Archive for August, 2007

Extra mustard, please

Football players and others who have been sweating in the August heat must be thrilled that this is the last day of the month. It may not be sweater weather just yet, but the coming of September surely means that cooler weather is on its way.

Athletes are probably open to just about any idea that can help them stay cool, so here’s one. While checking out The Greeneville (Tenn.) Sun to see if there were any stories about tonight’s Greeneville-Mercer game, I stumbled across a story that details one east Tennessee coach’s efforts to relieve his players’ muscle cramps by giving them mustard. Yep, regular yellow mustard.

Sports editor Wayne Phillips researched the idea and found that mustard can be used as a treatment for muscle cramps, though it isn’t meant to replace the usual course of drinking plenty of water on game day and getting in a good, long pregame stretch.

As a longtime Cincinnati Reds fan, I’ve heard many times of how the Reds kept their heads cool by wearing cabbage leaves that had been soaked in an ammonia-and-ice water solution under their caps, and I’m surprised things like that aren’t tried more often at the high school level. But the mustard cure is a new one on me.

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Now for some other football-related links:

  • The Kentucky Standard of Bardstown previews tonight’s Garrard County-Bethlehem game (but hasn’t gotten to Saturday’s Lincoln County-Bardstown game yet).
  • Two stories on Lloyd Memorial coach Mike Yeagle’s return to Beechwood tonight to coach against the school where he won eight state titles in 14 years, one from Ryan Ernst of The Cincinnati Enquirer, the other from Terry Boehmker of the Kentucky Post.
  • Nathan Hutchinson of the Richmond Register writes about the Roy Kidd Bowl, where the former Richmond Madison and Eastern Kentucky University coach will be honored when Madison Central and Madison Southern play for only the second time ever — and the first time since 1989.
  • In the interest of fairness, we follow yesterday’s link on Pulaski County coach Johnny Hines’ beef with Somerset’s Ray Correll Bowl with the response by Somerset athletic director Bob Tucker from The Commonwealth-Journal.

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The Garrard County players got off the field in a hurry after losing to Washington County in last week’s Death Valley Bowl, but they didn’t leave mad. The Golden Lions left before the trophy presentation under orders from athletic director Jim Freeman.

Freeman had seen the vivid flash of lightning that lit up the western sky just as the game ended at Lincoln County, and he told the coaches to get the players indoors as soon as possible.

“It might have looked like poor sportsmanship, but I just wanted to get our kids off the field,” Freeman said.

Freeman stayed behind to pick up the team’s participation trophy — I’m still not sure why losing teams get trophies at bowls — and the award given to running back Fred Hayes as the team’s most valuable player.

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Now for this week’s picks. I’m still holding the line with what I picked in the preseason, so this week it’s:

  • Bethlehem over Garrard County
  • Henry Clay over Boyle County
  • Danville over Southwestern
  • Russell County over Casey County
  • Mercer County over Greeneville (Tenn.)
  • Bardstown over Lincoln County (Sat.)

Last week’s record: 5-1.

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An unusually slow start

How unusual is it for so many local football teams to start the season with losses? I can’t tell you, because the Advocate’s game-by-game records don’t go back far enough to find the last time that only one area team won its opener. It hasn’t happened in at least 20 years, and who knows how long before that?

In the last 20 years, there were three occasions in which five local teams lost on opening night — the most recent was in 1999 — but there were more teams then, before Harrodsburg merged with Mercer County and before Kentucky School for the Deaf dropped football.

In the ’99 openers, Lincoln County beat Mercer in a head-to-head clash of area teams, Boyle County won at Pikeville and KSD beat North Carolina School for the Deaf. Casey County lost to Bethlehem, Danville lost to Franklin-Simpson, Garrard County lost to Corbin and Harrodsburg lost to Lexington Catholic.

