By DOUG EADS, CJ Correspondent
Bowling Green —
The 2013 high school football season was a magical one indeed for Johnny Hines and the Pulaski County Maroons.
On the final day of the high school season, it was the 14-0 Maroons still left standing, awaiting to face mighty and seemingly invincible Bowling Green in the championship game of the Class 5 A playoffs at Western Kentucky University’s Houchens/LT Smith Stadium.
For the Purples meanwhile, the 2013 season was pretty much business as usual.
Bowling Green came into Sunday’s game riding a 43-game winning streak, and was looking to finish undefeated by winning a state championship for the third year in a row.
On paper, this one was the proverbial David verses Goliath scenario, and unfortunately for Hines and the Maroons, this time Goliath won.
Bowling Green’s Blake Pillow ran for a game-high 150 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Blue Tisdale ran for 86 yards and a pair of scores, while Necarius Fant hauled in 5 catches for 100 yards and added a TD.
And, despite the fact it was an upstart and young Pulaski County team racing out to an early, 14-0 lead in the opening half of play, the Purples reeled off 49 consecutive points, breaking open a 14-14 game at the half with 5 touchdowns after the intermission, handing PC its first loss of the season with a 49-14 victory.
“Honestly, we didn’t feel like there was any pressure on us, because nobody expected us to win this game,” stated coach Hines immediately after the contest.
“We felt like we were in a no-lose situation today,” added the Pulaski County head coach. “We just wanted to come out and do what we do, play hard, and just see how good we are.”
What Pulaski County had done all season was score, and score in bunches, and that didn’t change whatsoever on Sunday against a team that Rivals had ranked as the 12th best team in the United States.
In short, a young and determined Pulaski team came out in its first ever appearance in a state title game and simply punched Bowling Green in the mouth.
The Maroons took the opening drive of the contest and went on a 13-play drive that ate up 5:25 off the clock.
On fourth and goal from the Purples 1-yard line, senior running back Aaron Smith got stuffed at the goal line, forcing PC to turn the ball over on downs.
No problem for the Maroons.
After forcing a Bowling Green punt, the Maroons took their second possession of the game and again marched downfield.
The big play in that drive was a 45-yard pass from quarterback Riley Hall to wideout George Gregory.
That gave the Maroons another chance inside the Purples red zone, and this time PC would cash it in.
Hall hooked up with a wide open Jake Johnson in the back of the end zone for an 8-yard scoring toss, giving the heavy underdog a quick, 7-0 lead.
On PC’s next drive, Hall called his own number and raced into the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown with 11:35 remaining in the first half.
Just like that in front of a stunned crowd, it was Pulaski County asserting itself with a 14-0 lead over the Purples.
“We hung in there for a while, but we’ve got a long way to go to hang in there with team’s like this,” stated Hines, in talking about Bowling Green’s program and personnel.
Indeed, after spotting the Maroons that 14-0 lead, this one was all Bowling Green.
Fant hauled in a 25-yard TD pass from quarterback Devin Hayes to trim the PC lead in half at 14-7 with 8:55 remaining in the first half, and less than two minutes later, running back Blake Pillow raced into the end zone from 79 yards out, knotting this affair up at 14-14 by halftime.
“It’s always a dream of every coach and every player to get to the state championship game at the end of the season,” Hines remarked.
“That part was a dream come true for us,” continued Hines. “It was a great season — we won 14 games and that’s a tremendous accomplishment, but now it’s time to take it to that next level.”
With the score tied up at 14-14 at halftime, Pulaski County seemingly grabbed the momentum to start the third quarter.
The Maroons executed to perfection an onsides kick, giving PC the ball at the Bowling Green 49-yard line to begin the second half of play.
After one first down, a couple of penalties on the Maroons bogged down that drive, forcing the Maroons to punt the ball away to the Purples.
At that point, Kevin Wallace’s club grabbed this game by the throat.
Tisdale had touchdown runs of 9 yards and 1 yard respectively in the third period to give the Purples a 28-14 lead headed into the final stanza.
In that final frame, the Purples iced this one by scoring three touchdowns for the 49-14 victory in a game that was much, much more competitive than the final score indicated.
For coach Hines and his players, the 2013 season ended on the state of Kentucky’s grandest of stages — a year that saw the Maroons make their first ever trip to a state title game finishing with a 14-1 mark.
“We want to come back and win one of these,” stated Hines.
“This was a very special group of kids and we love them all,” continued the PC coach. “They came out and worked hard every day, they worked hard in the weight room and they worked hard at every practice, and you can’t help but love them.”
Hall finished the day by going 19-31 through the air for 163 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Hall also led PC with 74 yards on the ground on 12 carries and another score.
Aaron Smith — playing in the final game of an outstanding football career at Pulaski County — finished with 50 yards on the ground on 13 carries, while Caleb Cox had 51 yards on 13 attempts.
Gregory led PC with 79 yards receiving on 6 catches, while Johnson had 61 yards receiving on 8 receptions and a touchdown.
While the Maroons will definitely miss seniors Aaron Smith, Nate Roskind, Chase Willoughby, Will Mobley, Jacob Denney, Jake Hudson, Christian Coots, and Austin Cornett, the fact of the matter is that Pulaski County was a very young team with a ton of freshmen and sophomores that started and made significant contributions in 2013, and that doesn’t necessarily bode well for future Maroon opponents.
Hines says his team is going to work harder than ever in the off season with only one goal in mind — getting back to the carpet with another shot at a title in 2014.
“They’re going to grow up,” stated a very candid coach Hines. “They’re going to bet bigger, stronger, and faster, and we’re going to work very hard in the off season. Hopefully we can come back here next year.”
BG — 0 14 14 21 — 49
PC — 7 7 0 0 — 14
PC — Johnson 8 pass from Hall (Burgett kick)
PC — Hall 25 run (Burgett kick)
BG — Fant 25 pass from Hayes (Ramsey kick)
BG — Pillow 79 run (Ramsey kick)
BG — Tisdale 9 run (Ramsey kick)
BG — Tisdale 1 run (Ramsey kick)
BG — Pillow 41 run (Ramsey kick)
BG — Tisdale 33 pass from Hayes (Ramsey kick)
BG — Yates 2 run (Ramsey kick)
RUSHING — (BG) Pillow 6-150 2 TD, Tisdale 18-86 2 TD, Yates 2-18 TD. (PC) Hall 12-74 TD, Cox 13-51, Smith 13-30.
PASSING — (BG) Hayes 13-22 203 2 TD. (PC) 19-31 163 TD INT.
RECEIVING — (BG) Fant 5-100 TD, Tisdale 5-52 TD. (PC) Gregory 6-79, Johnson 8-61 TD, Smith 3-19.