SLUGFEST FOR THE AGES/Boley, Hensley lift LCA to amazing 56-52 victory over Purples at WKU


When it was over, one player from Lexington Christian Academy after another approached Deuce Bailey on the field at WKU’s Houchens-Smith Stadium.

Likewise, from the Purples’ sideline, greeting LCA teammates Cutter Boley and Brady Hensley, the two offensive catalysts that made it happen for the Eagles in an incredible 56-52 victory over Bowling Green on Saturday night in the Rafferty’s Bowl.

A basketball score on Opening Night of KHSAA football in the Commonwealth.

Some offensive numbers to boggle the mind, from both offenses. But sixth-year BGHS head coach Mark Spader was interested in little more than the bottom line.

The Purples surrendered 800 yards in total offense, the fourth highest offensive figure in KHSAA history. Spader knew the Eagles’ offense was loaded for bear, but seeing it up close and personal confirmed his greatest fears on the campus of Western Kentucky University with midnight approaching.

“It was a bad mix, of a really good offense and a defense with a lot of new players,” Spader said. “A lot of (BGHS) kids in new roles … I mean, I’m not lying … I had nightmares, during the week, because I knew their offense was really good.

“And I know we had eight new starters on defense.”

Still, Bailey’s right arm and quick feet kept the Purples in it, and the wild game featured nine lead changes, all but one of them in the second half. Cutter Boley, the senior LCA quarterback who is headed for the University of Kentucky, got the Eagles off to a fast start with the passing game.

Then, once the BGHS defense showed some big-play potential of its own, LCA coach Doug Charles’ squad turned to senior running back/defensive end Brady Hensley, a transfer from Madison Central High School and a commit to Eastern Kentucky University.

Boley completed 22 of 35 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns, but it was Hensley who ultimately put a hurtin’ on the proud Purples defense.

The defense that was the engine behind Bowling Green’s run to the KHSAA Class 5A state championship game last December. Gone are the likes of linebackers Davis Fant and Jake Napier, ballhawks such as departed cover man Augie Nyembo, not to mention run stuffers Davyon Barber and Austin Anderson.

“We’re a work in progress, defensively,” Spader admitted.

LCA’s addition of Hensley, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound physical specimen — a college prospect with “all the measurables,” according to Eagles head coach Doug Charles — has given the Lexington Christian offense a chance to do something really special.

Get a load of this.

Hensley carried the ball 30 times for 408 yards on the ground, while scoring five rushing touchdowns, including the game-winning score — a 12-yard run through the right side of the LCA offensive line with 27 seconds left in the game — while adding two receiving touchdowns, one on a flea-flicker that left the BGHS defense flat footed midway through the fourth quarter.

Then, after two more lead changes, BGHS quarterback Deuce Bailey got the Purples to LCA 24-yard line before taking one last snap from center. Eight seconds were showing on the Houchens-Smith Stadium scoreboard when Bailey rolled to his right and looked toward the end zone.

The Eagles flooded the zone, forcing Bailey to scramble and change his direction, twice, before Hensley came up with an open-field sack to end it, once and for all.

“Deuce, he keeps plays alive,” LCA coach Doug Charles said. “His release is so quick. You have to give their guys a lot of credit … some of our plays, like the flea flicker, we were hoping to keep in our back pocket …”

Brady Hensley pocketed the sack before Bailey could throw the ball downfield, setting off a wild celebration among the Eagles’ players before the teams met at midfield for the handshake line.

It was like a heavyweight fight, with both pugilists coming up with one haymaker after another until the Eagles could roll out of town with the victory.

“We kind of expected (Bailey) to roll right, so I had to spin off my guy (at the line of scrimmage),” Hensley said. “I saw him turn back around, toward the middle of the field, and my eyes lit up.

“I had to get that one.”

It was an exceptional defensive play, and it pretty much summed up the night for the Purples.

Eight months and change after a state runner-up finish in the KHSAA Class 5A ranks, and facing a typically challenging schedule, both in and out of district play, Bowling Green opened the season with a crushing defeat.

“We really don’t like losing around here,” Spader said.

Even with all the problems, defensively, the Purples found themselves in a position to win the game. They had a three-point lead early in the fourth quarter, and chose to go for it on a fourth-and-5 play from the LCA 40-yard line.

