High school notebook: Repeat champs benefit from 'unbelievable' coaching, chemistry

Herald-Leader Staff writerDecember 6, 2012 

Bowling Green Cooper 5A Football

Bowling Green's Allen Gonsalves carried the state championship trophy after the Purples defeated Cooper 34-20 Saturday at Western Kentucky University's L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green.

JOE IMEL — AP

Bowling Green has played in the state football finals five of the last eight years and is celebrating back-to-back undefeated championship seasons. "In our little world, we're pretty proud of what we've done," Purples Coach Kevin Wallace said.

But Wallace marvels at the level of success enjoyed by Highlands and Trinity, which won their 22nd state titles in Bowling Green last weekend.

Highlands has won 11 titles in 16 years under Dale Mueller, and is the first team to win six in a row. Trinity has been big-school champ 10 of the last 12 years under Bob Beatty. "That's unbelievable," Wallace said. "Not just from a talent base, but also the chemistry that has to be involved every year, dealing with different personalities. It's hard to get that mix together year after year after year. To do what those folks have done ... wow!"

■ Mayfield Coach Joe Morris has solid reason to call Jonathan Jackson "the best player in the state." The 5-foot-11, 210-pound senior linebacker/running back started all 60 games of his high school career and helped the Cardinals to two Class A titles and two runners-up. Last Friday he ran for 278 yards and three touchdowns, caught a 56-yard TD pass and led the Mayfield defense in its 55-8 rout of Fairview. Jackson has drawn interest from Arkansas State and WKU, but big Division I schools think he's undersized as a linebacker and not fast enough as a running back. All Jackson can do is play. Consider his career numbers: 601 tackles (386 solo); 5,605 rushing yards; 697 receiving yards; 91 touchdowns.

■ Highlands Coach Dale Mueller wasn't in Bowling Green for the Bluebirds' 34-20 victory over Collins in the 4A finals. He was in Ithaca, N.Y., for the funeral of his mother-in-law. It was only the second game Mueller has missed since he took over at Highlands in 1994. He missed his Bluebirds' first win over archrival Covington Catholic in 1995 because he was in Ithaca, N.Y., for the funeral of his father-in-law. When he learned last week that he would miss the state finals, he first thought he would coach via cellphone from New York. But he changed his mind. "I realized I would be more of a nuisance on my cellphone," he said. So on Friday night, he listened to an Internet broadcast of the game as his top assistant, Brian Weinrich, ran the show in Bowling Green. Mueller got back to Fort Thomas on Sunday evening and met with his team in the locker room before a city-wide celebration in the school auditorium. Mueller has since watched the video of Highlands' win over Collins, and was delighted with what he saw. "I was really pleased with the way our guys played. They just got better all season long. They so much believed that trying hard pays off." Mueller has led Highlands to 11 titles, a state record for coaches.

■ Three of the six finals were so lopsided they had mercy-rule running clocks, so it was refreshing to see an old-fashioned defensive stand-off between Central and Belfry in 3A. Central won 12-6 in overtime. It was the lowest-scoring title game since St. Xavier beat Trinity 3-0 in 1997.

■ Much ado was made last year when Patrick Towles threw for 3,820 yards and 42 TDs and was intercepted only once while leading Highlands to a state title. So let's hear it for Jake Guhy, who passed for 2,872 yards and 34 TDs and was picked off just once while leading Mayfield to a state title this season. Guhy, a junior, connected on 173 of 259 passes (67 percent), a tad better than Towles last year when he completed 181 of 279 passes (65 percent).

■ Newport Central Catholic Coach Eddie Eviston admitted he goofed by letting his team go for it on fourth-and-1 from its own 15-yard line late in the third quarter of the 2A finals. Caldwell County stopped the Thoroughbreds and kicked a field goal to take a 23-21 lead. NewCath eventually won 30-26. "I'm an idiot there," Eviston said of the failed fourth-down gamble.

■ The most impressive underclassman in the finals was Caldwell County's Elijah Sindelar, a 6-foot-4 sophomore quarterback who completed 21 of 29 passes for 258 yards, two TDs and two picks. Sindelar has a strong, accurate arm. "He's a great athlete and a joy to coach," Coach David Barnes said.

