High school notebook: New mercy rule for football draws mixed reaction

Herald-Leader Staff writerAugust 29, 2013 

Harlan County's Cole Wilson, center, escaped from Madison Central's Blake Gross during Saturday's 49-6 rout of the Indians.

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In 2001 the Kentucky High School Athletic Association adopted a mercy rule for football: a running clock any time the point differential is 45 or more in the second half.

In 2013, the KHSAA is showing even more mercy. This season the clock keeps ticking when the margin reaches 36 points.

KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett said a survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations showed that Kentucky's 45-point rule was "pretty dang high" compared to other states.

Georgia, for example, sets the margin for mercy at 30 points, and Florida at 35. "And those two states aren't too shabby in terms of high school football," Tackett said. "If they can do it ... "

Tackett discussed the issue last spring with theKHSAA's football advisory committee, made up of coaches and athletics directors.

"The bottom line is health and safety," said Tackett, who thinks the risk of injury is highest for both teams when the score gets lopsided.

Highlands Coach Dale Mueller, whose Bluebirds have probably been on the winning side of more mercy-rule games than anybody else, doesn't think such a rule is necessary. He thinks Friday nights are about playing and competing, and that it's no disgrace to lose big. Mueller cited Highlands' pre-season scrimmage with Trinity last year. "Trinity led us 51-0 at halftime, and it was a great experience for our guys," he said. "One thing about guys is we usually have an overinflated view of ourselves, and it's good sometimes to realize we're not the greatest in the world."

Mueller also likes to be able to get a lot of his guys into games, and that's harder to do with a running clock.

Madison Central Coach Bert Browne was on the losing end of a mercy-rule game last week. Harlan County took a 43-6 lead midway through the third quarter and won 49-6.

Browne said a 45-point margin might be too much for a mercy rule, but "36 might not be quite enough. If you get a touchdown, then recover an onside kick and score again, you're looking at a whole new ball game."

■ Madison Southern beat Rockcastle County 41-13 for its first victory over the Rockets in 19 tries. "It was a big win for everybody here because that's a program Southern had never beaten," Coach Jon Clark said. Junior running back Damien Harris ran 21 times for 210 yards and five TDs, and returned a kickoff for a score. Harris was most effective taking direct snaps in the shotgun. Most teams call the formation the "Wildcat," but Madison Southern calls it the "Wolverine" because Harris has committed to play college football at Michigan. Clark said Harris, who has 4.4 speed, sometimes gets to the line of scrimmage too quickly. That's why Clark has moved him back another 2 yards in the I-formation this season to give his blocking more time to develop. Overall, Clark said the Eagles are "way ahead" of where they were last year at this time. He's especially pleased with the defense, which returns nine of 11 starters. Madison Southern needs to improve its passing. It was 0-for-5 against Rockcastle County. "I'd never won a game before with zero completions," Clark said.

■ Perry County Central opened its new football stadium in style with a 21-0 victory over Clay County last week. It was the Commodores' first shutout since Justin Haddix took over as coach in 2010. Perry County's old field seated about 1,000 fans and was in a floodplain. The new facility, behind East Perry Elementary, seats 2,500 and has artificial turf. "Definitely an upgrade," Haddix said. The Commodores also surprised their fans by wearing new uniforms, with red jerseys and black and white camouflage pants. "The kids were real excited about it all," Haddix said. "It's about football being first class here. We've got a first-class basketball gym. Now we've got a first-class football field."

■ Elizabethtown's first game in its new stadium last Friday was memorable. Berneil Cecil returned the opening kickoff for a TD to spark a 34-10 win over Fort Knox and end the Panthers' 10-game losing streak. E-town played football at the site of its old high school — now T.K. Stone Middle School — for more than 50 years. Now it has a new on-campus facility with artificial turf, a fieldhouse and a scoreboard (paid for with private funds) that has an 11-foot high, 191/2-foot wide video board. It can show live action and replays — like Cecil's kickoff return for a TD. "The football and soccer teams are extremely excited to have a new home," E-town Principal Steve Smallwood said.

