Archive for September, 2008

Football finals leaving Louisville

It looks even more likely now that the state football finals will move to Bowling Green in 2009.

That hasn’t been made official yet, but what is official is that Louisville — the home of every state title game since 1979 — won’t bid for the 2009 and 2010 championships. The Courier-Journal reported Sunday that Louisville won’t bid because the University of Louisville can’t guarantee that Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium would be available for the KHSAA’s desired dates.

The KHSAA is moving the finals back to the first week in December in 2009 — thank goodness — but doesn’t want to have to play some of them on a Thursday, which is what happened in 2006 because UofL hosted a nationally televised game on Saturday of the finals weekend.

Bowling Green is the only entity that has said it will bid at today’s KHSAA Board of Control meeting in Lexington, where those bids will be heard. Bowling Green, currently the home to state championships in girls basketball and boys and girls golf, wants to host the football finals in Western Kentucky University’s newly-renovated L.T. Smith Stadium, which has been expanded to seat about 23,000.

The six-game finals format requires that the games be played on an articifical surface. Besides UofL, the only other large stadiums in Kentucky with such fields are at WKU, Morehead State (which seats about 10,000) and Murray State (about 16,000).

UPDATE: Bowling Green made the only bid at Monday’s KHSAA Board of Control meeting, but the board delayed its decision until its next meeting Oct. 24 to allow the KHSAA staff to visit the stadium and meet with potential sponsors.

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A good guess gone bad

OK, so I had that one wrong.

I expended a great deal of hot air in conversations last week and a tiny little bit of the World Wide Web in this blog making what I thought was a pretty good case for why Lexington Catholic would beat Boyle County. Now it’s time to eat those words.

The flaw in my well-thought-out but misguided insight was that I hadn’t seen Boyle play yet. I didn’t know how much better they were — especially on defense — until I saw it for myself Friday night in Lexington, where Boyle beat the defending Class 4A champion Knights 14-11.

The Rebels were as tough against the run as many of Chuck Smith’s best defenses during the late ’90s and early ’00s — and the unit as a whole might well be faster than any of those teams. They gave no openings to a Lexington Catholic offense that has talent but lacks timing and experience.

The fact that Catholic will get better with experience means that the anticipated rematch in the third round of the postseason — if it occurs — will be just as much up for grabs as Friday’s game was. Boyle will have the edge of playing at home, which is the only tangible benefit it gets from this win.

But this win does at least one other thing: It proves that the Rebels can play with anyone in Class 4A, and that makes them a legitimate contender for the 4A championship. There are other formidable challengers besides Catholic — run-based Bell County leads the list — but Boyle deserves its place among them, and maybe even ahead of them.

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Are the Rebels ready?

There was a time when Lexington Catholic aspired to be where Boyle County was. (It came not long after it aspired to be where Garrard County was, then where Harrodsburg was … but that’s another story.)

The tables have turned, the Knights are on top and Boyle wants to knock them off on its way back to the ranks of Kentucky’s elite teams. The results of the Rebels’ first four games indicate that they’re up to the task, but Catholic has been tested by an even tougher schedule. Sure, the Knights are 2-2, but their only losses have been to St. Xavier, the top-ranked team in Kentucky, and Indianapolis Bishop Chatard, which won Indiana’s Class 3A last year and has done so in seven of the last 11 years.

Almost every measurement rates this game as nearly even, and it should be a good one, one of the very best on the local schedule this season. It has become stylish in the past two or three weeks — at least ever since Boyle County defeated Danville — to pick the Rebels to win their district showdown with Lexington Catholic.

But I am not ready, and I don’t believe Boyle is, either. The Rebels might be better prepared for a second meeting in the postseason if they get that chance, and that’s not to say they won’t be prepared tonight. But this seems like a lot to ask from them at this point in their development. I pick Catholic, 21-14.

* * *

Only one pregame link available this week:

A preview of Mercer County-Greeneville (Tenn.) from this roundup in the Greeneville Sun.

* * *

Now for the picks, where there’s a much better chance of adding to my loss total this week than in the last couple:

  • Casey County over Jackson County
  • Danville over Fort Knox
  • Taylor County over Garrard County
  • Mercer County over Greeneville (Tenn.)
  • Lexington Catholic over Boyle County
  • Southwestern over Lincoln County

Last week: 5-0; season 19-2 (.904).

