OWENSBORO – For the first time in eight years, Bowling Green won’t be playing for a region championship.
The Purples – who have made winning in the postseason a consistent theme – couldn’t capitalize when they needed to, failed to be efficient in the red zone and never led in a 28-21 loss to Owensboro on Friday in the second round of the Class 5A KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl at Rash Stadium.
“It was a night that we just created so much adversity for ourselves,” Bowling Green coach Mark Spader said following the loss. “They’re a great team – and on top of that with penalties and drops and missed assignments on defense. We stacked up so much adversity in front of us. Just too much to overcome.”
Friday’s defeat marked the first time Bowling Green (9-3) had failed to advance further than the second round since 2010 when it lost 14-10 at Christian County. Prior to this season, the Purples had appeared in seven consecutive regional finals.
Bowling Green trailed 7-0 after the opening quarter and faced a 14-7 deficit at halftime. Similar to the first half, Owensboro outscored the Purples 14-7 throughout the final 24 minutes and never allowed the visitors to get closer than seven points.
The Purples put together a couple of late drives that put themselves in the red zone – twice on the Red Devils’ one-yard line – but they failed to produce. Additionally, Bowling Green had a 31-yard field goal blocked in the third quarter.
“I always say that the measure of a championship-level team is if they can play defense in the red zone, and their kids were really getting after it,” Spader said of Owensboro’s defense. “They wanted to keep us out of the end zone and it was tough for us to score. They’re a pretty hard-nosed team.”
Bowling Green’s defense was tasked with trying to limit Owensboro’s dominant duo in quarterback Will Warren and running back Imonte Owsley – and the two standouts made that a very tough assignment.
Warren – a senior – threw four touchdown passes and recorded over 200 yards passing, while Owsley reeled in two TD receptions and finished with over 100 all-purpose yards to make for a dominant outing by Red Devils’ offensive unit.
“They did their stuff. They trusted what they do,” said Spader. “They’ve put together a season. As much as we tried to battle, they came out on top.”
With Owensboro’s victory, it advances to the Class 5A, Region 1 championship for a meeting with South Warren (12-0) next Friday at Spartan Stadium. Kickoff time is TBD.
Owensboro maintained most of the momentum and controlled the flow of the game in the opening half.
Although the Red Devils didn’t record their first touchdown until near the end of the first quarter, they forced Bowling Green to punt on each of its first three drives and made the Purples turn it over on downs on their first series of the second period.
Recording 66 yards on five plays, Owensboro capped its first scoring drive with a 35-yard pass from Warren to Owsley. Wide open along the left sideline, Owsley made the catch and sprinted untouched into the end zone to give the Red Devils a 7-0 lead after one.
“It’s a big rivalry, and we knew it was going to be tough coming in here and playing them,” Bowling Green senior Miles Smith said. “They have good athletes on that side of the ball – they’re pretty quick and fast – and we just couldn’t tackle in space and make the plays that we needed to make.
“That’s what kind of led to our downfall tonight.”
Bowling Green bounced back in the ensuing frame and evened the scoreboard at 7-all. After forcing Owensboro to fumble and punt on its first two drives of the second, the Purples covered 32 yards on four plays and scored on a seven-yard TD pass from Beau Buchanan to Jordan Dingle to give themselves some momentum.
That momentum quickly swung back over to the Red Devils’ sideline, as they put together another successful series near the end of the quarter. Using eight plays, Warren connected with Aireon Phillips for a 12-yard score to give Owensboro a 14-7 lead at the break.
“They understood what their game plan was tonight and executed it,” Smith said. “They were just the better team tonight.”
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Through 24 minutes of action, Warren had completed 15-of-21 passes for 170 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Warren – and Owensboro – continued to be the aggressors in the second half.
Outscoring Bowling Green 14-7, the Red Devils were able to build a 28-14 lead, never allowed the Purples to get closer than a touchdown and dealt the powerhouse a rare defeat.
“Nothing substitutes a victory, but I’m proud of the kids,” Spader said. “With their character, they kept trying and trying. I’m proud of them for that.”
Bowling Green – 0 7 7 7
Owensboro – 7 7 14 0
OHS – Warren 35 pass to Owsley (Hunt kick), 1:35
BGHS – Buchanan 7 pass to Dingle (Major kick), 4:42
OHS – Warren 12 pass to Phillips (Hunt kick), 1:57
OHS – Warren 41 pass to Owsley (Hunt kick), 3:52
BGHS – Smith 1 run (Major kick), 1:24
OHS – Warren 28 pass to Morris (Hunt kick), 0:55.0
BGHS – Buchanan 35 pass to Fofanah (Major kick), 2:34