Mr. Football hopefuls stated their case
A flashback to last week's football finals before basketball really gets bouncing:
■ The big-name players made a bunch of big-time plays in Bowling Green. Mr. Football candidates Antonio Andrews of Fort Campbell, Austin Collinsworth of Highlands, Domonique Hayden of Lexington Christian and Rees MacShara of Boyle County combined for 930 yards (rushing, receiving, passing) and nine touchdowns while leading their teams to state championships.
■ USA Today rated undefeated Highlands No. 4 in the nation in its final Super 25. Three other unbeaten teams were above the Bluebirds: No. 1 St Thomas Aquinas (Fla.), No. 2. Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) and No. 3. Oaks Christian (Calif.)
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■ Attendance for the six title games at L.T. Smith Stadium was 37,339. That's 2,606 more than the finals drew at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville last year. Having Western Kentucky-area teams Mayfield, Fort Campbell, Paducah Tilghman and Lone Oak in the mix boosted the crowds. But attendance for the 6A finals between St Xavier and Trinity was a disappointing 9,962. When the arch-rivals met in the title game two years ago at Papa John's, they drew 15,600 fans.
■ After three years of six-class football, it's obvious that the competition for state titles has been stretched too thin. We'll probably never back-track to four classes, but why not consider scaling back to five? It would improve the quality of the playoffs considerably. However, it appears nothing can or will be done to help the 6A public schools, who are relegated to playing second fiddle to St. Xavier and Trinity. The super-powers have combined to win the last nine titles, and 17 of the last 22. The gap between them and their public school challengers seems to be widening.
■ Boyle County's Rees MacShara became the sixth player in state history to rush for more than 3,000 yards in a season. He finished with 3,068 yards in leading the Rebels to their sixth state title. The other 3,000-yard rushers: Bath County's Frank Jones, 3,361 (1969); Boone County's Shaun Alexander, 3,166 (1994); Breathitt County's Channing Fugate, 3,052 (2008); Lincoln County's Jeremy Simpson; 3,044 (1993), and Fort Knox's Derek Homer, 3,003 (1996).
■ Fort Campbell's Antonio Andrews, who was 29-0 and won two state titles as the Falcons' starting QB, is Gatorade's player of the year in Kentucky.
■ LCA notched its first varsity football victory on Aug. 30, 2002, against Powell County. Only 103 games and seven years later, the Eagles beat Mayfield to win a state title. By comparison, Lexington Catholic got its first victory on Oct. 6, 1991, against Ironton (Ohio) St. Joe. It took the Knights 14 years and 178 more games to win a state title by beating Bowling Green.
■ LCA's Domonique Hayden, Lucas Witt and Branden Burdette played their way into the state record book. Hayden finished No. 1 in career TDs (138), rushing TDs (120) and points (837), and seventh in rushing yards (7,039). Witt wound up ninth in passing yards (9,312), and tied for eighth in TD passes (112). Burdette tied for sixth in TD catches (40) and 15th in receiving yards (2,789). Also, Drew Walls finished his career with 23 interceptions, which tied him for seventh place in the record book. Walls also has a state title, but that's two fewer than his dad. LCA Athletics Director Brad Walls played at Tates Creek on two baseball title teams (1978, '80) and a football title team (1978 at-large).
■ Larry French will be back as Boyle County coach next season. It will be his third year with the Rebels, and 37th overall as a head coach. And why not? He's retired from teaching and concentrates solely on coaching, which is a great deal for Boyle County. Jack Haskins of Lone Oak and Mark Brown of John Hardin, who led their teams to state runner-up finishes, also are retired as teachers.
■ Highlands three-peated as state champ for the second time in 10 years. Which Bluebirds were better in their three-year domination? The ones that won titles in 1998-2000, or 2007-09? It's a tough call. The first three-peaters featured QBs Jared Lorenzen and Gino Guidugli, and went 43-2 overall, including a 42-0 mark against Kentucky competition. They averaged more than 50 points a game. This latest flock of Birds, featuring the versatile Austin Collinsworth, went 44-1 over three years, including a 41-0 record against Kentucky opponents. They averaged 42 points.
■ Highlands Coach Dale Mueller tied former Beechwood coach Mike Yeagle's record of eight state titles.
