PURPLES PULVERIZE SOUTHWESTERN/Bowling Green punches ticket to KHSAA Class 5A title game with resounding 47-20 victory


SOMERSET, Kentucky — Bowling Green High School’s Devin Geer was motionless, on the field, for several tense minutes. His Purples defensive teammates huddled with their coaches on the BGHS sideline. The medical staff summoned stadium personnel at “The Reservation” for a gurney.

It was still the first quarter, but Bowling Green was already two touchdowns ahead of homestanding Southwestern High School. There were plenty of unknowns.

Geer, the senior “anchor” defender for the Purples’ relentless defense, was hoisted upright on the stretcher. The stadium noise returned, but Geer was facing his teammates. And he had a simple message for them as he was wheeled for the waiting ambulance.

Geer raised a fist and implored his teammates to finish the task at hand.

“Let’s go, let’s go,” Geer bellowed to the Bowling Green sideline.

Evidently the Purples were listening.

Bowling Green scored 26 points before Southwestern could find the end zone and the Purples cruised to yet another impressive postseason victory, crushing the previously unbeaten Warriors 47-20 on Friday night in the KHSAA Class 5A semifinals.

They’re goin’ back to The ‘Ship.

That’s the KHSAA’s Championship Weekend, to unfold Friday at the University of Kentucky’s Kroger Field in Lexington. Bowling Green (12-2 overall) earned its eighth victory in nine games and the Purples will square off with Lexington’s Frederick Douglass High School, the No. 1 seed in the KHSAA’s Class 5A ranks.

Kickoff for Saturday’s Class 5A state championship game is scheduled for an 8 p.m. start, Eastern Standard Time.

The Broncos (14-0) are unbeaten themselves. Of course they are. Frederick Douglass turned on the defensive pressure to eliminate Owensboro High School 14-2 on Friday night in Lexington.

Fifth-year BGHS head coach Mark Spader, one year removed from a 6-6 season, spoke in superlatives when it was over.

“I’m really excited for our kids. We had another good week of practice,” Spader said. “I liked the way they got after it, in practice. Good focus, attention to detail. They were ready to play.

“We were relaxed, but our guys were very confident. You could see that, on the field.”

When it was over, the Purples took plenty of photos with teammates, family and friends. Southwestern didn’t know what hit them, until it was too late.

Bowling Green will be playing for its eighth KHSAA state championship, and its second in three years, when the Purples tangle with Frederick Douglass next Saturday night in Lexington.

And again, they’ll be playing for Devin Geer, their injured teammate who inspired them in the formative stages of Friday night’s game. Geer sustained a broken ankle, Spader acknowledged Saturday morning.

“We’ve definitely played at another level, in the playoffs, on the defensive side,” senior BGHS linebacker Davis Fant said. “We really push each other, in practice, and in the weight room, every day. The seniors really speak up, and get everybody moving around … get some ‘juice’ behind us.

“Devin getting hurt really pushed us, to dominate the rest of the game. We played the rest of the game, for him, and next week will be, too.”

Deuce Bailey, the gifted BGHS sophomore quarterback, was dealing in the early going.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Bailey took advantage of air-tight protection and had little trouble finding the open receiver, particularly in the middle of the field. Bailey threw for four touchdowns, all to different receivers, and finished the night by completing 10 of 15 passes for 146 yards.

Junior BGHS tailback Jevan Huddleston took the initiative from there, burning the Southwestern defense with a dazzling 90-yard touchdown run after the Warriors got on the scoreboard with their first touchdown with 4:31 left in the first half.

Huddleston took the ball on a sweep to the right side of the field and quickly found some open field. The Warriors’ pursuit had no chance as he scored his team-leading 15th touchdown of the season.

Colin Fratus’ extra point put the Purples in front 33-6, at which point the outcome was a mere formality.

“We were able to go ‘over the top,’ in the passing game,” Bailey said. “I thought we had a good game plan. This is a great offense, almost like an all-star team.

