Mike Fields' notebook: It's first-round football playoff time, so are you ready for some mismatches?

Herald-Leader Staff writerNovember 7, 2013 

Are you ready for some (farcical) football?!

That's what you'll get from most of the first-round playoff games across Kentucky this weekend.

Four winless teams qualified for the post-season: Boone County (0-10), Hopkins Centrtal (0-10), LaRue County (0-10) and Sheldon Clark (0-9).

Boone County plays at McCracken County in Class 6A. That's a 600-mile, 10-hour round trip for the Rebels. LaRue County visits undefeated Wayne County in a 3A mismatch.

A dozen teams that have just one victory are also in the playoffs, which probably adds up to a dozen more blowouts played in front of sparse crowds.

OK. That's my yearly rant that the playoff system needs to be overhauled.

■ Highlands, which is favored to win a seventh consecutive state title, tuned up for the playoffs with the worst defensive performance in its storied history. Highlands beat Warren Central 71-69, but the Dragons rolled up a state-record 918 yards (more than a half a mile!). Warren Central rushed for 716 yards, second most in state history. Dragons QB Chris Porter-Bunton threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 212 yards and four TDs. Highlands had 626 yards. Birds QB Beau Hoge's first four passes went for TDs. Zach Harris had 142 rushing yards and two scores, and 113 receiving yards and a TD. Highlands led 27-0 early and 55-28 at halftime. Birds Coach Dale Mueller's reaction after the shootout? "I think the offensive coaches left the game smiling, and the defensive coaches left the game looking to jump off a bridge," he said with a laugh. Mueller, ever the optimist, said it was good playoff preparation for his team because most of its victories this season have been blowouts. "This time we had to play a whole game, and that was great."

■ Bowling Green won its 39th consecutive game — the fourth-longest winning streak in state history — by beating Murfreesboro Blackman, Tenn., 26-25 on Nacarius Fant's 14-yard TD catch with 35 seconds left. Fant had nine catches for 91 yards and two TDs. He now ranks fifth in state history in receiving yards (3,883), sixth in receptions (205) and seventh in TD receptions (45). Bowling Green quarterback Devin Hayes needs 186 passing yards to overtake Trent Steelman (5,663 yards) for the school record.

■ Jackson County, which started playing football in 2006, beat Clinton County to improve its record to 6-4 and clinch its first winning season. The Generals' reward? A trip to perennial power Belfry for the first round of the 3A playoffs. "We'll probably finish 6-5 unless the bubonic plague hits Belfry and they have to forfeit," Coach Russ Shearer joked. "But we're enjoying this week. We've installed some silly stuff in practice. We're going to take a chartered bus and stopping to eat at Jenny Wiley (State Park in Prestonsburg). We're making it a fun experience for the kids." Jackson County is without junior QB/LB Austin Hundley, who's out with a broken leg. Junior RB Tyler Bailey, who had 264 yards against East Ridge, will carry the load against Belfry. Shearer is encouraged about the future. The Generals will return starters at 15 of 22 positions next season.

■ Bourbon County Coach John Hodge had a Friday to remember last week. The former Boyle County assistant was back on the Rebels' sideline to walk with his daughter Ali, a Boyle County cheerleader, in senior night ceremonies before the Rebels' 7 p.m. game against Whitley County. "As soon as that was over, I fist-bumped my old Boyle County guys and then took off." Hodge drove the 60 miles to Bourbon County, hopped out of his car (he left the keys in the ignition) and ran to the sidelines where the Colonels' game against Clark County had already started after an 8 p.m. kickoff. Bourbon County won 41-0, wrapping up a second consecutive unbeaten regular season. "It was really neat being there with my daughter. Having great assistants here enabled me to do that," Hodge said. "It was a good night."

■ Boyle County has gone 10-0 for the seventh time since 1999. The Rebels made quick work of Whitley County. They needed only 75 seconds to take a 22-0 lead. After Eric Brown returned the opening kickoff 88 yards for a TD, Whitley County fumbled its kickoff return. On the next snap, Josiah Robbins hit Joe Shewmaker with a 15-yard TD pass. Whitley County fumbled on the next kickoff, too, and Boyle County scored two plays later on a TD pass to Levi McKinney.

■ Johnson Central beat Belfry 54-28 to cap a 10-0 regular season. Jordan Young led the winners by rushing for 250 yards and five TDs.

