By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
For the past week, Madison Central’s coaching staff and players have prepared to take on a Henry Clay lineup that features one of the top backs in the state.
And that turned out to be a good strategy.
Elijah Bell was reportedly ejected late in the fourth quarter of the Blue Devils’ loss to Bryan Station (7-2) two weeks ago in the regular-season finale, but he will indeed be in uniform today for a Class 6A first-round playoff game against Central.
Kentucky High School Athletic Association officials confirmed on Thursday that Bell is not on this week’s disqualified list and is eligible to play.
Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. in Lexington.
The winner will take on either Tates Creek or Dunbar next week.
“He’s a great player, but they’ve got plenty of (great players),” Madison Central coach Bert Browne said of Bell. “It wasn’t like it was going to be easy (if he didn’t play).”
The Indians know the challenge they face.
They took on Henry Clay just more than a month ago in Richmond. Central gave up 508 yards of total offense and suffered a 41-21 loss.
Bell and senior back Davion Jackson did most of the damage on offense for the Blue Devils. Bell had 147 yards and a touchdown, while Jackson had 157 yards and three touchdowns.
On the season, Bell has 1,588 yards on 154 carries with 21 touchdowns. He’s averaging 176 yards a game.
“In my opinion he’s the best running back in the state,” Browne said of Bell. “I haven’t seen them all, but he is a bad man. And the thing about him is he is very unselfish. You watch him on film and when his teammates have the ball, he is blocking his butt off. He’s as quick a cat.”
Bell was assessed a personal foul penalty with about a minute to go in regulation against Bryan Station. The Blue Devils lost the game in overtime, 55-48, and Bell did not see action in the extra period.
Normally, an ejection carries an additional one-game suspension.
With or without Bell in the lineup, the Blue Devils have an impressive offense. They have averaged 36 points a game and been held to less than 34 points just twice — against Tates Creek and Boone County, both wins.
Henry Clay is also averaging more than 308 yards a game on the ground.
The Blue Devils had 362 yards rushing against Central in the first meeting.
Still, the Indians had their chances.
Henry Clay had just a 14-7 lead late in the second quarter before scoring twice in the final 3:21 of the half.
“I told our guys, ‘You watch this film and if we take care of business then we win this football game.’” Browne said. “So, we’ve got to do those things.”
The Indians were off last week, but snapped a seven-game losing streak two weeks ago with a 32-30 win over Clark County at home.
Ben Durham’s 27-yard field goal at the buzzer gave Central a much-need win and the No. 3 seed in the district.
That victory helped the Indians avoid a first-round playoff showdown with top-ranked Scott County.
“I think our kids have some confidence, but we’ve got to tackle better,” Browne said.
Sophomore running back Johan Williams had a career-best performance in the win over Clark County. He had 226 yards on 30 carries and scored four touchdowns.
Williams now has 1,039 yards on the season (5.9 yards a carry) and 11 touchdowns.
“He’s had a great year,” Browne said of Williams. “He’s gotten better and he’s only going to get better. Johan is just a special football player. He’s a special kid. He’s very intelligent. He’s got great vision.”