Notebook

Mike Fields' notebook: Coaches bedeviled by rout etiquette

Avoiding embarrassing foes clashes with letting players play

Herald-Leader Staff writerSeptember 23, 2011 

It was only halftime, but the proverbial fat lady was already singing full throat when Bowling Green led Owensboro 50-0, Highlands was up on Mason County 51-0, and Scott County had Tates Creek down 48-8 in high school football last Friday.

We've already had a rash of routs this season, lopsided laughers that have been shortened by mercy-rule, non-stop clocks in the second half.

"Blowouts aren't good for the team that wins or the team that loses," Scott County Coach Jim McKee said. "I don't like 'em at all."

Bowling Green Coach Kevin Wallace said coaching in a non-competitive game "is one of the most difficult things to deal with on both sidelines. You don't want to embarrass anybody, but by the same token, your own team has to be your first consideration in terms of conditioning and keeping up their level of play."

No coach has had more experience with blowouts the last couple of years than Joe Morris of Mayfield. His Cardinals were unbeaten state champs last year, and had a running clock in 11 of their 15 victories. (The non-stop clock rule kicks in when there's a 45-point margin in the second half.)

Morris, like most coaches, usually lets his starters play at least a half, but he said he's also guided "by what's on the scoreboard and what the clock's doing. And I always think about when I was on the other sideline, when it was my team getting beat like that. It's no fun."

Highlands Coach Dale Mueller said a lot of factors figure into how he handles a rout. "Nobody wants to embarrass anybody, but you also have to coach your own team. I know my guys have worked so hard and want to win a state championship, and they need to play to get in game shape and learn what we need to do."

Many of the Bluebirds' starters, including star quarterback Patrick Towles, have only played about six quarters in four victories. In last week's 71-8 win at Mason County, for example, Towles was pulled late in the first half after throwing for 255 yards and five touchdowns. He also saw limited action in easy wins against Dixie Heights and Western.

All the coaches agree that a big upside to having their starters sit out the second half is they don't get injured sipping Gatorade on the sidelines

Most coaches also like the running clock, which was adopted in 2001.

"I think it's a superb rule," Wallace said.

"I love it," Morris said.

McKee wishes it would kick in even quicker.

Mueller, however, is a dissenting voice. He doesn't like the running clock. "I've got 85 guys on the team, and by cutting the games short, you lose out on some of them playing football, which is what they signed up for."

Even if it means more lopsided scores?

To answer that, Mueller told a story about when his youngest son was playing on a basketball team made up of mostly fifth-graders, and it mistakenly scheduled a game against a team of mostly eighth-graders. The initial thought was to cancel the contest. But the younger kids wanted to play, but only if the team of older players would compete hard, and not treat the game as a joke.

"We wound up losing 134-6, and it was a great day," Mueller said. "My son scored two points, stole the ball once, and was fired up by the whole experience. It's still one of his favorite memories of playing sports."

■ Collins' senior linebacker Michael Brooks had 27 tackles (10 solos) in a loss to Eastern. He also had a 65-yard interception return for a TD, and caught a 35-yard TD pass. Brooks has 68 tackles (36 solos) in four games. "He has to be one of the top players in the state on defense," Coach Jerry Lucas said.

■ Nobody had a more memorable game last week than Danville's Tryston Ford. The 5-8, 155-pound senior generated 370 yards, including a 99-yard interception return for a TD, and a 62-yard fumble return for a TD with less than a minute left that gave the Admirals a 47-46 win over Southwestern.

■ Chasing Derek Homer: Johnson Central's J.J. Jude rushed for 170 yards in a win over Logan, W.Va., pushing his career total to 6,684 yards. That's 1,540 behind Homer's state career record. Central's Anthony Wales ran for 126 yards in a victory over Western. He has 6,445 career yards, 1,779 behind Homer's mark.

■ Bourbon County senior Devin Arnold had 91/2 tackles, including six quarterback sacks, in a 35-28 win over Harrison County, Bourbon's first win over the Thorobreds since 2003. With Harrison County at the Colonels' 15-yard line in the closing seconds, Arnold chased down the QB, stripped him of the ball and Bourbon County recovered with two seconds left. Besides playing defensive end, Arnold was moved from tight end to offensive tackle this year. "He took the change in stride and never complained," Coach Johnny Poynter said. "That's the kind of kid he is. That's why he's our team captain."

