When Jason Esters served as an assistant at Warren Central, the Dragons always used the same tactic when they played Barren County: design side-to-side rush plays to lure the Trojans into over-pursuing and then use whomever-the-rusher’s speed to cut back for long gains. On Friday night, Central employed the same game plan.
One-hundred and 51 yards and two scores from Cortez Barber, coupled with a pair of touchdowns courtesy of Demonte Smith, lifted Warren Central to a 39-6 victory over Barren at Trojan Field. Barber averaged better than 21 yards per carry, and the rushers helped Warren outgain Barren 395-50 in total net yards.
Esters felt his squad possessed a “pretty good” game plan coming into the matchup, but said the Dragons’ velocity rendered much of Barren’s practice preparation moot.
“They’ve got a lot of speed. We got ourselves into some pretty good situations, (but) we’d over-pursue and they’d cut it back,” he said. “I don’t know if the plays were designed that way, but it’s hard to coach speed, as far as defensively trying to stop it.
“You can’t pretend to have speed in practice.”
Warren Central’s legs may have worked wonders on Friday. Their hands, however, had a little trouble. The Dragons regurgitated the ball four times, leading to three fumble recoveries by Wes Kinslow and one from Gill Thomas. Tyler Hughes and Tyler Thurman also added interceptions to help Barren force six turnovers on the night.
“We didn’t capitalize, though,” Esters said. “When you cause turnovers you’ve got to capitalize. If you don’t, it’s all for naught.”
The first Central mistake arrived on the game’s first possession. Fresh from a 24-yard completion to Devann Green, quarterback Michael Bush dropped back, hurled the ball over the middle of the field and watched Thurman come down with it. The junior returned the interception five yards to place the Trojans at their own 49-yard line.
Barren’s ensuing drive fell into the “all for naught” category, but the team received a second-chance moments later when Tyler Furlong’s punt slipped through the hands and down the jersey of a Warren player, prompting Thomas to dive on the ball and set Barren up 34 yards from the mouth of the endzone.
Again, all for naught. The Trojans moved backward on the subsequent possession and booted the ball away on a fourth and 26.
Central had better luck this time. Barber opened the Dragons’ second possession with a cut-back, 28-yard run. Kenin Reed followed with a 23-notch effort that moved Central into Barren territory. Gains of 11, 10 and 11 followed before Smith set foot in the endzone on a three-yard touchdown run. The Trojans blocked the extra point attempt, forcing Warren to settle for a 6-0 lead with 4:53 to play in the first. That lead grew to 12 with 41 seconds to go in the opening frame when Smith added a one-yard score.
Another Barren punt sparked a third Warren touchdown less than two minutes into the second. Bush hit Tyreon Satterfeild on a 48-yard pass to increase the Central advantage to 18-0.
The Trojans seemed to reign in the Dragons as the quarter wore on. A nine-yard Thomas-to-Thurman pass handed Barren its inaugural first down on the next possession. Thomas found Jess Hunt four plays later for another chain-moving effort, but an incomplete pass, backwards rush and a sack derailed the drive and forced another punt. Warren responded by advancing to the Barren 19-yard line before Tyler Hughes made a leaping interception just inside the endzone to erase a possible score.
Barren was unable to move the ball, though, and again booted it back to Warren. Furlong sky-d his kick nearly to midfield, where it splashed into the grass. Several Trojans circled it but didn’t down it in an attempt to run out of the rest of the half.
The attempt didn’t work. As the ball finally rolled to rest, Central’s Satterfield scooped it up and sprinted nearly 50 yards to balloon the Dragon lead to 25-0 just as the half-ending horn sounded.
Runs of 23 and 63 yards from Barber stretched the advantage to 39 before the end of the third quarter.
Just minutes before the game’s final horn, Barren got its offense moving. On a second and one, Thomas well-exceeded first down yardage, running 40 yards up the Central sideline to land the Trojans at the Warren 23. A sack and incomplete pass caused the drive to momentarily sputter, but a 32-yard toss to Furlong and three-yard run from the same put Barren on the board with 2:44 to play. The score arrived much too late, though, as Warren went on to a 39-6 victory.
The loss represented the Trojans’ sixth in a row since opening the season with a 35-0 rout of Metcalfe County. Barren will take next Friday off before welcoming Russell County on Oct. 15. The game will serve as the Trojans’ senior night.
According to Esters, the team will utilize its open week to work on pass protection, run blocking and, in general, righting the proverbial ship.
“We’ll figure something out,” he said on Friday. “We’ll get things back on track.
“But man, we got caught up in a whirlwind tonight.”