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Mercer's mysterious numbers

Follow sports long enough and you’ll always find some numbers that just don’t make sense. Right now, the Mercer County football team has two of them. I’ll try to explain the second; the first can’t be explained:

7 — That’s where the Titans are ranked in the season’s first edition of the Durden Ratings, which are published in the Advocate each Wednesday.

It’s easy to find fault with any of the several power ratings that circulate around the state, but few numbers jumped off the page like the one that places Mercer among the 10 best teams in Kentucky. Not in its class, but in the entire state.

The Titans are one of two teams in the top 10 — Boyle County is ranked third behind only St. Xavier and John Hardin, and it’s just another four lines down to Mercer, which is listed ahead of powers like Male, Scott County, Lexington Catholic and Covington Catholic. Mercer, which is ranked third in Class 5A by Durden, is even five spots ahead of Madison Central, a team it was unable to score on in its season opener.

There’s no doubt the Titans are vastly better than they were last year, and we knew they would be. But it’s hard to believe they are that good, and those who produce other statewide rankings don’t think they are. Here’s where Mercer ranks in some other polls and power ratings this week:

  • Associated Press poll: No. 8 in 5A.
  • Bluegrasspreps.com rankings: No. 5 in 5A.
  • Dave Cantrall’s Rating the State: No. 8 in 5A, No. 24 overall.
  • Litkenhous Ratings: No. 6 in 5A, No. 19 overall.

3-0 — It’s four weeks into the season, and Mercer has already played — and won — all but one of its district games.

The Titans have all but clinched the top seed in Class 5A, District 7, and October is still a week away. Their only remaining district game is Oct. 24 at South Laurel, which is 0-1 in district play.
The primary goal of the regular season is to win your district games, whenever they might be, which means Mercer will essentially have five games to tune up for the playoffs, beginning with this week’s game at Greeneville (Tenn.).

Only three other teams across Kentucky — Conner, Cooper and Paintsville — have played three district games in the first four weeks, and those teams are in six-team districts. (Mercer’s district has five teams.) Meanwhile, 89 teams — most of them in four-team districts — have yet to play their first district game.

Some have wondered why the Titans’ schedule is so top-heavy with district games in the first half of the season. The answer lies within the KHSAA’s district scheduling grid for the 2007 and 2008 seasons, which divides district scheduling guidelines into three areas for the 11-week season: weeks in which district games should be given scheduling priority, weeks in which games should only be played if necessary and weeks in which there are no restrictions.

So even though most teams didn’t schedule district games in the latter category, which includes weeks 1 and 2, there was nothing wrong with doing so. Coaches across the state have spoken of scheduling problems created by the grid and the six-class system implemented last year, and it’s probably safe to say that’s what led Mercer and those other three teams to schedule a district game in week 1 or 2. Mercer’s district games this season fall into weeks 2, 3, 4 and 9. The last three of those weeks were priority weeks; week 2 is an optional week.

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Mercer’s mysterious numbers

Follow sports long enough and you’ll always find some numbers that just don’t make sense. Right now, the Mercer County football team has two of them. I’ll try to explain the second; the first can’t be explained:

7 — That’s where the Titans are ranked in the season’s first edition of the Durden Ratings, which are published in the Advocate each Wednesday.

It’s easy to find fault with any of the several power ratings that circulate around the state, but few numbers jumped off the page like the one that places Mercer among the 10 best teams in Kentucky. Not in its class, but in the entire state.

The Titans are one of two teams in the top 10 — Boyle County is ranked third behind only St. Xavier and John Hardin, and it’s just another four lines down to Mercer, which is listed ahead of powers like Male, Scott County, Lexington Catholic and Covington Catholic. Mercer, which is ranked third in Class 5A by Durden, is even five spots ahead of Madison Central, a team it was unable to score on in its season opener.

There’s no doubt the Titans are vastly better than they were last year, and we knew they would be. But it’s hard to believe they are that good, and those who produce other statewide rankings don’t think they are. Here’s where Mercer ranks in some other polls and power ratings this week:

  • Associated Press poll: No. 8 in 5A.
  • Bluegrasspreps.com rankings: No. 5 in 5A.
  • Dave Cantrall’s Rating the State: No. 8 in 5A, No. 24 overall.
  • Litkenhous Ratings: No. 6 in 5A, No. 19 overall.

3-0 — It’s four weeks into the season, and Mercer has already played — and won — all but one of its district games.