■ Caldwell County junior QB Elijah Sindelar, who has an offer from UK, passed for 284 yards and three TDs, and ran for 79 yards and a score, as the unbeaten Tigers beat previously unbeaten Mayfield 48-41. Sindelar pushed his career passing totals to 8,203 yards and 86 TDs.

■ Gallatin County's Nate McCoy is having a big senior year as a receiver, defensive back and kick returner. He had six catches for 249 yards and three TDs in a win over Bishop Brossart last week. He also had a 50-yard punt return for a TD, and a 53-yard pick-six. McCoy leads the state with 12 interceptions (giving him 21 in his career). On the season he has 46 catches for 1,051 yards and 13 TDs, and has rushed for 250 yards and five TDs. He has four TDs on kickoff and punt returns. Coach Tim Browning said McCoy is a big reason Gallatin County has its best record (8-2) in its program's eight-year history. Union College, Mount St. Joseph and Hanover are among the schools showing interest in McCoy.

■ Raceland's Maverick Dixon had three interceptions in a 17-0 win over Ironton, Ohio.

■ Sayre junior Maddox Patterson will try to win her fourth Class A cross country state championship in five years at the Kentucky Horse Park on Saturday. Maddox won three titles in a row starting when she was a seventh-grader in 2009. She was third last year. Lexington Catholic freshman Michaela Reinhart is among the favorites in 2A. The state meet starts with the 1A boys at 9:30 and finishes up with the 3A girls at 2:15.

■ Wayne County is basking in the sports spotlight. The Cardinals football team, which had its first unbeaten regular season, is rated No. 1 by The Associated Press in Class 3A. The volleyball team is in the state tournament. The boys' cross country team is regional champion. And boys' basketball coach Rodney Woods is part of ESPN's latest 30 for 30 film, Bernie and Ernie, that aired this week. Woods played basketball at Tennessee with Bernard King and Ernie Grunfeld in the mid-1970s. Woods went to Knoxville in July to be interviewed by ESPN about UT's glory days with Bernie and Ernie. In the film, Woods says he considers King and Grunfeld the best combination he's seen in the SEC since he started following the league in 1959, when his first cousin Bobby Slusher played for UK. Woods told me he thought UK's Dan Issel and Mike Pratt were the second best combo. Woods, who played high school ball at Lone Jack (in Bell County), said King was the most intense player he's ever seen. "He'd annihilate you, just embarrass you, every day in practice," Woods said. "Whether you were the worst player on the team or the best player, he'd make you look bad. He had that built-in competitiveness."

■ Former Woodford County basketball star Jay Johnson, a sophomore at John A. Logan, a junior college in Carterville, Ill., has committed to Marshall. The 6-7, 230-pounder averaged 10.7 points and 8.3 rebounds last season. Woodford County Coach Scott Hundley said Johnson's "future is as bright as he wants it to be. His upside is tremendous." Johnson will give Marshall three Kentuckians on its roster. Tamron Manning of Scott County is a sophomore with the Thundering Herd. Johnson Central senior Shane Hall has committed to Marshall.

■ Woodford County junior Jane Watts had a successful fall sports season. She shot a 77 in the regional golf tournament to finish fifth, and lost in a playoff to get to the state tournament, Watts also made the all-11th Region soccer team after helping the Yellow Jackets to a district title.

■ The Kentucky Elite Preseason Shootout at Perry County Central on Nov. 16 will feature a scrimmage between Cordia and Thomas Nelson. Cordia, with a roster stocked with transfers under Rodrick Rhodes, is the talk of the 14th Region. Thomas Nelson is led by Ashland Blazer transfer Dikembe Dixson. Perry Central will play 22ft Academy at 5, followed by Cordia-Thomas Nelson. The nightcap has Huntington Prep taking on St. Louis Christian at 9.

■ The Capital City Rumble on Dec. 14 at the Frankfort Civic Center will have five boys' basketball games and one girls' game: Dunbar vs. Medina, Ohio, noon; Hargrave Military vs. Dayton Dunbar, 1:45; Scott County girls vs. East Carter, 3:30; Johnson Central vs. New Philadelphia, Ohio, 5:15; Woodford County vs. Brunswick, Ohio, 7; Henry Clay vs. Trinity, 8:45.

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

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