BGHS DEFENSE SHINES/Purples pull together in second half to turn back North Hardin 23-14


North Hardin High School’s Shaun Boykins stands about 5 feet, 11 inches tall and weighs around 185 pounds. And he’s fast. REAL FAST.

So when the Trojans’ star moved from wide receiver to running back, in the final minute of the first half, it seemed North Hardin might be content to go into the locker room trailing Bowling Green High School in the nightcap of the Rafferty’s Bowl at WKU’s Houchens-Smith Stadium.

The Purples had just taken their first lead of the game, on Javen Huddleston’s sweep to the left corner, a 5-yard scoring run that put Bowling Green in front 10-7 with 2:44 left in the half.

It would not last long.

Boykins took the ball on a sweep to the left side himself, and he found a seam near midfield and made the most of it.

The North Hardin junior scored on a 61-yard run, with just 46 seconds left in the half, and the Purples were behind again.

Just like they were in last year’s Rafferty’s Bowl, when Bowling Green saw a fourth-quarter comeback fall short in a 21-18 loss to the Highlands Bluebirds.

This time would be different.

Much different.

This time, the Purples struck quickly. And they struck often.

Huddleston had a dazzling touchdown run of his own, a 40-yard dash through the North Hardin defense, a score that put the Purples in front by two points.

Sophomore quarterback Deuce Bailey found teammate Easton Barlow in the back of the end zone, on the Purples’ next series, and from there, the Bowling Green defense took over.

Final score, Bowling Green 23, North Hardin 14.

“We got our heads together in the second half,” veteran BGHS coach Mark Spader said. “When you give a team like North Hardin, with their athletes, an opportunity, they’re going to make the kinds of plays you saw (from Boykins). We learned some things about ourselves tonight.

“We were able to run the ball, in the second half. We couldn’t do that very well, last year, and when you can run the football, you can control the clock.”

In the meantime, the Purples have learned to count on their defense. Bowling Green’s defense carried the team to the 2020 KHSAA Class 5A state championship, in a season complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and last season, there were a lot of new faces on both sides of the ball.

Three games into the season, freshman quarterback Deuce Bailey moved into the starting role, leaving the incumbent, Spencer Newman, to get his snaps in the secondary.

Spader likes versatile players, and one of them, senior offensive lineman Austin Anderson, spent a lot of his time on the field playing defense on Saturday night. Anderson also lined up as the power-I halfback, early in the second quarter, just outside the red zone, on a fourth-and-1 play.

The Trojans were equal to the task that time, as Huddleston was stopped behind the line of scrimmage.

Bowling Green went 6-6 last year, their first non-winning season since a 5-6 campaign in 2002. The Purples are used to contending for KHSAA state championships, but Spader will be the first guy to tell you they’re a work in progress.

Spader likes to call his offense a “work in progress,” and Anderson would be inclined to agree.

“We did some decent things, with the ball, in the second half,” Anderson said. “The defense … they did their thing.”

Like Wick Dotson’s third-quarter interception, which led to Deuce Bailey’s 19-yard TD pass to Easton Barlow for the game’s final score.

Dotson, a junior safety, said the Purples’ defenders understand their roles. Bowling Green (1-0) will play host to McCracken County on Friday night, followed by another home game against Pleasure Ridge Park.

“Stop the run, first, and try to get the other guys into second-and-long, third-and-long,” Dotson said. “It felt great to get a pick in the first game of the season. We played better in the second half.”H

Javen Huddleston, Bowling Green’s junior running back, was named the Rafferty’s Bowl Offensive MVP. Huddleston carried the ball 15 times for 102 yards and two BGHS touchdowns. Davis Fant, the Purples’ senior linebacker, was named the defensive MVP.