■ When Danville and Franklin-Simpson took the field for pre-game warm-ups in the Forcht Bank Bowl at Campbellsville University last Saturday, both teams had on royal blue jerseys. That wasn't going to work. Campbellsville University had a solution. It had a set of white game jerseys with maroon numbers that it let the Danville players wear. "No problem, no big deal," Campbellsville Coach Perry Thomas said. "I was glad we were able to help them out. It would've been an ugly game if both teams had to wear the same color jerseys." Danville beat Franklin-Simpson 25-7 to win Clay Clevenger's debut as the Admirals' coach.

■ Jonathan Breeding of Nelson County had an impressive first varsity start at quarterback. He completed 21 of 36 passes for 298 yards and two TDs, and he ran 25 times for 142 yards and three TDs in a 41-12 win over Woodford County.

■ Conner quarterback Drew Barker, who has committed to play at UK, makes his season debut when the Cougars play Boone County in the Skyline Crosstown Showdown at Thomas More College on Saturday at 1 p.m. Boone County had a rough opener last week. Covington Catholic routed the Rebels 48-0.

■ West Jessamine senior running back Devin Taylor carried 33 times for 345 yards and three TDs in a 21-20 loss to Scott.

■ Tidbit from the Bowling Green Daily News: In six games at Western Kentucky University's L.T. Smith Stadium, Nacarius Fant of Bowling Green has caught 22 passes for 483 yards and seven TDs. Fant, who has committed to play at WKU, had four catches for 149 yards and four TDs in a win over Lexington Catholic in the Rafferty's Bowl at WKU last Saturday.

■ John Hardin's 43rd consecutive regular-season victory — 35-6 over Seneca last week — featured a standout performance by Patrick Anderson. On defense, Anderson intercepted three passes and recovered a fumble that he forced. On offense, he threw two TD passes.

■ Brothers in arms: On Aug. 28, 2010, Lexington Catholic sophomore quarterback Kyle Bolin completed 13 of 31 passes for 182 yards and a TD in a loss to Covington Catholic. On Aug. 23, 2013, Lafayette sophomore quarterback Clay Bolin completed 13 of 31 passes for 186 yards and a TD in a loss to Scott County.

■ Clark County had a winning combination in quarterback Luke Sharrock and receiver Khamarkis Blanton in beating Rowan County 44-26 in the Recreation Bowl. Sharrock completed 12 of 16 passes for 213 yards and three TDs. All three were to Blanton, who had nine catches for 153 yards.

■ West Jessamine golfer Grace Rose fired a 69 to take medalist honors in the Joy of Golf at Wild Turkey Trace in Lawrenceburg, and followed it up with a 71 to take top honors in the Kentucky Invitational Tournament at Lakewood Country Club in Russell Springs. Rose, a senior, has committed to UK.

■ Former Woodford County golfer Mallory Blackwelder is engaged to Julien Trudeau. They met when they were both on The Golf Channel's Big Break Ireland in 2011. Blackwelder, daughter of former LPGA golfer Myra Blackwelder, plays on the Symetra Tour. Trudeau caddies for fellow Canadian Graham DeLaet on the PGA Tour. Mallory's dad, Worth, and brother Myles loop for Jodi Ewart Shadoff. Mallory will be on The Golf Channel again this fall on Big Break NFL which debuts on Oct. 8.

■ Former Henry Clay baseball star Walker Buehler, who had a solid freshman season pitching for Vanderbilt last spring, got a scare driving back to Nashville a couple weeks ago. He lost control of his Jeep Commander and it flipped four times on the Bluegrass Parkway. Buehler escaped injury. He was wearing a seat belt, and the air bag deployed. "I had about a three-minute freak-out session, but other than that I was OK," he said. Buehler was taken to a hospital by ambulance but he said he was checked out to be "perfectly normal." Buehler hopes to build on his freshman success at Vandy. He had a 4-3 record and 3.14 earned run average last season.

■ The National High School Athletic Coaches Association named Roscoe Denney of North Laurel the 2013 boys' assistant coach of the year at its banquet in June. Denney has coached for 41 years at 12 high schools and two colleges. He's been in the Sweet Sixteen 11 times, twice as head coach (Danville in 1990 and Breathitt County in 1996) and nine times as an assistant.

■ Don Sheridan, who spent 50 years at radio station WMSK in Morganfield and was the voice of Union County sports for much of that time, died last week from cancer. He was 80.

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

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