It took Pulaski County only 21 seconds to take a lead in the Class 5A Russell Athletic/KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl championship game on Saturday night.
Bowling Green shook it off and kept the Maroons away from the end zone the rest of the way en route to a 21-7 victory, the Purples’ fourth title win in five seasons.
Last season, Bowling Green fell 7-0 to Graves County in the region finals. It was determined not to have its season end with anything but a gold trophy — which Pulaski County claimed after defeating that same Graves County team in the finals — in hand.
“Last year we came up a little short but this year we knew we had a challenge,” Purples running back Jacob Yates said, “and that was to beat Pulaski. And we ended out on top.”
Yates led Bowling Green (14-1) with 72 rushing yards on 10 carries. His touchdown run on fourth-and-one with seven minutes to play in the final period solidified the Purples’ position . The opportunity was set up after he burned the Maroons on a 41-yard rush.
George Gregory returned the opening kickoff 49 yards for Pulaski (13-2). Bowling Green was called for a face mask penalty that put the Maroons on the Purples’ 20-yard line. It took Gregory two carries to find pay dirt and put Pulaski up 7-0 after 21 seconds of game time.
It took Bowling Green a while to answer but it finally did after a third forced punt from its defense. Clark Payne connected with Deangelo Wilson on a short pass, which Wilson followed up by reversing field a couple of times before bursting through a hole for a 66-yard TD run.
Two possessions later, Tre Fant returned a punt 77 yards for a score which gave the Purples a 14-7 halftime edge.
The big plays aided a defense that locked up Pulaski star Riley Hall for the second time in as many title games.
“We haven’t been a team that can grind it out and make first downs and drive the ball on people,” said Bowling Green Coach Kevin Wallace, whose son Ryan is a tight ends coach and graduate assistant on the WKU team that won the Conference USA Championship on the same field earlier Saturday.
Hall was 23-for-35 for 169 yards and got sacked three times. In the meeting two years ago, he went 19-for-31 for 162 yards, a TD and an interception.
“Their defensive linemen were very athletic and we really struggled with that,” Pulaski County Coach John Hines said. “ ... They got after (Hall) pretty good. We had a hard time protecting him.”
Payne finished 19-for-27 for 199 yards with an interception for the Purples, who won their fifth title . Wilson finished with 112 yards on seven catches.
Jake Johnson finished with 101 yards on 14 catches for Pulaski County.
Bowling Green 21,
Pulaski Co. 7
P—George Gregory 3 run (Derek Burgett kick); B—Deangelo Wilson 66 pass from Clark Payne (Lee Ramsey kick); B—Trey Fant 77 punt return (Ramsey kick); B—Jacob Yates 1 run (Ramsey kick).
Records: Bowling Green 14-1, Pulaski Co. 13-2.