High school notebook: Opening-night weather havoc generates discussion of shortening football season

Herald-Leader staff writerAugust 28, 2014 

Tates Creek's Jonathan Grossi hydrated near a cooling fan while playing against Paul Dunbar at Roy G. Walton Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 23.

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The midnight hour was approaching Saturday night at Tates Creek's Roy Walton Stadium as players, coaches, officials and fans huddled around the fieldhouse, seeking cover from the nasty weather.

Everybody was also waiting to find out if the football game between defending Class 6A champion Scott County and Lafayette was going to be completed. It had been postponed by storms Friday night, and bad weather struck again Saturday night. Scott County led 42-38 and had the ball with 3:24 left when play was suspended because of lightning.

To say there was confusion about what to do would be an understatement. One of the game officials said the options included awarding each team "half a win" and calling it a night.

I kid you not.

Lafayette very much wanted to wait out the storm and finish the game. Scott County wasn't thrilled about hanging around until 1 a.m. After much back-and-forth discussion, everybody agreed to pack it in and head home. Scott County won 42-38 for its 16th victory in a row.

The scene at Tates Creek wasn't an isolated mess. Storms or oppressive heat disrupted season openers across the state. "It was a freaky, crazy weekend," KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett said. At least eight games were canceled, and dozens of others were delayed or interrupted.

After Franklin-Simpson's opener against Green County was canceled, Tim Schlosser, a former Wildcats coach and now the school's principal, tweeted that the season shouldn't start until the Friday after Labor Day.

That's not going to happen. Kentucky high school football currently has a 16-week schedule: 11 weeks to play 10 regular-season games, followed by five weeks of playoffs. If you push the start of the season into September, the state finals would be the weekend before Christmas.

I've been saying for years the high school football season is too long, with too many teams making the playoffs. But it appears nothing is going to be done to shorten the season.

Tackett said the KHSAA and the football advisory committee worked together last year on a proposal that would have eliminated the bye week in the regular season, compressing it to 10 weeks. But the schools subsequently voted it down at the Delegate Assembly.

Tackett said early-season weather problems are nothing new. "I think we've had one lightning weekend for the last six or eight years," he said. "Although I don't recall it affecting as many games as it did this past weekend."

Tackett said he wants to avoid a "knee-jerk" reaction to such happenings.

For those of us who sat through Saturday night's Scott County-Lafayette game, we found it striking that game officials ignored lightning for much of the second half. Tackett said that shouldn't happen. "We don't ask officials to be weathermen. There's no such thing as 'heat lightning.' There's no middle ground on the issue. Lightning is lightning is lightning. Stop the game."

George Ewen was a knight in shining armor for Lexington Catholic's football program as an assistant coach for more than a decade. He died of a heart attack in March at age 66. "It was devastating," longtime assistant Kevin Bruggeman said. "George meant so much to the kids and everybody else here."

Mr. Ewen came up with a unique way to fire up the Knights before big games. He would paint a helmet in the team colors of the opponent, place the helmet on a stump, then shove a sword, that looked like one used by knights in medieval times, through the helmet and into the stump. "The first time I remember him doing it was before a playoff game against Boyle County my sophomore year," Lexington Catholic senior Cody Mitchell said. "It was pretty cool."

Bruggeman said the tradition will continue Friday night when Lexington Catholic plays host to Bowling Green in the Republic Bank Bluegrass Bowl.

Mr. Ewen did a little of everything for the Knights. He videotaped games, put together players' recruiting videos, did field maintenance, kept the fieldhouse in order, and even helped direct traffic on game nights. His most important job, though, was mentoring players.

Lexington Catholic honored Mr. Ewen by naming its annual alumni game after him. "Truly an amazing man," Bruggeman said. "It's taking six or seven guys to replace all that he did for us."

■ Caldwell County won a 78-57 shootout over Christian County on Friday night in Hopkinsville. "No weather problems, but there were defense problems," quipped Caldwell County Coach David Barnes. The Tigers trailed Christian County 50-48 early in the fourth quarter before closing strong. Caldwell County senior Elijah Sindelar, who has committed to Purdue, completed 27 of 42 passes for 433 yards and five TDs. He was intercepted twice. Sindelar now has 100 TD passes in his career, the 17th player in state history to reach that plateau. Jaylen Boyd rushed for 293 yards and four TDs, and caught a TD pass for the Tigers.

Larry French picked up his 278th career victory in his first game as coach at Southwestern. The Warriors, who went 1-9 last year, beat Somerset 38-7 in the Ray Correll Bowl. French left Boyle County, which he led to state titles in 2009 and '10, for Southwestern.

Zy'Aire Hughes, a junior who has a scholarship offer from the University of Kentucky, threw for 246 yards and three TDs, and ran for 40 yards, to lead McCracken County past Paducah Tilghman 49-21. Rasheed Jones caught two TD passes and had a 90-yard kickoff return for a score. It was the Blue Tornado's first-ever loss to a school in the county. Tilghman had a 28-0 record against Lone Oak, 2-0 against Heath and 1-0 against McCracken County before Saturday night's loss. Lone Oak, Heath and Reidland consolidated to form McCracken County.

Brent Holman rushed for 245 yards and three TDs to lead Bourbon County to its 24th consecutive regular-season victory, a 42-17 win over host Montgomery County in the 67th Recreation Bowl. Clay Bolin, a transfer from Lafayette, quarterbacked the Colonels.

■ Last year, Bryan Station quarterback Ora "Bo" Johnson completed seven of nine passes for 312 yards and five TDs in the second half of a 47-26 win over Murray in the Roy Kidd Bowl at Madison Central. Last week, Bryan Station quarterback Andre Davis completed all six of his passes for 204 yards and five TDs in the first half of a 56-22 win over Harlan County in the Roy Kidd Bowl.

■ Frankfort looked like a Class A power in beating 5A Lincoln County 34-14. Jalen Washington ran for 142 yards and two TDs, caught a TD pass and returned an interception 47 yards for a score.

■ On this Friday night in 1986: Tony Baute's 103-yard interception return for a TD and Sammy Leonard's 60-yard punt return for a score led Western Hills past Franklin County 14-6 ... Dean Turner ran back an interception 33 yards for a TD, and Chris Cruse had an 81-yard TD pass to Steve Evans as Madison Central beat Tates Creek 20-14 ... Ricky Roberts ran for 169 yards and two TDs to lead Anderson County by Frankfort 57-14.

■ Newport Central Catholic big man Drew McDonald has committed to play basketball at Northern Kentucky University. The 6-foot-7 McDonald, who averaged 14 points and 7.5 rebounds last season, also had offers from UNC-Asheville, Kentucky Wesleyan, St. Francis and Wright State. McDonald led NewCath to the All "A" title last season. McDonald might also play golf for NKU.

■ Henry Clay's volleyball team got a nice endorsement from PrepVolleyball.com, which rated the Blue Devils No. 67 nationally. The website said "Lexington volleyball is coming fast! Henry Clay, Tates Creek and Dunbar will all field competitive teams this year. We see Dale Grupe's Devils as the best of that group, however, with a loaded roster that includes five returning starters and a ton of incoming talent."

■ Lexington volleyball's improvement is reflected in the number of players earning Division I scholarships. Among this year's seniors, Kendall Beerman of Tates Creek has committed to Indiana; Ca'Layci Coffey of Henry Clay to Lipscomb, and Olivia Canales of Dunbar to Texas Christian. Leah Edmond, a Dunbar junior, recently became the first local player to commit to Kentucky.

■ Lafayette second baseman Blake Marshall has committed to play baseball at Shawnee State in Portsmouth, Ohio.

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

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