BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Hours after watching his son win a conference championship, Bowling Green High School football coach Kevin Wallace got another title of his own Saturday night.
The Purples once again got big plays from their offense and a stingy performance from an improved defense to beat Pulaski County 21-7 in the Class 5-A state championship game in front of 7,755 fans at Houchens Industries/L.T. Smith Stadium.
Wallace was on the sideline Saturday afternoon as Western Kentucky University beat Southern Mississippi 45-28 in the Conference USA championship game. His son, Ryan, is the tight ends coach for the Hilltoppers.
“I’m blessed beyond belief,” Kevin Wallace said. “To get to stand on the sidelines and watch my oldest son win a championship in Conference USA and get to do this tonight, pinch me. It’s pretty good stuff.”
Bowling Green (14-1) – No. 6 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings – won its fourth state title in the past five years and its fifth overall.
Wallace said he didn’t see this one coming,
“When we came out of spring practice, I never thought this could happen,” he said. “This group has gotten as close to its potential as any group I’ve ever coached.”
No. 12 Pulaski County (13-2), last year’s 5-A state champion, took a 7-0 lead just 21 seconds into the game after George Gregory returned the opening kickoff 54 yards and two plays later scored on a 3-yard run.
But the Maroons were slowed the rest of the night, managing just 53 rushing yards on 25 attempts. Bowling Green sacked quarterback Riley Hall three times, with Dalan Cofer getting two of them.
“Their pass rush was really good,” Pulaski County coach John Hines said. “We had a hard time in pass protection and weren’t able to run the ball very effectively. Give Bowling Green a lot of credit. They’re awfully good up front.”
The Purples got a pair of big plays in the second quarter to take the lead. Clark Payne’s 66-yard touchdown pass to DeAngelo Wilson tied the score at 7 at the 7:58 mark. Trey Fant’s 77-yard punt return for a touchdown gave Bowling Green a 14-7 edge with 3:13 left in the first half.
Wallace said big plays were a hallmark of this team.
“We haven’t been a team that can grind it out and make first downs and drive the ball on people,” he said. “We’ve hit 50 home runs, but our batting average is about .194. … It’s been good enough to win it, and that’s all that really matters.”
Jacob Yates’ 1-yard touchdown run with 7:05 remaining sealed the Purples’ victory.
Wallace said the key to his team’s improvement since a 45-19 loss to St. Xavier in September was the defensive line.
“They improved more than any position group I’ve coached in my 20 years here,” said Wallace, whose team allowed just 9.6 points per game in five playoff contests. “They’ve come so far. And as a whole the defense was just outstanding.”
* At halftime, the Kentucky Football Coaches Association named Hall its Class 5-A Player of the Year and North Laurel’s Chris Larkey its 5-A Coach of the Year.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and email@example.com.