carries. Garrett Phelps, the Butler County quarterback, also hit Kyle Chambers for a 30-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.

Phelps used a play-action fake to freeze the Panthers’ secondary and rolled to his right before finding Chambers on a crossing pattern. That pushed Butler County’s lead to 27-7, with 4:43 left in the third quarter, and that forced Russellville’s Kendahl Edmonds to throw more often down the stretch.

“We came out tonight and wanted to run the

football,” said Dalton Freeman, the Bears’ 6-foot-3, 310-pound right tackle. “We came out hot. We thought we could wear them down …”

Right guard Carson Miller was quick to agree.

“That’s straight up,” he said]

Straight up, indeed.