TAKIN’ IT TO THE STREETS/Bowling Green’s defense throttles South Oldham; Purples, Southwestern High School to tangle next week in Somerset


Prince’s “Purple Rain” blared over the public-address system as the Bowling Green High School football team exchanged handshakes and best wishes with the vanquished South Oldham Dragons.

The BGHS defense dismantled South Oldham’s old-school, triple-option offense, and Deuce Bailey and the Purples’ offense took control in the first half as Bowling Green claimed a KHSAA regional championship on Friday night, cruising to a methodical 38-7 victory over the Dragons.

The Purples are going places.

Next stop, Somerset.

The Purples’ senior class, 18 or 19 strong, celebrated with a group photo on the FieldTurf surface of the newfangled BGHS stadium, on a night that featured bitter cold, lots of bone-jarring tackles and an efficient Bowling Green offense.

Bowling Green improved to 11-2 overall, and the Purples advance to face unbeaten Southwestern High School (13-0) next week in Pulaski County, about a two-hour drive east from the BGHS campus. Southwestern slipped past Scott County, 23-22, to punch its ticket to the semifinals.

South Oldham was no match for the Purples, who forced six turnovers on their way to yet another resounding victory. The Dragons finish their season with an 8-5 record.

“It was a pretty businesslike win. That’s what I told the team,” fifth-year BGHS head coach Mark Spader told reporters when it was over. “It’s a win. It’s a region championship. So I’m very proud of our guys.”

It’s a win that was never much in doubt. Sophomore BGHS quarterback Deuce Bailey passed for 184 yards and two touchdowns, and the Purples’ Wick Dotson put the game away with a “scoop-and-score,” a 19-yard return of a South Oldham fumble that put Bowling Green in front 31-7.

BGHS senior linebacker Davis Fant and rugged ‘anchor’ defender Devin Gee knocked the ball out of South Oldham quarterback Nick Hamilton’s hands, and Dotson emerged from the scrum to make the play and extend the Purples’ lead to 24 points.

“Defending that triple option, that’s not an easy task,” Fant said. “I was in the pile, with two or three other (BGHS teammates), and Wick was there to make the play.

“Once we got a lead, (South Oldham) had to throw the ball, and they’re not really comfortable doing that.”

Dotson and Grayson Newman are two of the Purples’ rising stars in the secondary. Newman, a sophomore cornerback, had two interceptions in the game, one of them that looked more like a punt than a deep pass.

Bowling Green definitely did its homework for this game.

“I just came in to help make the tackle,” Dotson said, “and it kind of popped out. I think (senior defensive end) Davyon Barber knocked it loose. For a second, I thought I was going to get caught (from behind) …

“That’s something we worked on, all week in practice.”

Actually, the six-pack of South Oldham turnovers represents quite a departure from the Purples’ first 12 games. Bowling Green had recorded just 10 takeaways before Friday night’s victory, but the Purples’ defense was cooking with gas long before the final whistle.

Bowling Green had just one takeaway last week while throttling archrival South Warren 34-0, but it was a clutch play from senior cornerback Augie Nyembo, one of the Purples’ leaders and a defensive catalyst for the entire season.

Bowling Green’s special teams played a significant part in the victory, too. Senior placekicker/punter Colin Fratus connected on a 31-yard field goal in the opening moments of the second quarter and converted all five of his extra points.

Fratus also got the Purples out of a jam with a second-quarter punt from the BGHS end line, and his booming kickoffs left South Oldham with one touchback after another in the onesided contest.

The Purples’ rather subdued postgame celebration left senior linebacker Jake Napier in a philosophical frame of mind.

“We made some dumb mistakes, honestly, but we got six turnovers,” Napier said with a sly grin.

Deuce Bailey, the gifted BGHS sophomore quarterback, was his usual unflappable self, although he did throw a third-quarter interception while guiding the Purples to victory.

Bailey passed for 184 yards, getting Bowling Green on the scoreboard with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Christopher Sweeney midway through the first quarter.

After Fratus’ field goal extended the BGHS lead to 10-0, In the second quarter, Purples tailback Javen Huddleston scored on a 2-yard run, and the Dragons were going nowhere fast.

Ultimately, it came down to foiling the Dragons’ triple-option attack.

Senior ‘anchor’ defender Devin Gee said the Purples stuck with the game plan in limiting South Oldham to 179 yards total offense.

“It’s all about squeezing the line of scrimmage and getting to the ball, gang tackling,” Gee said. “When everybody does their job, against the triple option, good things are going to happen.

“I was always taking the ‘dive’ guy, with the linebacker to that side taking the quarterback, and our cornerbacks, the pitch guy.”

Not to mention that an option offense is susceptible to tricky ballhandling, particularly in the brutal cold weather.

“It’s kinda funny … We did a tackle turnover circuit (drill) the whole season,” Spader said, “at the first of our Tuesday and Wednesday practices. We finally just quit doing it.

“Now, we’re getting turnovers. I’m glad we’re getting them, though.”

Now the Purples are two victories away from the eighth KHSAA state championship in program history. In 2020, the uneven COVID-19 season, Bowling Green’s defense manhandled Owensboro High School 17-7 in the KHSAA Class 5A state championship game at Lexington’s Kroger Field.

Owensboro (11-2) advanced to the semifinals with an impressive 36-0 victory over Louisville’s Fairdale High School, and the Red Devils will travel to Lexington next week to tangle with unbeaten Frederick Douglass High School (13-0) in the other 5A semifinal.

South Warren defeated Frederick Douglass 38-26 in last year’s 5A title game, and the Broncos have the KHSAA’s highest RPI for the classification heading into the semifinal round.

Senior BGHS offensive guard/defensive tackle Austin Anderson was happy with the outcome, but he had some nits to pick as the Purples went their separate ways after the game.

“We played all right. Lots of penalties, both teams,” Anderson said. “The offense did a pretty good job. Defensively, we handled some business and made them throw the football.

“That’s what we had in mind, all along.”