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Lincoln County fans will have to wait an extra day to see if their team can turn things around after its loss to Bell County, because the Patriots’ game against Bardstown in Woodford County’s Governors Bowl is on Saturday. It was initially listed as a Friday game on the KHSAA’s master schedule, but it will be played at 5 p.m. Saturday (followed by a game between Tates Creek and Woodford).

Whenever we learn of a schedule change, we update the information on our high school football page at amnews.com, which is also where we’ll stockpile the stories on all six area teams throughout the season.

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Now for a couple of football links:

Most Mercer County fans don’t have much intelligence on Greeneville (Tenn.), the guest for the Titans’ home opener Friday. But the team has plenty of information on its Web site, which is way better than average. And from The Greeneville (Tenn.) Sun, here are details of Greeneville’s season-opening win.

It seems they can’t go more than a few weeks without some sort of controversy in Somerset. The latest one revolves around Pulaski County coach Johnny Hines, who told The Commonwealth-Journal of Somerset that his players were treated “like a red-headed stepchild” at Somerset’s Ray Correll Bowl. (Where, incidentally, Pulaski’s 62-49 win over Somerset ended well after 2 a.m. Saturday.)

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The Danville boys and girls soccer teams are heavy favorites once again in the 15th/16th Region All “A” Classic. Here are the schedules:

Boys (all games at Danville): Somerset vs. Danville, 6 p.m. Thursday; Corbin vs. Oneida Baptist, 8 p.m. Thursday; championship, 7 p.m. Saturday.

Girls: Danville at Somerset, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5. These are the only two girls teams entered, so it’s one game to advance.

The winners advance to the All “A” state tourney, which was moved up two weeks this year. It’ll be played Sept. 15-16 in Frankfort.

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Glad to meet you, too

It was just four short years ago, when the Mercer County baseball team was making one of its deep runs in the 12th Region Tournament, that Wayne Davis made sure we got to know each other a little better.

I took a photo of Davis, an assistant coach for Mercer, hugging pitcher T.J. Royalty, who had pitched a brilliant game in the semifinals to help the Scotties reach the regional finals. Unfortunately, I identified Davis in the caption as Norman Davis, a former Garrard County football assistant who had died a few months before that.

Worse yet, I didn’t realize I had made a mistake until I returned to the ballpark at Somerset the next night. I still didn’t know when I walked into the Mercer dugout to visit before the game, so I was more than a little puzzled when Davis immediately stuck his right hand out.

“Hi, Wayne Davis, glad to meet you,” he said.

Huh? What’s this guy talking about? I know perfectly well who he is.

Then the entire Mercer coaching staff broke out laughing as they pointed out my error and how much fun they were having with it at Davis’ expense and mine. Davis took his share of needling from his colleagues for years to come, and he made sure I did to. Every time I saw him from that day forward — and I mean every time — he came toward me with his hand out, with a smile on his face and with that same greeting: “Hi, Wayne Davis, glad to meet you.”

I saw a copy of that photo last week, a couple of days after Davis died suddenly. It was in a baseball scrapbook that was on display at the funeral home, and Mercer coaches Jeremy Shope and Spence Chitwood shared one more laugh with me about it as they told me how much fun they had had with it over the years.

It was a mistake worth making, because it allowed me to get to know a good man just a little bit better. We knew each other before the photo ran, but it’s safe to say we would never have become as well acquainted had it not been for my momentary brain cramp.

That would have been my loss, because Davis was a man worth knowing. I knew him as a well-respected and well-liked assistant baseball coach and as a fixture at other Mercer sporting events, usually right beside wife Mary Ann, the official scorer for Mercer baseball and boys basketball games.

And in the few minutes I spent at the funeral home, I got a closer look through the photos on display of a loving husband and father and through the wide range of people in attendance at a man who impacted so many in his community, whether it was through sports or through his work with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources or as Mercer County’s emergency management director.

He is a man I’m glad I got to know and wish I had gotten to know better, and one who will be sorely missed throughout Mercer County and beyond.

