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Size mattered on Thursday night in Shepherdsville.
The North Bullitt Eagles (6-3) and their monstrous front line were too much
for the Knights (5-4) in a 28-16 Knights loss at North Bullitt. The Eagles limited Marion County to only 11 offensive plays in the second half as they controlled the pace of the game. Only three of those plays were carries by a normally run heavy offense.
"I've never coached a team that ran the ball 18 times since I've been a head coach," Knights Head Coach Jeff Robbins said. "It's probably the first time I've coached a team that ran under 30 times."
The Knights ran 21 pass plays and 18 rushing plays while the Eagles had a field day.
Senior Zack Reynolds was as good as advertised, rushing for more than 250 yards behind an offensive line composed of behemoths.
The Knights couldn't get anything going offensively against the big North Bullitt defense. The Eagles ran 63 plays to the Knights paltry 38.
"Offensively, I think we got away from run too much," Robbins said. "We did run some stuff between the tackles that was successful and we got away from that."
North Bullitt started early with a goal line touchdown by junior Ryan Collins after converting on third and 21 on a screen pass in the first quarter.
The Knights would answer with a 22-yard field goal by John Southall with 3:33 left in the first quarter.
Reynolds would put North Bullitt up 14-3 with a five-yard run with 8:49 left in the half.
Junior Ryan Peterson connected with senior Kendall Taul for a 34-yard strike to make it 14-10 with 2:51 in the half.
Junior Carlos Litsey intercepted a North Bullitt pass with 2:37 in the half but the Knights couldn't turn it into points.
The Knights would strike first in the third quarter when senior Cody Brahm stripped Reynolds of the ball and senior Jordan Bell recovered it for a touchdown to put the Knights up 16-14 with 7:30 to go in the third.
Collins would score again and Jake Exton would convert a two-point conversion to put the Dragons up 22-16 with 1:53 to go in the third.
Peterson would throw an interception on the next drive to put the Dragons on the Marion County 45-yard line.
"We ran three offensive plays in the third quarter," Robbins said. "A run and two passes, one of which was an interception."
North Bullitt would capitalize on the mistake with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Collins to put the Dragons up 28-16 with 10:29 to go in the game.
Robbins would switch to Bell at quarterback on the next drive but to no avail. The Knights offense continued to sputter.
With the loss the Knights fall to third in the district. Had they won, they would have claimed the district title and home field advantage in the playoff for four weeks had they survived.
They risked falling to fourth but a LaRue County win over Bullitt East on Friday bumped the Knights up to the third seed.
They face Fairdale (7-2) on November 5.
After the game, Robbins had a message for his team.
"Our kids have to decide they want to play," Robbins said. "They've got to what they are coached to do. There have been a lot of instances on Thursday and through the year where the kids don't do what they're coached to do. When they decide to do that and play every Friday night, we can be a good football team."
He cited the Collins game as an instance where the players did exactly what they were coached to do.
Buster Hazelwood was held under 100 yards for only the fourth time this season, rushing for 69 yards on 12 carries. The Knights are 0-4 when he rushes for under 100 yards.
With the loss, the Knights are 12-9 against the Eagles since 1970. Robbins is now 2-3 against North Bullitt.
The Knights travel to Green County Friday to face the Dragons (6-3). Kick off is set for 8 p.m. EST.
Dragons are final regular season foe
A medieval rivalry is renewed Friday when the Knights travel to Green County to face the Dragons.
Green County (6-3) is the last regular season foe for the Knights before the playoffs start next Friday at Fairdale.
"We got to concentrate on ourselves," Knights Head Coach Jeff Robbins said. "This is a non-district game so it's not something we're looking at saying it's a make or break game. If we win we guarantee a winning record."
Robbins said this year's inexperience has created an up and down level of playing this season.
"We have to fix ourselves," he said. "From this point on, be it Green County or Fairdale or whoever, if we win it depends on which group of kids show up."
Robbins hopes to involve more running backs from this point on in the season.
"We've got several kids that can run the football. We have to get those kids involved," he said. "If we're going to make any noise in the playoffs we have to get more balance in what we're doing."
One thing the Knights don't have to prepare for this week is a team with size like that of North Bullitt.
"One good thing is that we will not see a team of North Bullitt's size until late in the playoffs," Robbins said. "Our half of the bracket is Breckinridge County, Collins and Fairdale. All have some size but not like North Bullitt. Even their skill kids were big."
Green County has a signature win this season against Lone Oak (8-1) but Robbins said this has been a season where scores can't be strongly considered in comparing two teams.
"This year has been weird in that you cannot look at any scores," Robbins said. "We got beat by Bullitt East then we beat LaRue County but LaRue beat Bullitt East."
Robbins said the Knights would try to keep a lid on junior quarterback Chavis McDermott.
"He's got a good arm and better legs," he said. "He can beat you running the football. Overall, they've got talent and they play hard."
Kick off is set for 8 p.m. Eastern time Friday in Green County.