“I’m proud, but I’m cautious at the same time. I want to win a state championship.”

They went to a running clock, as per KHSAA regulations, when Bowling Green’s Jake Napier found the end zone from 40 yards out on a “scoop-and-score” on the final play of the third quarter. That touchdown extended the Purples’ lead to 47-6, but to their credit, the Warriors kept battling.

Southwestern’s quarterback in the Wildcat formation, 5-foot-11, 180-pound junior Mason Hibbard, scored on a nine-yard keeper midway through the fourth quarter, and senior tailback Tanner Wright, the Warriors’ rushing leader, accounted for the final margin with a 61-yard touchdown run with just 38.7 seconds showing on the scoreboard clock.

BGHS coach Mark Spader had emptied his bench long beforehand.

“We were able to clear our bench, play some kids late,” Spader said. “They kept their starters in … I don’t care. I wanted those kids to be able to play in a semifinal game.

“They earned the right. They’ve worked hard.”

Southwestern, which reached the semifinals after an impressive comeback in a 23-22 victory over Scott County, did most of its offensive damage long after the issue had been settled. Starting quarterback Roger Oliver completed just 6 of 10 passes for 55 yards. Senior BGHS cornerback Auggie Nyembo had an interception for the Purples in the final moments of the first half.

“Credit to Bowling Green, I thought they came in here and played very well,” Southwestern coach Jason Foley told Jacob Pratt of the Commonwealth Journal newspaper. “It wasn’t our night, I told our kids that after the game. It was disappointing, but the bigger picture is they’ve done some big time things this season and I’m proud of them for that.”

The Purples simply dominated the game.

Bowling Green scored on its first offensive series, when junior tailback Jevan Huddleston scored on a 1-yard run. The Warriors blocked the extra-point attempt, but that just seemed to motivate the Purples. BGHS freshman receiver Trevy Barber burned the Warriors on a deep post pattern and Deuce Bailey hit him in stride for a 35-yard TD pass with 5:27 left in the first quarter.

This time, Fratus added the extra point, and shortly thereafter, the Purples’ Devin Geer was injured on Oliver’s keeper for 2 yards, leaving the field on a stretcher. Bowling Green’s Agustin Duron-Martin filled in admirably for Geer at the “anchor” position, on the perimeter, and after a short Southwestern punt, Bailey went to work again.

The Purples weren’t about to let up on the accelerator.

Senior punter/placekicker Colin Fratus delivered a deft onside kick, squibbing the ball directly in front of him before the Purples’ Bert Kibawa made the recovery. Then Bailey found Easton Barlow, the leading BGHS receiver, again on a deep post pattern for a 41-yard touchdown pass.

The Warriors got on the scoreboard, trimming the deficit to 26-6 with 4:31 left in the half. Tanner Wright took an option pitch from Roger Oliver and found the end zone from 14 yards out, but on the two-pointn conversion try, BGHS linebacker Davis Fant tipped a pass that skipped out of the end zone incomplete.

It was over long before it was actually over, and all that was left was the Purples finding out they’d be playing Lexington’s Frederick Douglass High School in the KHSAA Class 5A state championship game at the University of Kentucky’s Kroger Field.

Frederick Douglass reached the title game last year, only to fall short in a 38-26 loss to South Warren High School, the Purples’ arch-rival on Nashville Road, about a 10-15 minute drive from the BGHS campus.

Bowling Green seems to be peaking at the right time, as they’ve outscored their four postseason opponents, including South Warren, to the tune of 168-27. BGHS coach Mark Spader pointed out that they’d get an extra day of preparation, for the 5A state title game, and the Purples have clearly found another gear in the playoffs.

“We tell our defense, ‘Let’s get as many possessions as we can,’ because our offense is so fun to watch,” Spader said. “They’re hard to defend … We kind of thought, if we won this game, that we’d be playing Frederick Douglass up in Lexington. Everybody’s talking about them, they’re very good.

“Our guys are looking forward to it.”