■ The catchiest name in the finals: Belfry senior receiver Eli Huddle.

■ Three days after helping Bowling Green win the 5A football title, Nacarius Fant, Blue Tisdale, Blake Pillow and Chievy McCutchen played in the Purples' 66-58 basketball victory at Elizabethtown. Fant came off the bench to get 15 points in 20 minutes. Tisdale, Pillow and McCutchen combined for 13 points in limited action.

■ Trinity receiver James Quick capped his career in style with a pair of 35-yard TD catches (in a 12-second span) in the Shamrocks' 61-7 rout of Pleasure Ridge Park in the 6A championship. Quick, who missed most of the previous two games with rib injuries, wasn't expected to play in the finals. He helped Trinity to three state titles and a runner-up finish in his four years. In four championship games he totaled 20 receptions for 298 yards and five TDs, rushed seven times for 192 yards and a TD, and had 59 yards in kick returns. Quick set a state record with 280 career catches. He ranked third in receiving yards with 4,437 and TD receptions with 57.

■ Early predictions: Belfry and Central will meet in the state finals for the fourth year in a row next December. Bowling Green and Highlands will extend their championship streaks. Trinity or St. Xavier will take the 6A title. You don't need to be Nostradamus to foresee Kentucky high school football.

■ Bryan Station Coach Frank Parks will challenge his team with an imposing early schedule in 2013. The Defenders will open against two-time defending champ Bowling Green in Lexington Catholic's Bluegrass Bowl, travel to six-time defending champ Highlands the second week of the season, then follow that with a date against perennial power Lexington Catholic. "Those games will be a measuring stick for us," Parks said. "Playing programs like that let you know what you've got to do to reach that championship level."

■ The Best of the Bluegrass all-star football game is Sunday at 2 p.m. at St. Xavier. Franklin County star receiver Ryan Timmons headlines the team of state stars who will go against stars from Louisville. The state stars also include Franklin County quarterback Logan Woodside, Tates Creek defensive back Dennis Oxendine, Lafayette linebacker Justin Carr and Bryan Station receiver Kenyon Hipps.

■ Kyle Skaggs became Russell's all-time leading scorer with a 32-point performance in a win over Morgan County. Skaggs had 1,934 career points going into Thursday night's game against Fleming County. Jonathan VanHoose (Class of 2007) had the old record of 1,907 points. "Kyle has a very high basketball IQ," Coach Merle Kidwell said. "He can score in so many ways, from the three, to driving to the basket, and has a great ability to draw fouls. He's a great teammate and very unselfish." Skaggs, a 6-2 senior, got a 31 on the ACT and is a Governor's Scholar. His father, Steve Skaggs, led Greenup County to the 1974 state tournament and still ranks among the top 10 scorers at Ohio University with 1,741 points.

■ Former UK basketball star Sam Bowie had highlight moments as a dad last week. Daughter Gabby had a triple-double (25 points, 20 rebounds, 12 blocked shots) to lead Sayre over St. Patrick on Wednesday night. Son Marcus hit the game-winning shot for Sayre's seventh-grade team against Nicholas County on Thursday night.

■ Bourbon County hosts the annual Kentucky Bank Shootout this weekend. On Friday, Bourbon County's girls play Clark County at 6 p.m., followed by Bourbon County's boys going against Lexington Christian. On Saturday, there are five boys' games: Frankfort vs. Bath County, 1:15 p.m.; Holmes vs. Lincoln County, 3; Bryan Station vs. Henderson County, 4:45; Bourbon County vs. Augusta, 6:30; Henry Clay vs. West Jessamine, 8:15.

■ When Paris hosts Sayre in boys' basketball on Friday, the Greyhounds will either earn their 100th victory or suffer their 100th defeat in Redwine Gym where they've played since the early 1990s and hold a 99-99 record.

Louis Meadows, a fan and booster of girls' high school basketball in Kentucky, died this week after a long battle with cancer. Mr. Meadows started a girls' basketball network more than a decade ago, sending weekly emails to coaches, players, fans and media. A retired teacher, he was a fixture at the biggest tournaments across the state. Mr. Meadows always closed his emails with the same line: "Until I am back in the saddle again, may all your trails be happy and all your water be cool."

Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Email: mfields@herald-leader.Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com

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