The Titans have all but clinched the top seed in Class 5A, District 7, and October is still a week away. Their only remaining district game is Oct. 24 at South Laurel, which is 0-1 in district play.
The primary goal of the regular season is to win your district games, whenever they might be, which means Mercer will essentially have five games to tune up for the playoffs, beginning with this week’s game at Greeneville (Tenn.).

Only three other teams across Kentucky — Conner, Cooper and Paintsville — have played three district games in the first four weeks, and those teams are in six-team districts. (Mercer’s district has five teams.) Meanwhile, 89 teams — most of them in four-team districts — have yet to play their first district game.

Some have wondered why the Titans’ schedule is so top-heavy with district games in the first half of the season. The answer lies within the KHSAA’s district scheduling grid for the 2007 and 2008 seasons, which divides district scheduling guidelines into three areas for the 11-week season: weeks in which district games should be given scheduling priority, weeks in which games should only be played if necessary and weeks in which there are no restrictions.

So even though most teams didn’t schedule district games in the latter category, which includes weeks 1 and 2, there was nothing wrong with doing so. Coaches across the state have spoken of scheduling problems created by the grid and the six-class system implemented last year, and it’s probably safe to say that’s what led Mercer and those other three teams to schedule a district game in week 1 or 2. Mercer’s district games this season fall into weeks 2, 3, 4 and 9. The last three of those weeks were priority weeks; week 2 is an optional week.

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Bouncing back

It will be interesting to see how both Boyle County and Danville bounce back tonight after their showdown last week, because each teams will have to recover from that big game in their own way.

Danville’s task is bigger after it took a 43-6 shellacking in the crosstown showdown, and it’s also more difficult because the Admirals face a really good Class 6A team in 3-0 George Rogers Clark. The Ads will have a hard time winning this one on the road, but I’ll be surprised if they don’t at least look sharper than in most of the Boyle game.

Boyle is in an interesting spot this week, right between last week’s big win and next week’s game with Lexington Catholic, which should decide the Class 4A, District 6 championship. For the Rebels, tonight’s game with Lafayette will be a test of focus. And even though Lafayette is also a 6A school, this game is winnable if that focus is there.

Just for kicks, I checked the records to see how both Boyle and Danville did in recent years in the game following a Boyle win in their rivalry:

  • 2005: Boyle beat Lafayette 35-20; Danville beat Somerset 42-26.
  • 2004: Boyle won at Nelson County 41-6; Danville beat Somerset 56-7.
  • 2003: Boyle beat Nelson County 32-13; Danville beat Somerset 63-3.
  • 2001: Boyle beat Harrodsburg 62-8; Danville beat Green County 21-7.
  • 2000: Boyle beat Harrodsburg 57-13; Danville beat Southwestern 32-0.
  • 1999: Boyle beat Harrodsburg 47-0; Danville lost to Southwestern 27-25.
  • 1997: Boyle beat Estill County 54-15; Danville beat Corbin 41-7; both were first-round playoff games.
  • 1996: Boyle beat Madison Southern 29-28 in a regional final after beating Danville in the second round of the playoffs.

* * *

The game to watch tonight might well be in Lancaster, where Garrard County faces the first of the two powers in Class 3A, District 5. The Golden Lions host Somerset this week and Taylor County next week, and a win in either game (or both) makes them one of the district powers as well.

Until these games are played, there’s no good read on Garrard following one game in which it was outclassed (Bell County) and two in which it outclassed its opponents (Bethlehem and Jackson County.) So it’s finally time to see what the Lions can do.

* * *

The only available link relative to tonight’s area games is:

* * *

Here are this week’s picks, following an undefeated if admittedly easy week:

  • Boyle County over Lafayette
  • Taylor County over Casey County
  • Somerset over Garrard County
  • George Rogers Clark over Danville
  • Mercer County over Southwestern

Last week: 4-0; season 14-2 (.875).

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Conferences create own cup competition

Louisville has the Ryder Cup, and Bowling Green got the Junior Ryder Cup (the United State team won big). Nothing quite so big is happening on the local links, but a number of local high school golfers will compete in a Ryder Cup-inspired competition Thursday in Danville.

The Central Kentucky Bluegrass Challenge pits 10 players each from the Central Kentucky and Kentucky Bluegrass conferences in a match-play format. The 10 singles matches will be played Thursday at Danville Country Club, all beginning with a 5 p.m. shotgun start.

