ASSIGNMENT, SOUTH OLDHAM/Bowling Green’s defense gets ready for Dragons’ triple-option attack


Austin Anderson has become one of the Bowling Green High School football team’s front-line defenders.

After playing primarily on offense, in his first two years as a starter, Anderson has become one of the Purples’ critical inside run stuffers in his final season on Rockingham Avenue.

Problem is, stuffing the run against the South Oldham High School triple-option attack is easier said than done.

It’s called assignment football.

Everybody has to be in the right place at the right time.

“We’ve only got one more game promised,” Anderson said. “South Oldham is a triple-option team. There’s a lot of things to prepare for. We’ve got to be mentally sound.

“We’ve got to take advantage of our opportunities.”

South Oldham (8-4 overall) travels to Bowling Green (10-2) on Friday night for a KHSAA Class 5A regional championship game at El Donaldson Stadium. The winner will be one victory away from championship weekend at the University of Kentucky’s Kroger Field in Lexington.

Mark Spader, Bowling Green’s fifth-year head coach, understands this will be a different sort of game. South Oldham’s triple-option offense values time of possession, keeping its defense off the field and minimizing the opponents’ chances to score.

“South Oldham is a triple-option team, indeed, and no, we haven’t defended that in quite some time,” Spader said. “It calls for (a defense to be) very disciplined. Reads and responsibilities, which are difficult to master in one week of practice.

“We will have to settle in quickly, on defense, in order to get them off the field.”

The Purples traveled to metro Louisville to square off with South Oldham in the quarterfinal round of the KHSAA Class 5A playoffs in 2019. They stopped the Dragons, almost cold, on defense, limiting South Oldham to 115 yards rushing in a 28-14 victory for a 5A regional championship.

Bowling Green’s defense also forced four turnovers, three lost fumbles and an interception.

The triple-option attack can be explosive, but it is also susceptible to fumbles. And that definitely figures to be the case with the cold weather forecast for the Commonwealth on Friday night.

South Oldham has crushed its first two postseason opponents, claiming a 42-0 victory over Louisville’s Western High School before cruising past the Seneca Redhawks 46-0.

Bowling Green has been equally dominant, rolling past Ohio County 49-0 before completing a two-game sweep of archrival South Warren. The Purples won that game 34-0, the sixth time this season that they’ve held an opponent to a touchdown or less.

Something’s obviously got to give.

“It’s always good to win. You never know what the team’s going to look like at the beginning of the season,” South Oldham coach Jamie Reed told the Oldham Era newspaper. “Our guys have fought through some adversity. We’ve got some new guys that we’re starting this year, so to be able to go play in the quarterfinals is huge for any program.”

Playing in the brutally cold conditions looms as another factor, and the Purples would be hard pressed to match last week’s offensive performance, when sophomore quarterback Deuce Bailey and the BGHS offense racked up more than 500 yards total offense.

“Our offense was really clicking last week,” Bailey said. “We’ve had a really good week of practice. Coach Spader has made it pretty clear, what he’s looking for in this game.”

Assignment football. Assignment football in the cold, no less.

“We preach to our kids during our winter program that our biggest victories come during bitter, cold weather,” Spader said. “They’ve embraced the conditions this week and seem ready to go.”

South Oldham has won seven of its last eight games. Dragons quarterback Nick Hamilton has passed for 1,627 yards and 11 touchdowns, while throwing 11 interceptions. Jeffery Burton is South Oldham’s rushing leader, with 1,016 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground.

A loss by Lexington’s Frederick Douglass High School — the unbeaten Broncos have allowed just 54 points while winning all of their 12 games — could help Bowling Green land one more home playoff game, but chances are either the Purples or South Oldham will be on the road for the semifinal round.

“This time of year,” Spader said, “we just adopt the attitude that we must focus on each opponent each week and win.  The KHSAA will tell us who, where and when for the next week.”

South Oldham’s defense has forced 34 turnovers, 18 fumble recoveries and 16 interceptions. Bowling Green’s Augie Nyembo had a critical interception in last week’s victory over South Warren, but stopping the run figures to be the Purples’ first priority.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Spader said.

Kickoff for Friday night’s game is set for 7 p.m.