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“The biggest moment of my life,” Dunbar defeats Bryan Station in Thriller

Jake Smith threw three long touchdown passes to Howard Jackson, Shyhiem Drew made a game-saving interception, and the Dunbar Bulldogs held on to defeat the Bryan Station Defenders 21-16, Dunbar’s first region championship since 2003.

Dunbar gained 326 total yards with nearly half of them coming on the scoring plays to Jackson.  All three of his catches went for touchdowns. Smith, a senior, was 7-of-13 for 167 yards, with 156 of them going to Jackson.  Kamarion Robinson added 89 yards on 25 carries.

Mikaleb Coffey’s 1-yard QB sneak capped a four-play touchdown drive on Bryan Station’s first possession of the game. Joseph Bond had two big runs to set up the score.

Dunbar quickly answered with a 54-yard Smith-to-Jackson score to knot the game at seven.

After that, neither offense was able to get much going until a key sequence midway through the second quarter.  That’s when Coffey broke a long run and appeared to be headed for the end zone, but was caught by Dunbar safety Frank Illunga on the 8-yard line. The game took a turn when the quarterback was injured on the ensuing third down play and did not return to the game. Dunbar’s defense came through and forced a short field goal attempt, which they blocked.

Illunga came up huge again with an interception near the Bryan Station end zone with one minute remaining in the second quarter. Instead of being content to go to halftime tied 7-7, Smith wound up and threw a deep pass toward Jackson. The ball was tipped by a defender, but Jackson was able to catch it the deflection and run the rest of the way for an improbable 74-yard touchdown with 10 seconds remaining in the half.

Terik Mulder, who took over at quarterback when Coffey went down, threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to AhTravion Jenkins midway through the third to tie the score.

Dunbar answered with a 10-play, 71-yard scoring drive capped by a 31-yard Smith-to-Jackson touchdown to make it 21-14 Bulldogs with 11:54 remaining in the game.


“We were pretty successful throwing the ball last game against them,” Smith said. “We did a pretty good job and we thought we could work some things in (tonight) out of some different formations, get them in some press formations. That’s what we did. Miraculously we got Howard the ball three separate times on gos. That is pretty rare in a game and we are happy that it worked out that way.”

On Bryan Station’s final drive, Mulder converted a fourth and long pass to Damin Green to keep the drive alive. A few plays later Bryan Station was down inside the 10-yard line and poised to score and tie the game at 21 or perhaps even go for two and the win.  That’s when Drew stepped in front of a pass and made the game sealing interception.  

“On film, they (Bryan Station) love their sideline,” Dunbar coach Wes Johnson said. “And on the short side of the field. So, we put our tallest, 6’5 outside linebacker over there and basically told him to drop hash. To drop to the flats and he was right there for the pick.”


Dunbar ran out the final two minutes, taking a safety with five seconds left for the final 21-16 margin.

The Dunbar defense came up big all night, stopping Bryan Station on fourth down on four separate occasions.  Junior Mason Hayslett made some important tackles in key moments for the Bulldogs.

“I was really proud of our guys on defense. (Bryan Station) has a lot of great athletes over there. They are very hard to defend. So it takes a full, complete effort for 48 minutes to get that done.”

Dunbar was also solid on special teams, coming up with the big blocked field goal while their own kicker, senior Bethel Green, was 3-for-3 on extra points. Green, who also plays on the girls’ soccer team, wants to someday kick at the next level.

“I plan that someday I’ll be kicking for UK, on the football team,” she told KSR after the game.  “Right now I’m at (a field goal range of) 45. We are going to build on the off-season and hopefully be in the 60s.”


For Bryan Station, Mulder finished 14-of-17 for 149 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Bond had 84 rushing yards on 13 carries and AhTraivon Jenkins had 6 catches for 71 yards and a score. Freshman sensation Jason Hocker led the team with seven tackles.

The Defenders’ fantastic season ends at 10-2, and Coffey’s first half injury leaves many wondering what might have been. My heart goes out to Coffey and the Bryan Station team, because that is a tough way to go out.

“They (the players) far exceeded our expectations,” Bryan Station coach Phillip Hawkins said about his first season coaching the team. “When I was hired in the winter, I knew that I was going to have to rebuild a team that had won six games in the last three years. We are sitting here talking now with a 10-win season. It didn’t end the way we wanted, because the expectation is high, but you have to realize that was great strides that these kids made. It got a lot of attention for our program.”

Station returns several keys players next year including Bond, Jenkins, Mulder, Hocker, Green, JT Haskins, and Carl Munford. They have a great chance to build on their best season since Eric Shelton’s senior season in 1999.

“Station football is headed in the right direction. It has been a positive environment here. Great support from the administration, the athletic directors, the staff. I think the kids know that the future is great because of that. We can only build on what happened this year. We have a lot of these kids coming back. We played with very few seniors. It could be a great future for us.”

Dunbar, whose senior class was 0-10 as freshmen, will travel to Louisville Male on Friday to play in the 6A semifinals. It will be Dunbar’s first semifinal since 2003.

“This is an exciting time,” Jackson told KSR after the game.  “I don’t even know what to say. I’ve never had a moment like this.  This is the biggest moment of my life.”

“We always wanted to be district champs and regional champs” Smith said. “However, far-fetched that was we believed it and we worked for it everyday and this is the end result. I couldn’t be happier about it.”


Article written by Troy Howell

Follow me on twitter @ teeroyhowell