No team went under the lights with heavier hearts than Hopkinsville last Friday.
Jay'Von Quarles, a 17-year-old senior on the Tigers football team, died from blunt-force trauma after a football chute he was moving struck his head during practice on Aug. 13.
The team canceled its scrimmage with Owensboro, scheduled for the next day. Coach Marc Clark said the Tigers' practice last Monday — their first football activity after Quarles' death — was their best of the season.
"Kids were flying around and being excited," Clark said, but they followed it up with a lackluster one Tuesday after fielding questions all day from classmates during the first day of classes.
"They were trying, but you could see that mentally they were just zapped," Clark said.
So for the first time that he could remember in his career, Clark canceled practice. The Tigers had Wednesday off, then came back Thursday to game-plan for their season opener on the road against Graves County.
And what an opener it was. Wearing dri-fit tees adorned with "Play for Jay" and his number 37 underneath their uniforms — a tribute that will continue all season — the Tigers clobbered the Eagles, 48-21.
Jay'Von's brother Dee, a junior who assumed No. 37 to honor his sibling, was named an honorary captain ahead of the game and received the final two snaps as the Tigers lined up in victory formation. It was an uplifting moment for a community and school facing such unfortunate circumstances.
"I don't know if focus is really a relative term," Clark said in describing his squad's attitude heading into their first game. "There's no re-focusing. You just try to do the best you can."
Jalen Johnson, a sophomore who was the starting point guard on Hopkinsville's Sweet Sixteen basketball team last March, debuted at quarterback for the Tigers and did not disappoint. He set school marks for completions (25) and passing yards (390) while tossing four touchdowns. Three different receivers went for more than 100 yards — Dallas Green (116), Rakeem Chambers (115) and Torrence Gilbert (105).
"When you think about what our kids were able to accomplish in two and a half days of practice and no scrimmage and all that, it's pretty remarkable for them," Clark said. "There's a lot of character in that group."
Hopkinsville will look to carry its positive start into its home opener against West Creek (Tenn.), the second game in the Toyota of Hopkinsville Jerry Claiborne Bowl on Saturday. It will be preceded by Bowling Green vs. Christian County, both of whom won their season openers.
"I promise a touchdown"
Russell Floyd, an assistant coach at Western Hills, said the plan going into the season was to use freshman Wan'Dale Robinson at wide receiver. But Robinson wagered on himself heading into his team's scrimmage against Lexington Christian.
"He said 'let me run the ball and I promise a touchdown," Floyd said in an email to the Herald-Leader.
Robinson took it to the house for a 68-yard score on his only carry.
"So we decided to move him to halfback and give him the ball more," Floyd said.
Floyd called Robinson a "very smart runner" who doesn't have to slow down to change directions. He stood out in the Wolverines' 50-18 win over Washington County, going for three touchdowns on as many carries and grabbing an interception on defense.
Classification a no-go
The KHSAA ruled against adding classifications for baseball and other team sports in its first meeting of the school year Monday.
After hearing a proposal by Lawrence County Coach Travis Feltner, who in April said having to win four games in six days (as one has to do in the state baseball tournament) "ruined things for smaller schools," Commissioner Julian Tackett said a class system for other team sports "was not in the best interest of the student-athletes of our state or the member schools."
At its next meeting on Oct. 20, the board will discuss possible alternatives to the current postseason format and dates for the state tournament.
■ Ashland Holy Family Collegiate was granted provisional KHSAA membership Monday. The school will be eligible for the postseason beginning in 2017-2018.
Can't get out to see Lexington Catholic this year? PrepSpin and LexCath have teamed up to form KnightVision, a digital network devoted to the broadcasting of LexCath athletics.
Several past events are already available. The first official broadcast using the KnightVision branding will be Friday's football game versus Ryle in the Bluegrass Bowl.
PrepSpin said the plan is to involve students. They will get to co-produce games and work cameras.
Fans can find broadcasts at gocatholic.net or the KnightVision YouTube page at http://tinyurl.com/qfvfjkj
PrepSpin will air Henry Clay vs. St. Xavier, the first game of the Bluegrass Bowl, on its own online channel.
■ Scott County has also started its own digital network. The Cardinals' games will be broadcast via YouTube and can be accessed at scottcountysportsnetwork.com.
■ Mason Faulkner of Caverna and Carson Williams of Owen County, both seniors, have committed to Northern Kentucky. The pair will be a part of the first NKU class that won't face postseason restrictions as part of the school's transition to Division I.
Faulkner led the state in scoring last season, averaging 30.3 points. Williams averaged 23.5 points last season and was second in rebounding at 14.5.
■ Rebecca Gray Dyer, Kentucky's Miss Basketball in 2007, was named the girls' coach at Windermere Prep in Florida on Thursday. Gray is Scott County's all-time leading scorer with 2,907 points, good for 27th in girls' state history.
Gray was on Elite Eight teams at North Carolina and UK before landing at Union College.
■ Anthony Hickey, a standout at Oklahoma State and LSU after earning Mr. Basketball honors at Christian County, has signed with Asseco Gdynia, a team in Poland's top professional league. The team won nine straight championships from 2004 to 2012.
Bradley Camic, a junior soccer player at Frankfort, had a seizure at soccer practice and was eventually transported to UK's Children's Hospital, where he was diagnosed with encephalitis.
A BBQ fundraiser will be held on the front lawn of the State Office Building in Frankfort beginning at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. You may also make donations online at www.gofundme.com/dgywxzm8. As of Friday morning nearly $9,000 had been raised.
1 vs. 2
Kentucky's No. 1 (Owensboro Catholic) and No. 2 (Sacred Heart) girls' soccer teams go head to head at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Sacred Heart. Owensboro Catholic (4-0) was ranked No. 2 in the coaches' preseason poll but moved up to No. 1 after an opening-week victory over then-No. 5 West Jessamine. Sacred Heart (3-0) has defeated No. 6 Lexington Catholic, No. 7 West Jessamine and No. 9 Boyle County this season.
Catholic beat Sacred Heart 1-0 in last season's state tournament semifinals.
■ The Bluegrass Invitational volleyball tournament at Kentucky Basketball Academy tips off Friday at 5:30 p.m. and continues into Saturday, with games beginning at 8 a.m. Lafayette, the event's host, and Lexington Catholic are the city teams competing in the 24-team pool-play event.
Preseason top 25 teams Allen Central, Apollo, Cooper, Louisville Christian, McCracken County and Oldham County will also play.
■ The Henry Clay Wall of Fame committee still needs assistance in tracking down photos of state-title winners, national/state player of the year honorees, and Blue Devils who won collegiate championships or went pro.
The deadline for submissions to be ready for the wall's unveiling is Sept. 10. If you think you can help or would like to donate, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com.