KOBE MARTIN PUTS PURPLES ON ICE AS SPARTANS WIN 10TH STRAIGHT
South Warren moved the ball but didn’t have much to show for it in the first half of Friday night’s KHSAA Class 5A playoff game with archrival Bowling Green.
In fact, the Purples actually had a good chance to take a 3-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Then, the wheels fell off for Bowling Green. The axle followed, and then the chassis. No. 1-ranked South Warren scored on the final play of the first half and then dominated the final 24 minutes, rumbling past the reeling Purples 28-3 in second-round play of the Class 5A playoffs.
There will be a new Class 5A state champion crowned next month at the University of Kentucky’s Kroger Field. Bowling Green’s reign is over, as the Spartans (11-1) took a step closer to that goal with their second victory over the Purples this season.
South Warren won its 10th straight game, all of the victories by at least 14 points, while Bowling Green finishes its season with a 6-6 record.
South Warren will play host to South Oldham, a 33-3 winner over Atherton on Friday night, in the third round of the KHSAA Class 5A playoffs next week.
Senior South Warren quarterback Caden Veltkamp threw two touchdown passes to teammate Avrin Bell, the first an 11-yard scoring pass as the first half came to a close, and Kobe Martin and Luke Burton keyed a second-half ground game that allowed the Spartans to maintain control.
“They’re a championship level team,” BGHS coach Mark Spader said. “I’m proud of our kids, proud of our seniors. It’s going to be tough to say good-bye to them. They did a good job of running the football in the second half. Our defense played pretty solid, but against a team like that, you’ve got to put up some points.”
South Warren’s defense would have none of it. The Spartans lost senior outside linebacker Evan Lee to an upper-body injury early in the second quarter, but South Warren linemen Jake Jackson and K.J. Hardesty kept the heat on BGHS freshman quarterback Deuce Bailey, and the Purples eschewed the running game once the fell behind by double digits early in the second half.
“The plan, all along, was just to try to wear them down,” South Warren coach Brandon Smith said.
Senior tackle Preston Parks and the South Warren offensive line provided steady protection for Veltkamp in the pocket, and Kobe Martin threw the Spartans’ engine into overdrive with a brilliant second half.
Martin reversed his field and found the right sideline on a 30-yard touchdown run with 7:35 left in the game, and he closed the scoring with a 1-yard TD run in the final two minutes.
“At first, we started kind of slow, offensively,” Martin said. “In the second half, I don’t know what it was … We just clicked. The holes weere huge. The offensive line did a great job. We knew we were gonna have to run the ball in conditions like this.”
The first half was cold and damp, typical November weather in South Central Kentucky. But the temperature seemed to take a dramatic drop at halftime, and 15- to 20-mph winds kicked up as both teams returned to the field. The Spartans had the wind at their back in the third quarter, and they grabbed a 14-3 lead on Veltkamp’s 31-yard touchdown pass to Avrin Bell.
Veltkamp and Bell are verbal commits to be teammates next year at Western Kentucky University, and Veltkamp found Bell in the left corner of the end zone on the final play of the first half, an 11-yard touchdown pass.
Veltkamp said “this is the biggest game I’ve played in” since becoming the Spartans starting quarterback in 2019, and he went out of his way to embrace several Bowling Green defenders when it was over.
“I thought we moved the ball pretty well in the first half,” Brandon Smith said when it was over. “We couldn’t flip the field, and their punter (Davis Fant) did a good job of keeping us at our end of the field. The wind was a big factor in the second half, and we got a little momentum going with the passing game.”
South Warren’s William Trussell, a junior strong safety, finished with two interceptions. The Spartans’ pass rush forced BGHS quarterback Deuce Bailey into a critical mistake in the final moments of the first half, and Trussell came up with his first interception on the right sideline. Trussell’s 25-yard return gave Veltkamp the scoring opportunity the Spartans were looking for, and the 6-foot-5 South Warren quarterback got the ball to Avrin Bell in the end zone for the first touchdown of the game.
“We knew we had to create more turnovers in the playoffs,” Trussell said. “We only had 11 of them during the regular season. We just wanted to create some opportunities for the offense.”
Bailey found BGHS teammate Bert Kibawa for a 48-yard reception in the second quarter, and that led to the Purples’ only points of the night, a 27-yard field goal from junior placekicker Colin Fratus with 4:28 left in the first half.
Senior linebacker Tyler Moore and the BGHS defense stayed on the attack, but the Purples couldn’t sustain any offense in the second half, and South Warren was on its way to victory.
“We just had to keep playing,” South Warren offensive tackle Preston Parks said. “Coach Smith told us we had to finish it off, and we knew if we could run the football that we’d be in good shape. It got a little cold out there, but we were mentally prepared.”
Kobe Martin led the Spartans with 130 yards rushing, while Bell had seven receptions for 81 yards. South Warren had a big advantage in time of possession and finished with 382 yards total offense.