Bowling Green had already pinned LCA at its 1-yard line on a punt, but the Purples needed points.

Lots of points.

And Spader knew it.

First, Bailey took the BGHS offense quickly downfield before finding Christopher Sweeney on a hitch route for a 14-yard touchdown pass. Then the Eagles’ Cutter Boley tried to pass out of the end zone with three minutes left in the first half.

“If (Boley) has time, he’ll pick you apart,” he said. “There were a couple moments where I thought, ‘Are we gonna fold our tents,’ and we didn’t. They were just too hard to handle … At times, our heads were spinning.”

LCA bolted to a 28-10 lead, until the Purples struck for the first of two defensive touchdowns.

BGHS senior linebacker Max Buchanon made a play on Boley’s swing pass toward the right sideline, and he made the interception before scoring on a 19-yard return. Braden Widener added the extra point and suddenly the Purples trailed by just four points.

“Deuce, he keeps plays alive. His release is so quick,” LCA coach Doug Charles said afterward. “You have to give those guys credit, and we had to give him a cushion underneath.”

Much like Boley’s choices against the BGHS defense.

“Hensley can run away from you, he can run over you, he can catch you,” LCA coach Doug Charles said afterward. “He’s 6-foot, maybe 6-1, 220 pounds and runs a sub-4.5 40-yard dash …

“You load the box to negate him, and Cutter has the space to work with. And vice versa. You kind of have to pick your poison.”

Hensley’s poison was particularly potent.

He rushed for 408 yards yards and five touchdowns, including the winning score with 27 seconds left in the game, while adding two touchdown receptions, one on a flea-flicker play where he got behind the BGHS secondary to catch a 40-yard touchdown pass from Cutter Boley.

“It’s always hard to make in-game adjustments, defensively, in the first game of the season,” Charles said.

The Purples took their second lead of the game in the opening moments of the second half. They had grabbed a 7-0 lead when sophomore receiver/kick returner Trevy Barber returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. Barber found a wall of blockers on the right side of the field and beat the Eagles to the sideline on his way to the end zone.

In the second half, it was Deuce Bailey’s turn.

Bowling Green set up an outside screen for senior running back Javen Huddleston, and Bailey got him the ball in the right spot to tightrope the right sideline on a 64-yard touchdown reception.

The Eagles wasted no time getting in the end zone on their next possession, with Hensley bouncing off some would-be BGHS tacklers on his way to a 40-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter. That pattern continued, with one team trading a score for the other’s, but the Purples did turn it over inside the LCA 10-yard line in the open field, on a pass play in the final minute of the third quarter.

Grayson Newman, the Purples’ junior defensive back, fielded an LCA fumble near the right sideline and beat the pursuit to the end zone on a 38-yard return for a touchdown, putting Bowling Green in front, 38-35.

That’s how it went, all the way to the final two minutes, when Boley was content to give Hensley the ball with the Eagles holding all three of their timeouts.

Hensley took a handoff from Boley and split through his blockers to score on the 11-yard touchdown run with 27 seconds left, scoring his seventh and the game’s 15th and final touchdown. A gasping crowd almost seemed to be in awe.

BGHS coach Mark Spader and his staff will take a look at what their defense can do before Friday night’s road game against longtime rival Owensboro High School.

“In the second half, we were gassed on defense,” Spader said before leaving for the waiting buses on University Avenue. “So we’re going to have to solve that problem. We’ll be ready to go back to work.”

LCA quarterback Cutter Boley, who transferred to the Lexington school after his sophomore year at LaRue County High School, celebrated with teammates and family members before meeting with reporters on the field.

“I knew I’d probably get some shots, to throw deep,” Boley said. “On Brady’s (final touchdown) run, we thought we could get more hats (blockers) on that side that they could handle, and it was really a great play by Brady.

“It feels amazing. We were the underdog. We felt like we had nothing to lose.”

Bowling Green will participate in LCA’s Week Three doubleheader, squaring off with Bryan Station at 5 p.m. CDT on September 2 in Lexington, before LCA tangles with Class 1A powerhouse Pikeville, where Doug Charles played his high school football.