Players from four local schools will compete. There are three from Mercer County, the only area school in the CKC, as well as three from Boyle County and one each from Danville and Garrard County, all of which are in the KBC. Team captains, which are coaches from some of the conferences’ teams, include Jay Anderson of Mercer and Alex Jarmon of Boyle.

The players were seeded according to their standings in each conference’s player of the year standings, so the No. 1s, No. 2s and so on from each conference will play each other. It will take 5 1/2 points for either side to win the trophy created for the event.

The pairings, in order beginning with the No. 1 seeds and listed as CKC player vs. KBC player:

  • Kyle Wilshire (Franklin County) vs. Jordan Cash (Rockcastle County)
  • Nick Patterson (Mercer County) vs. Coty Cantrell (Garrard County)
  • Colin Bussell (Anderson County) vs. Brian Clontz (Rockcastle County)
  • Dylan Schmitt (Scott County) vs. Dakota Jarmon (Boyle County)
  • Casey Mingua (Scott County) vs. Tanner Burks (Danville)
  • Ward Dedman (Mercer County) vs. Grant Blevins (Boyle County)
  • Nicholas Souder (Mercer County) vs. Nate Johnson (West Jessamine)
  • Zach Hayden (Spencer County) vs. Fred Allen Meyer (West Jessamine)
  • Righter Dundon (Franklin County) vs. J.T. Ross (Boyle County)
  • Dylan Hurst (Franklin County) vs. Brandon Young (Rockcastle County)
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Bowling Green gets in the game

In a move that was expected but wasn’t official until now, Bowling Green has thrown its civic hat in the ring as a potential host city for the state football finals.

The Daily News of Bowling Green reported Friday that the city was to deliver its bid to the KHSAA on Friday and would learn later this months whether its efforts are successful.

The guess here is that it will be. Based on its success in hosting the Girls Sweet Sixteen basketball tournament, you can bet that Bowling Green has put together a package that will look attractive when compared to Louisville, the only other bidder and the host to every state title game since 1979.

The renovated L.T. Smith Stadium, expanded and upgraded as part of Western Kentucky University’s ascension to Division I-A football, has the look of a first-class venue. Its new capacity of 23,000 seats will accommodate all but the very largest finals crowds, and those were crowds that turned out to see two Louisville teams play in Louisville.

The finals have a perfectly good venue in Louisville’s Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, but there have been a few bugs since the finals moved there in 2003, the worst of which has involved problems with getting game traffic into the parking lots in a timely fashion. And as the college football season moves deeper into December, conflicts with the University of Louisville schedule are starting to become an issue. (One such conflict would come into play next year, in fact.)

Look for the KHSAA to give Bowling Green a try for two years (2009 and 2010). After that there might be a future in alternating sites, or the finals might find a new permanent home just as the girls basketball tournament has.

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The case for Boyle

Long before Larry French returned to this area in 2004 as Lincoln County’s coach, my colleague Marty Warren was singing his praises. I never saw any of French’s Mercer County teams, and I saw only one of his games while he was at Meade County. But I heard plenty from Warren about the kind of coach French was and what he got out of his teams.

Four years later, I’m convinced French is one of the most underrated coaches in the state, and one of the principal reasons why I’m picking Boyle County in its game tonight with Danville.

French won’t be the only top-flight coach on the field at Rebel Stadium — Sam Harp will be on the other sideline, after all — but it’s starting to look as if he has rejuvenated the Rebels in a way not seen since the early days of Chuck Smith. And remember, the Boyle program was in far worse shape then than it was when French came from Lincoln last winter.

Boyle’s first two wins this season may have been against teams whose brand name is better than the product on the field (Warren Central and Henry Clay), but I’ve got to believe the Rebels are well on their way to a season that will take them out of that category as well.

There’s a lot to like about both Danville and Boyle so far this season, though there are also still some question marks for both squads. But I made up my mind before the season that the Rebels would have made enough progress by this point to win this game, and nothing that has happened in the first two weeks of the season has changed my mind.

My call is Boyle 28, Danville 20.