■ Paducah Tilghman is believed to be the first state champ with six losses. The Blue Tornado were 3-6 in mid-October before winning their last six games, capped by a victory over Somerset in the 3A finals. Tilghman Coach Randy Wyatt was on the hot seat before the title run, even though he was a football and track star for the Tornado 20 years ago. Wyatt said his mom told him, "If they ran Jesus out of his own town, don't think they won't run you out of your own town." Instead, Wyatt and Tilghman were treated to a victory parade through downtown Paducah on Wednesday.
■ Lone Oak Coach Jack Haskins had his son, Billy Jack, by his side during the Purple Flash's disheartening double-overtime loss to Boyle County in the 4A finals. "He's my best supporter," Jack Haskins said. For Billy Jack, the loss probably prompted memories of the 1992 finals when he quarterbacked Paducah Tilghman against Highlands. Billy Jack threw for 178 yards that day to become the state's all-time leading passer with 6,741 yards. But he was intercepted three times and lost two fumbles as Highlands won 15-6.
■ Lafayette football grad Enrique Shaw will play for a national title on Saturday. Shaw starts at cornerback for Grand Valley State (Mich.), which faces Northwest Missouri State for the Division II championship. The game will be on ESPN2 at 1 p.m. Grand Valley State won the title in 2002, '03, '05 and '06. Northwest Missouri was runner-up the last four years. Shaw originally went to Michigan State but injured his knee and transferred to Grand Valley State.
■ Paul Laurence Dunbar grad Taylor Klein, a redshirt freshman at University of Alabama at Birmingham, made the Conference USA all-freshman team as a long snapper.
■ Marshall County football coach Scott Shelton resigned after the Marshals went 1-9 this season. He had a three-year record of 13-20.
■ Charles "Chuke" Williams, who coached Lawrence County football to state prominence in the 1990s, died from lung cancer last week. He was 58. Williams, a Paintsville native, employed a run-oriented offense that helped Lawrence County go 37-4 and twice reach the state semifinals in a three-year span starting in 1997. Williams also was head coach at Prestonsburg, Magoffin County, Sheldon Clark and Bourbon County.
■ Knott County Central senior guard Stuart Stamper's 19 points against Betsy Layne made him the school's all-time leading boys' scorer with 1,750 points.
■ Fairdale's Quintrell Morris had 34 points and 20 rebounds in a 72-70 win over Western. Morris, the son of former Fairdale star Maurice Morris and brother of UK football player Maurice Grinter, is averaging 26 points and 14 rebounds.
■ Boone County, considered the second best boys' basketball team in Northern Kentucky behind defending state champ Holmes, was upset by Newport Central Catholic 53-52 on Grant Pangallo's free throw. Pangallo had six threes and 23 points.
■ Chane Behanan, who transferred from Cincinnati Aiken to Bowling Green, made an impressive debut for the Purples. The 6-foot-7 junior had 23 points, 15 rebounds, eight steals and five blocked shots in a win over Elizabethtown. Curtis Washington, a 6-9 senior who signed with Southern Cal, had 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Panthers.
■ Washington County freshman Kenya Turner came off the bench to get 16 points and 29 rebounds in a win over Boyle County. Amanda Collins of Pike Central holds the state record for rebounds in a game. She had 36 against Feds Creek in 1997.
■ Bobby Ray Shepherd, who started on Carr Creek's 1956 Sweet Sixteen championship basketball team, died last week in Nederland, Texas. He was 71. The 6-foot-4 Shepherd was Carr Creek's big man. He played college basketball at UK before transferring to Lamar.
■ The KHSAA levied penalties against Rose Hill Christian because of rules violations by its boys' basketball program. Besides being fined $6,000, the Royals won't be allowed to take part in post-season play the next two years. This isn't the first time the KHSAA has banned a team from the playoffs. In 1988, after months of wrangling in the courts, University Heights Academy was not allowed to play in the district tournament because of alleged recruiting.
■ Dunbar junior Will Bishop has commited to play college golf at UK. This summer, Bishop won the Men's City title, and teamed with Champions Tour player David Eger to win the pro/junior portion of the Walmart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach.
■ Casey Messner, who played center field for Lexington Catholic's state championship baseball team last spring, has committed to play for Asbury. Messner originally went to Northern Kentucky University to play hockey, but decided to return to baseball at Asbury.