UK commitment Barker revels in return to field as Conner rolls

broberts@herald-leader.comAugust 31, 2013 

CRESTVIEW HILLS — Conner quarterback Drew Barker took the first snap of his senior season and made a move to hand it to the man in motion.

His teammate ran by — along with most of the Boone County defense — and Barker still had the football. He had been waiting for months to get back on the field, and there was no way the ball was leaving his hands on that first play.

Barker took it himself around the left side, worked back across the field to his right, shook off a defender on the sideline and scampered into the end zone for a 75-yard touchdown.

The season had begun, and the rout was on.

Barker accounted for six touchdowns in the first half and led Conner to a 40-7 victory over Boone County at Thomas More College on Saturday in a game that was called at halftime because of extreme heat.

It had been a busy off-season for Barker, who committed to the University of Kentucky in May and spent much of the summer participating in national camps and helping Coach Mark Stoops recruit more top talent to Lexington.

Barker spent the past two Friday nights reading about other high school football games. He was more than ready for his own opener.

"We had that bye week in Week 1, so we didn't play last week. And then we had a game on Saturday," Barker said. "So it sucked watching teams play two games before we even played our first. Our whole team was just itching to get out here, and we knew we could do some things offensively if we just executed. And we came out here and did that."

Conner's first seven plays resulted in five touchdowns, and Barker had a hand in all of them.

The second one was the most spectacular.

Barker again took the ball himself on a read-option play. This time he ran to the right, worked back across the middle of the field and delivered a magnificent stiff arm on a defender who caught up to him about 15 yards from the end zone.

The 80-yard run gave Conner a 13-0 lead.

"I guess I'm kind of known for that when I'm running the ball — the stiff arm," he said. "I thought they'd be coming low at me, but they came high. So that's what's going to happen if you try to come high at me.

"The camp stuff is fun, but it only goes to a certain extent with football. I know my parents and coaches don't like to hear me saying I like getting hit, but it's fun. I love the game and it was just awesome getting back out here."

Three of the next five plays were passing touchdowns — of 49, 65 and 63 yards — and Conner had a 33-0 lead with more than nine minutes still left in the half.

The Cougars' first five possessions lasted a total of one minute, 55 seconds.

Conner's sixth drive ended with a turnover on downs in Boone County territory. The seventh possession was just two plays, including Barker's 39-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Way.

Barker was 8-for-11 passing in the first half for 235 yards and four touchdowns. He ran four times for 162 yards and two scores.

The heat index on the field at halftime fluctuated between 100 and 107 degrees, and the game was ruled official after two quarters of play.

The game was called about six hours before the 7:15 p.m. EDT scheduled start of the UK-Western Kentucky game in Nashville.

Barker, who has become the face of Stoops' ballyhooed recruiting class of 2014, said he intends to be at every UK home game this season.

He had planned to watch the Western Kentucky game with family, but the early end to his own contest afforded the option of making it to Nashville in time for kickoff.

Barker's enthusiasm for the UK program has been credited with helping get other top recruits on board, and he had already done the math when asked if a trip to Nashville was possible.

"It takes about three and a half (hours) to get there," he said with a smile. "I don't know. We still might drive down there and try to get some tickets."

Conner 40, Boone Co. 7

Skyline Crosstown Shootout at Thomas More

(Game stopped at halftime because of heat)

Boone Co. 0 7 x x —7

Conner 26 14 x x—40

C—Drew Barker 75 run (Mason Buck kick); C—Barker 80 run (run failed); C—Brian Loney 49 pass from Barker (Buck kick); C—Michael Postel 65 pass from Barker (kick failed); C—Jesse McKeehan 63 pass from Barker (Buck kick); C—Andrew Way 39 pass from Barker (Buck kick); BC—Aaron Floyd 25 run (Mustafa Diaw kick).

Records—Conner 1-0, Boone Co. 0-2.

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com.

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