BARNSTORMIN’ SPARTANS/Junior QB Bryce Button guides South Warren to resounding 38-14 victory over Henderson County


Brandon Smith is in his 10th season as South Warren High School’s head football coach, so he understands the Spartans’ aura, the expectations year in and year out.

One year removed from a gut-wrenching, 6-6 season, Smith lingered on the field with a handful of South Warren coaches and players, 20 minutes or so after the Spartans thumped visiting Henderson County High School, 38-14, on a sultry Friday night with the midnight hour approaching.

Smith was in no hurry to get anywhere, not after the Spartans responded to back-to-back Henderson County touchdowns in a span of two minutes, 33 seconds midway through the third quarter.

Because South Warren answered that threat with a vengeance, using the big-play capabilities of junior quarterback Bryce Button and a collection of talented receivers seldom seen in the high school ranks. Button found senior wide receiver Bailey Shoemaker for three touchdown passes, covering 69, 63 and 46 yards, respectively, to win going away.

South Warren improved to 2-0 heading into next week’s non-district game against Southwestern High School in Somerset. Henderson County dropped to 1-1 on the year.

“It’s definitely a more experienced team,” Smith said. “A lot of guys out there have played since their freshman or sophomore year … Everything was there, to get that train rolling, early, and to overwhelm them. We really just shot ourselves in the foot a few times until they kind of woke up and said, ‘Hey, we are in this game.'”

Maybe, but not for very long.

Henderson County’s do-it-all quarterback, Trajdon Davis, scored on a quarterback draw, a 6-yard touchdown run, with 4:27 left in the third quarter. It got a little restless, on the South Warren side of the stadium. So Bryce Button and the Spartans’ receivers did something about it.

On the next play from scrimmage, South’s DeShawn Bridges got behind the Colonels’ secondary near the right sideline. He hauled in Button’s deep pass, in stride, and scored on a 69-yard reception at the 4:17 mark of the third. Eli McIntosh’s PAT pushed the Spartans’ lead back into double digits, but Button and Co. were just getting started.

“When they scored,” Bridges said, “we wanted to prove a point. I said to myself, ‘We’ve got to make some plays.’ Last year, 6 and 6, that really isn’t South Warren.

“This team has a lot to prove.”

The Spartans’ offensive line usually provided Button excellent protection, and the 6-foot-3 junior QB has become adept at spreading the ball around the field, getting more teammates involved in the passing game.

On this night, however, it was Bailey Shoemaker’s time to shine.

Shoemaker, the Spartans’ 5-foot-11, 175-pound senior receiver, scored on the game’s first play from scrimmage. He took a hitch pass from Button to the right sideline, using a downfield block to coast to a 69-yard touchdown reception. After Bridges’ third-quarter TD, Shoemaker went back to work on the Spartans’ next possession.

Thirty seconds after Bridges’ score made it 24-14, Shoemaker beat the Colonels on a seam route to the middle of the field, scoring from 63 yards out. Shoemaker added a 46-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter, completing the trifecta of scores.

“It’s all coming together,” Shoemaker said. “I think we’re off to a good start … We’ve got a lot of guys involved in the passing game.”

Six days after opening the season with a 48-38 victory over North Hardin, in an afternoon game in Campbellsville, Kentucky, the Spartans weathered the unusually hot conditions. The game was pushed back to an 8 p.m. start because of the excessive heat.

Then Button and the South Warren offense went to work.

“I told the guys, ‘We’ve got to step on their throat when we get a chance,’ and take them out of the game,” Button said afterward. We had a lot of energy out there … We can set up a play designed to move the sticks, and we’ve got receivers who can take it the distance.

“That’s what happened tonight.”

Colton Veltkamp came up with several open-field tacklers and helped the Spartans maintain a steady pass rush on Henderson’s Trajdon Davis, who does most of his damage outside of the pocket.

Button served as Caden Veltkamp’s backup quarterback in 2021, his freshman season, while the Spartans dominated one postseason opponent after another on their way to the KHSAA Class 5A championship. Now it’s Veltkamp’s kid brother, Colton Veltkamp, who’s making it happen for the Spartans, both at tight end and outside linebacker.

“I thought we played outstanding defense in the first half,” South coach Brandon Smith said.

The third quarter was more of a mixed bag, of course, but one of the Colonels’ touchdowns was set up by a blocked punt that sailed out of bounds inside the South 15-yard line.

Veltkamp recorded a third-quarter sack in the fourth quarter that put the Colonels in an impossible fourth-down situation. Carson Weiss’ attempt at a 40-yard field goal never had a chance, and the Spartans were on their way to a resounding victory.

The soaring temperatures dropped, in a hurry, when a nearby thunderstorm pattern brought cooler winds and a hint of rainfall before the Spartans finished the task at hand.

South Warren will play four of its five next games on the road, before the Spartans resume hostilities with arch-rival Bowling Green High School, on October 13, at South.

“They don’t get any easier,” Smith said with a laugh. “We’ll just go back to work.”

Smith earned his 95th career victory at South Warren, against 20 defeats. The Spartans definitely seem to have their mojo back.