BEARING DOWN/Butler County punctures Russellville defense to gain 29-7 victory


RUSSELLVILLE — Butler County High School’s football team takes an old-school approach to moving the football.

When the Bears’ Wing-T offense is clicking, however, they’re a tough team to beat.

Russellville High School learned that lesson, again, on Opening Night in the first game of the Lewisburg Bank Bowl at Logan County High School.

The Bears’ defense didn’t allow a first down until the second half, at which point the Panthers couldn’t catch a break to get back into the football game. Butler County marched to a 29-7 victory, controlling the line of scrimmage to knock off the Panthers.

“Defensively, I thought our kids flew around and made some plays,” Butler County coach Brandon Embry said. “We took away their big plays, which we wanted to do. We’ve got some things to clean up, especially in the red zone.

“Overall, I was pleased with our guys’ effort.”

Butler County used a 34-13 victory over Russellville on Opening Night last year in Morgantown, on its way to winning its first five games before finishing 8-3 overall. The Bears have made the move to the KHSAA’s Class 3A, however, which means they’ll be seeing some new district opponents this season, including the likes of Franklin-Simpson, Glasgow and Hart County.

Junior quarterback Garrett Phelps, in his second season as the Bears’ starter, threw only sparingly, completing three of six passes and a second-quarter TD pass to junior wingback Gage Beasley. Phelps opened the scoring on a 1-yard quarterback sneak in the first quarter, the first of his two scores, and the Bears’ Trevor Joiner tackled Russellville’s Octavious McKeage for a safety when McKeage couldn’t handle a high snap in punt formation.

It was that kind of night for the Panthers, who struggled with pre-snap penalties and turnovers for much of the game.

“We’ve just got to mature, work on us,” Russellville coach Mikie Benton said. “We had way too many penalties, some self inflicted wounds. We had some missed opportunities, too, but there were some bright spots, as well.”

Russellville’s Donovan Armstrong rushed for 73 yards on 12 carries and scored the Panthers’ only touchdown. RHS sophomore place-kicker Madden Bloodworth, in her second year with the team, added the extra point.

McKeage completed 10 of 18 passes for 105 yards but was intercepted twice. Gage Beasley and Garrett Phelps came up with those interceptions for the Bears, while teammates Will Bryant, Logan Hargrove and Lonnie Phelps all came up with fumble recoveries.

Russellville had little success blocking against Hargrove, a rangy defensive end who can collapse the pocket, too.

“I think our defense is pretty stout right now, but we’ve got some things to work on,” Hargrove said.

The Bears’ Lonnie Phelps, who plays running back and linebacker, was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. Garrett Phelps said Butler County lost 15 seniors from last year’s squad, including much of the team’s offensive line, so he sees improvement on the horizon.

“It’s a rebuilt offense. Definitely better than I could have expected,” Garrett Phelps said. “Overall, we’ve got to be happy with how the game went.”

Russellville’s David Owens had three tackles for losses, and teammates Samuel Edge and Octavious McKeage were effective, collecting 13 and 12 overall tackles, respectively. The problem for the Panthers’ defense is it simply spent too much time on the field.

Mikie Benton will be looking for improvement from his Russellville squad when it makes its home opener at storied Rhea Stadium next Friday against the Glasgow Scotties. Glasgow, and junior quarterback Easton Jessie, opened its season with a 35-0 victory over LaRue County.

Butler County, meanwhile, plays host to Webster County before going on the road for three consecutive games — at Warren Central, Grayson County and Hart County.