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The beauty of bowls

My first exposure to high school football bowls came in 1988, when the Corbin team I was covering played in Tates Creek’s Thoroughbred Bowl. I was instantly intrigued by the fact that I could see two quality games in one place, and I still am.

Early-season bowls are wonderful showcases for teams and tremendous opportunities for fans to see teams they wouldn’t normally see. And even though the once-renowned Thoroughbred Bowl has vanished from the scene, bowls are alive and well from one end of Kentucky to the other.

There will be 34 of these doubleheaders, tripleheaders and even quadrupleheaders this year, 25 this weekend and nine next weekend. Every local team is playing in at least one of them, and we’re fortunate to have two of them right here at home.

Lincoln County’s Death Valley Bowl and Danville’s Bob Allen Pigskin Classic are two of the better bowls around, and this year both of them will showcase two area teams. Garrard County and Lincoln will play Friday at Death Valley, and Mercer County joins Danville on Saturday at Admiral Stadium.

Take advantage of your chance to see all of these teams and the four visiting teams over these two days of good football.

* * *

Garrard’s game against Washington County at the Death Valley Bowl is the first meeting between these two teams since 1992. And any matchup of these teams is sure to revive a discussion of their 1991 Class A playoff game, which Washington won 14-13 after Garrard missed a last-second field-goal attempt that the Golden Lions and their fans vehemently disputed — and still do.

Tom Bystrek of The Springfield Sun revisited that controversial game in this story, which proves that time does not heal all wounds when it comes to season-ending losses.

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Now a few words about the heat index, something we’ve grown tired of hearing about over the last three weeks but which will be a factor in football games across the state this weekend.

The starting times for many of tonight’s games have already been pushed back in anticipation of high heat indices today. This includes the doubleheader at Lincoln, now scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

And remember that the KHSAA’s rules limiting activity during times of high heat indices apply to games as well as practices. The most important part of the rule says that if the heat index reaches 105 degrees, all activity stops. That means games can’t continue — and teams can’t even warm up — until the temperature and/or humidity drops.

So be prepared for possible delays, and be prepared to weather the heat in the stands, too. These hot conditions are not to be taken lightly, so take care of yourself while you take in some football.

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Amnews.com Web wizard Gary Moyers says that for the second straight year, game stories from Friday night’s football games will be available on our Web site on Saturdays. This was a popular feature on the site last year, and it fills a gap because the Advocate doesn’t publish on Saturdays. So you’ll once again have a chance to read about the big games either online on Saturdays or in our print edition on Sundays.

* * *

Each week during the coming season I’ll offer my picks for each game involving local teams. For the first couple of weeks, I’ll stick with the preseason picks that appeared in the Advocate on Wednesday. However, as teams’ circumstances change throughout the season, I may make some changes as well.

That said, here is this week’s forecast:

  • Bell County over Lincoln County
  • Washington County over Garrard County
  • Mercer County over Russell County (Sat.)
  • Henry County over Casey County (Sat.)
  • Danville over Madison Central (Sat.)
  • Bowling Green over Boyle County (Sat.)
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A new brand of football

It’s a whole new world in Kentucky high school football.
The move to six classes is the first major change in the football landscape since 1991, when the playoff system was last altered to include 32 teams from each class, and the first addition of state champions since 1975, when the KHSAA expanded from three classes to four.
Despite appearances, expanding to six classes does not meant that only professional boxing will crown more different champions than Kentucky football. It does mean, however, that:

  • 86 percent of the state’s 223 teams will make the playoffs. Of the 192 teams that will make the playoffs, 92 already know they’re in because they’ll play in a four-team district. And 23 of those teams will qualify without winning a single district game.
  • Teams will be crowned “state champions” by prevailing over as few as 33 teams (the number in Class 2A), and no more than 41 teams (the number in 1A, the largest class). That’s down from an average of 54 teams under the most recent system.

