Conner Cooper took the snap, ran through an opening in the line and headed for the end zone at El Donaldson Stadium.

He stumbled, but still managed six more steps while falling forward before going down at the South Warren 3-yard line on a 22-yard run.

“I dropped back and the linebackers bailed on me. It was a designed play, so I knew when they bailed, I knew I was going to run,” Cooper said. “It was a wide-open hole.”

On the next play, JaVyan Collins rumbled in for a 3-yard touchdown to give Bowling Green a 20-13 lead over the Spartans with 44.2 seconds to play, and the Purples’ defense held off South Warren to advance past Friday’s KHSAA Class 5A second-round playoff game.

“All I knew was we had to win the game at all cost,” Collins said. “I give it all to my big boys up front and I just knew that I had to keep fighting and pushing and get it in, bottom line.”

Cooper’s run came on the sixth play of a drive following a 4-yard touchdown pass from Caden Veltkamp to Jantzen Dunn that tied the game 13-all with 2:14 to play. Veltkamp was making his first start at quarterback since getting injured in a 22-8 win at Central in Week 5.

South Warren (10-2) had 37 seconds left after the kickoff to try to go 89 yards down the field. The Spartans got to the Bowling Green 49 with 5.5 seconds remaining, before getting called for a false start. On the final play, Mason Willingham, who had taken over quarterback duties with Veltkamp out, had his final heave fall incomplete.

“We get another week of life. We made things messy,” Bowling Green coach Mark Spader said. “It might be one of the sloppier big games I’ve been around, but what I say about this team all the time is they will battle, battle, battle.”

Bowling Green (8-3), which claimed the top seed in Class 5A, District 2 with the help of a 14-3 win over the Spartans on Oct. 4, got off to a fast start with a 47-yard touchdown run from Javeius Bunton on the opening possession. Bunton had two second-half touchdowns in the regular-season meeting.

“I saw a real big hole, and I’m going to give that all to my O-line like always,” Bunton said. “I’ve got to get behind my pads to get good runs.”

He finished with 64 yards on 13 carries and Collins had 18 yards on four carries. Cooper added 33 yards on the ground and 27 through the air.

The Purples added a second touchdown in the second quarter on a 6-yard run from Cooper to go up 13-0. The play was set up by a low snap on a South Warren punt attempt that put Bowling Green at the Spartans’ 6-yard line.

The Spartans failed to pick up a first down in the first quarter in a 33-11 first-round win over Greenwood last week, and didn’t get one until midway through the second quarter Friday on a 4-yard run from Kobe Martin. The Spartans had 10 yards on five possessions up to that drive.

“It seemed like it was really kind of that way the whole year. It really kind of took us a half to get going offensively. It was kind of the same here and they’ve got a good defense too and that plays a role,” South Warren coach Brandon Smith said. “I feel like, for the last half of the season, if we’ve played on one half of the field it’s been hard for us to get out of it and that finally caught up to us.”

The Spartans kept marching down on the drive, with 55 yards on eight carries total from Martin, and scored on a direct snap to Luke Burton from a yard out, making it 13-6 – a score that the teams took into halftime, and later, the fourth quarter – after the extra point was blocked.

Martin finished with 133 yards on 30 carries. Veltkamp completed 11-of-24 passes for 70 yards and was picked off by Jacob Deglow in the first quarter.

South Warren graduates a 17-member senior class, but returns several key players, including sophomores in Veltkamp, Willingham and Martin, among others.

“I think these seniors scored one touchdown in middle school the whole time,” Smith said. “To go from not winning a game and I don’t think they won a game as freshmen, to come out their senior year and everyone doubted them and to be able to do what they did this season, I couldn’t be more proud of these guys and that’s difficult when you’ve got a bunch of young guys that you’ve got to show the way.”

Bowling Green advances to the third round, where it will travel to South Oldham. The Dragons beat North Bullitt 50-21 on Friday.

SWHS 0 6 0 7 – 13

BGHS 7 6 0 7 – 20

First Quarter

BG – Javeius Bunton 47 run (Dalton Major kick), 8:11

Second Quarter

BG – Conner Cooper 6 run (Kick missed), 10:25

SW – Luke Burton 1 run (Kick blocked), 2:06

Fourth Quarter

SW – Jantzen Dunn 4 pass from Caden Veltkamp (Eldar Dervisevic kick), 2:14

BG – JaVyan Collins 3 run (Major kick), 0:44{&end}

– Follow sports reporter Jared MacDonald on Twitter @JMacDonaldSport or visit bgdailynews.com.

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