* * *

I promised I’d check the polls once more before the big game to take the temperature of local football fans, and here are the results as of about 2:15 p.m.:

On amnews.com:

  • Boyle County, 380 votes (69.2 percent)
  • Danville, 169 votes (30.8 percent)

On Bluegrasspreps.com:

  • Boyle County, 64 votes (61.5 percent)
  • Danville, 40 votes (38.5 percent)

* * *

Here’s a statistical tale of the tape for tonight’s game:

  • Points: Danville 70 (35), Boyle 80 (40)
  • Points allowed: Danville 38 (19), Boyle 20 (10)
  • Total offense: Danville 986 (493.0), Boyle 733 (366.5)
  • Rushing yards: Danville 372 (186.0), Boyle 472 (236.0)
  • Passing yards: Danville 614 (307.0), Boyle 281 (140.5)
  • Rushing leaders: Danville, Simon 40-245-3 TD; Boyle, MacShara 28-270-5 TD
  • Passing leaders: Danville, Grey 28-45-2-599-6 TD; Boyle, Mason 23-43-1-281-3 TD
  • Receiving leaders: Danville, Henderson 6-171-1 TD, Dunn 6-40-2 TD; Boyle, Aumiller 6-34-0 TD

* * *

Just for kicks, here are the scores from all 46 games in the rivalry, which Danville leads 32-13-1 (x-denotes playoff game):

  • 1965 — Boyle County 0, Danville 0, tie
  • 1966 — Boyle County 19, Danville 7
  • 1967 — Danville 44, Boyle County 0
  • 1968 — Danville 34, Boyle County 0
  • 1969 — Boyle County 8, Danville 6
  • 1970 — Danville 27, Boyle County 6
  • 1971 — Danville 28, Boyle County 7
  • 1972 — Danville 31, Boyle County 13
  • 1973 — Danville 47, Boyle County 6
  • 1974 — Danville 43, Boyle County 6
  • 1975 — Boyle County 15, Danville 7
  • 1976 — Danville 21, Boyle County 14
  • 1977 — Boyle County 14, Danville 7
  • 1978 — Danville 21, Boyle County 7
  • 1979 — Boyle County 28, Danville 22
  • 1980 — Danville 47, Boyle County 28
  • 1981 — Danville 21, Boyle County 12
  • 1982 — Danville 26, Boyle County 14
  • 1983 — Danville 3, Boyle County 0
  • 1984 — Danville 21, Boyle County 10
  • 1985 — Danville 42, Boyle County 0
  • 1986 — Danville 40, Boyle County 3
  • 1987 — Danville 63, Boyle County 14
  • 1988 — Danville 51, Boyle County 7
  • 1989 — Danville 51, Boyle County 6
  • 1990 — Danville 41, Boyle County 0
  • 1991 — Danville 48, Boyle County 6
  • 1992 — Danville 49, Boyle County 7
  • 1993 — Danville 35, Boyle County 7
  • 1994 — Danville 20, Boyle County 6
  • 1994 — x-Danville 35, Boyle County 0
  • 1995 — Danville 18, Boyle County 10
  • 1995 — x-Danville 10, Boyle County 7
  • 1996 — Danville 35, Boyle County 20
  • 1996 — x-Boyle County 12, Danville 0
  • 1997 — Boyle County 21, Danville 14
  • 1998 — Danville 60, Boyle County 7
  • 1999 — Boyle County 28, Danville 3
  • 2000 — Boyle County 47, Danville 0
  • 2001 — Boyle County 24, Danville 21
  • 2002 — Danville 20, Boyle County 10
  • 2003 — Boyle County 45, Danville 26
  • 2004 — Boyle County 37, Danville 30
  • 2005 — Boyle County 28, Danville 13
  • 2006 — Danville 35, Boyle County 33
  • 2007 — Danville 21, Boyle County 14

* * *

Only one out-of-town link for you today, because four of the six area teams are playing other area teams. So here’s:

* * *

Finally, the picks, following a second straight 5-1 week:

  • Boyle County over Danville
  • Mercer County over Lincoln County
  • Garrard County over Jackson County
  • Wayne County over Casey County

Last week: 5-1; season: 10-2 (.833).

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Garrard takes a toll on Bethlehem

Garrard County’s football victory over Bethlehem last week was apparently worse that it appeared, even at 45-6. The Kentucky Standard reports that Bethlehem has canceled its game this week against Corbin, which was supposed to be the Eagles’ home opener.

The newspaper says the team, which had 45 players last year, started this season with 26 but is down to 17 healthy bodies after losing to Garrard and Elizabethtown by a combined score of 100-18.

Athletic director Tom Brown, the former Boyle County principal, said in the story that the program is sound and is focusing on its upcoming district schedule.

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