With those things said, it’s impossible to say that a 2007 championship is as impressive an achievement as a 2006 championship was. Yes, the teams will still hoist their big wooden trophies into the air come December, and the celebrations at each of those six schools will be just as sweet.
But we’ll know, at least for the first few years while the old system is still fresh in our minds. And no one will shake their heads more than the coaches in all of those other sports that have to outlast every other team in the state — large or small — to win a championship.
The argument in favor of this change that it allows more teams to make the playoffs doesn’t hold water, either, even though it’s true. If almost everyone makes the playoffs, what’s the big deal about getting in? Which is more impressive, making the playoffs in the NBA, which 16 of 30 teams currently do, or making the playoffs in MLB, where eight of 32 teams qualify?
If simply expanding playoff participation was truly the goal, that could have been accomplished by adding one more round to the postseason tournaments and eliminating one regular-season game. That exact system, with a nine-game season and an all-inclusive playoff system, is in place in Indiana, which awards five championships to its 317 teams.
But we’re going to have to live with this system for the foreseeable future and probably beyond, because there’s almost no chance now that there would ever be a move toward reducing the number of championships.
So with a new season at hand, here are some links and information that you’ll need to get ready for kickoff this weekend:

  • Your first click should be to The Advocate-Messenger’s high school preview. It appeared in print on Aug. 5, but if you missed it then or just want to re-read it, it’ll be there for you throughout the season. Contained within are team pages which feature the capsule information we ran on each of the six teams we cover — Boyle County, Casey County, Danville, Garrard County, Lincoln County and Mercer County — plus links to a page with each team’s schedule and driving directions to the games it will play outside our coverage area. Rosters for each of our six teams will be added soon as well.
  • Until everyone learns their favorite teams’ new district and class competition, the statewide alignment might be the most downloaded document on the KHSAA’s Web site. So get yours and print out copies for every room in the house.
  • If you’re really a schedule freak, you can download team-by-team schedules for all 223 football schools. But be warned, it’s a 47-page PDF. And you can also get the schedule of bowl games being played this weekend and next, which is only a three-page file.
  • The dates and times for the six state title games haven’t been widely publicized, so here they are: Friday, Dec. 7, 1A at 11:30 a.m., 3A at 3:30 p.m., 5A at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 8, 2A at 11:30 a.m., 4A at 3:30 p.m. and 6A at 7:30 p.m. The KHSAA says those times are still tentative.
  • Want to know if anyone you know is close to breaking a record? Then look at this link to the KHSAA’s records, where you’ll find that former Boyle County kicker Taylor Begley still holds the record for extra points in a season (97) or that Danville’s Sam Harp ranks eighth on the all-time coaching victories list with 277. (He’ll likely move up to sixth this season.) And there’s more useful and useless information you can peruse on the KHSAA’s football page.
  • Finally, let me recommend the statewide previews produced by Bluegrasspreps.com. You can find a few paragraphs on every team in the state, much of it produced by the site’s own members. The information varies from team to team, but it’s all useful and it’s the most comprehensive preview out there.

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Some changes have been made to the schedules of a few local teams since they were printed in the Advocate’s prep preview:

  • With little fanfare, Mercer County has added a 10th game to its schedule, and its second game against an opponent from Tennessee. The Titans will host Greeneville (Tenn.), a Class 4A school (5A is Tennessee’s largest public class) located in the East Tennessee hills between Morristown and Johnson City. The game will be played at 8 p.m. Aug. 31.
  • Mercer’s game against Russell County this Saturday in the Bob Allen Pigskin Classic was moved up 15 minutes to a 5:15 p.m. start.
  • Lincoln County originally listed incorrect game times for its Death Valley Bowl this Friday. Lincoln will play Bell County at 6:30 p.m., followed by the Washington County-Garrard County game at 9 p.m. Lincoln and Garrard are the only local teams scheduled to play Friday; all others play on Saturday.
  • And for reasons unknown, most of the games on Frankfort’s schedule were originally listed with 7 p.m. starting times.  The Panthers’ games Sept. 28 at Garrard County and Oct. 26 at Danville will both begin at 7:30.
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