■ Trinity's 17-7 victory over Cincinnati St. Xavier boosted the Shamrocks' national rating. Rivals.com has them at No. 2 and USA Today has them at No. 6. Trinity plays host to Indianapolis Cathedral on Friday night.

■ Breathitt County, which lost to Somerset 29-26 in the 3A playoffs last year, got a little revenge by beating the Briar Jumpers 20-0 last week, ending their 23-game regular-season winning streak.

■ Four games into his 19th season as Southwestern coach, Dale Anderson called it quits this week.. "It was just time for a change," Anderson said Wednesday. "It was one of those things that came to a head when things didn't go the way they should have this season. It was just stale . . . something just wasn't right." Despite returning a big group of starters, Southwestern is 1-3, with losses to Boone County, Rowan County and Danville. Their victory was over Marion County. Anderson, 54, had an overall record of 115-90 at Southwestern, which opened in 1993 when Pulaski County High School was split. "I've got hundreds of great memories here. I'm proud of the program and where it's at." Andy Stephens, former Casey County coach who joined Southwestern's staff this year, will take over for Anderson.

■ Mason County star Josh Harris, who suffered a season-ending foot injury against Rowan County on Sept. 2, is on the mend. Harris had surgery last Thursday and a follow-up visit to the doctor two days ago. Coach David Buchanan said Harris will have the stitches removed next week and will start moving his ankle and toes for flexibility. Harris, a senior running back/defensive back, has committed to UK.

■ Bardstown's lustrous football tradition has taken on some rust the past few years. The Tigers haven't had a winning season since 2006. They may be back on track. Led by QB Jordan Brewer, Bardstown is 4-0 after routing Elizabethtown 67-20 last week.

■ Defending 1A champ Mayfield won its 20th consecutive game — the longest streak in the state — by beating cross-town rival, 5A Graves County, 21-7.

■ Covington Catholic's Gabe Gray ran for 279 yards and four TDs as the Colonels gave Beechwood its first loss.

■ Nicholas County's Caleb Pope ran for more than 300 yards and five TDs in the first half of a 56-0 win over Paris. He's the state's leading rusher with more than 1,300 yards in five games.

■ Seth McCoy's 24-yard field goal with five seconds left gave Whitley County a 33-32 win over Clay County.

■ Former Bowling Green standout Trent Steelman, a junior at Army, has started every game at quarterback since he arrived at West Point as a freshman. Steelman ran for three TDs in Army's win over Northwestern last week. In his career running the Cadets' option offense, Steelman has rushed for 1,730 yards and 23 TDs, and passed for 1,760 yards and 10 TDs.

■ Former Lone Oak star Corey Robinson, Mr. Football in 2007, was voted Sun Belt Conference offensive player of the week after completing 36 of 63 passes for 373 yards and three TDs for Troy State in a 38-28 loss to Arkansas. Robinson threw for 3,726 yards and 28 TDs as a red-shirt freshman last year.

■ Six weeks after he was hired as boys' basketball coach at Western Hills, Tom Crews has resigned, according to the Frankfort State Journal. Steve Wooldridge, a Wolverines' assistant, will take over for Crews. Wooldridge played for Western Hills in the early 1980s. Crews came to Western Hills from Male, where he coached six years.

■ Lexington Christian Academy senior golfer Chandler Fischer, who helped the Eagles win the state championship last fall, has committed to Ole Miss. Fischer finished in the top 20 individually in the state as a junior. He and his LCA teammates will tune up for the region tournament at Gibson Bay in Richmond on Monday by playing in the Henry Clay Invitational Tournament at Lakeside on Saturday. St. Xavier, rated No. 1 by the state's coaches, heads the field, which includes No. 3 West Jessamine. Among the top individuals are Cooper Musselman of St. X; Fred Allen Meyer and Travis Rose of West Jessamine; Tyler McDaniel of Clay County; Hager Collins of LCA; Preston French of Henry Clay; Matthew Mahle of Lexington Catholic, and Chandler Morgan of Tates Creek.

■ The girls' region golf tournament is Tuesday at Connemara in Nicholasville. West Jessamine is defending champ.

Mike Fields covers high school sports for the Herald-Leader. Reach him at (859) 231-3337 or (800) 950-6397, ext. 3337, or mfields@herald-leader.com.

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