Herb McDowell was playing golf this week when, off in the distance, he heard Tates Creek's marching band strike up a tune. For a few seconds McDowell felt a pang of regret that he was no longer coaching football with the Commodores. "But I got over it pretty quick," McDowell said with a laugh.
McDowell joined Roy Walton's staff at Tates Creek in 1971, and spent 37 years as an assistant with the Commodores. He helped them become the winningest program in Lexington, highlighted by an undefeated Class 2A state title in 1972, an at-large 4A title in 1978, and a 4A runner-up finish in 1998. McDowell, a longtime defensive coordinator, was a rock upon which much of Tates Creek's success was built. But when Mark Willoughby stepped down as coach after last season, McDowell decided to leave, too. "I had a great run and a lot of fun at Tates Creek, but it was time to go."
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One reason: his daughter Haley is a freshman basketball player and bowler at Union College, and McDowell wants to have free time to follow her. Another reason: coaching football in the steamy heat of July and August "isn't real enjoyable when you're my age (64)," he said. "I'll miss the brain part, but it was wearing on my body a little bit."
For McDowell, the best part of coaching "was to see one of your players go on to become a doctor, lawyer, teacher or mechanic, and make a living at doing good things for people. I was lucky enough to see a lot of that."
McDowell will go from being a coach to a fan. He and his wife Jane will be part of the Commodores' faithful followers every Friday night.
■ Reigning 6A champ Trinity doesn't open the season until next week when it travels to Bowling Green. But Shamrocks Coach Bob Beatty will be going to Bowling Green on Saturday to watch the Purples play Henry Clay in the Rafferty's Bowl. Kentucky's other five defending champs start the season this weekend. Highlands (5A) plays host to Ryle; Lexington Catholic (4A) is home against Indianapolis Bishop Chatard; Central (3A) visits Manual; Fort Campbell (2A) plays Mayfield in Marshall County's bowl game, and Beechwood (1A) hosts Dixie Heights.
Lexington Catholic will have its hands full with Bishop Chatard senior lineman Zach Martin (6-5, 275), who has committed to Notre Dame. CWKYT (Channel 5) will televise Bishop Chatard's game against the Knights in the Bluegrass Bowl on Saturday at 8:30. The first game of the Bluegrass Bowl will match Hazard and Green County at 5:30. Both teams were undefeated in the regular season last year.
■ Fort Knox's once proud program (state titles in 1988 and '90, and state runner-up in' 96) starts this season with the state's longest losing streak. The Eagles have dropped 19 games in a row, and 29 of their last 30. Led by new coach Brandon Combs, Fort Knox opens against LaRue County on Saturday. Iroquois has the second-longest skid, with 18 consecutive losses.
■ Central defensive lineman Mister Cobble, who has committed to Kentucky, said he hopes teammates Ridge Wilson and Tim Patterson wind up playing for the Cats, too. Wilson is a 6-4, 210-pound senior linebacker/receiver who said he is considering UK, Tennessee and Arkansas. Patterson is a 6-5, 220-pound junior linebacker/receiver who is a Division I prospect and on UK's recruiting radar. How did Cobble, who is 6-2, 275 pounds, come by his unusual first name? "Mister was given to me by my mother so no matter where I go, no matter how old I am, I get respect," he said.
■ Speculation that Newport Central Catholic Coach Bob Schneider, who has a state-record 325 wins in 42 years, will call it quits after this season, is simply speculation. "When people ask how long I'm going to coach, I say one more year," Schneider said this week. "Right now I'm enjoying what I'm doing." NewCath was 1A state champ in 2005 and '06, and 2A runner-up last fall. The Thoroughbreds could make a run at the finals again this year. "I will say this: 2A is a little different that 1A," Schneider said. "We played stronger teams throughout the playoffs last year than we did in Class A."
■ To put in perspective just how pass-happy high school football has become: Lone Oak quarterback Corey Robinson's 91 TD passes last season would have stood as a state career record until Chris Redman finished his days at Male with 102 TD passes in 1994.
■ Gary Ball and Louis Stout are ready for their sixth season of the Scholastic Ball Report. The TV show airs Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on WKYT (Channel 27). It is also on WYMT in Hazard and WBKO in Bowling Green.
■ Former Lexington Catholic star Ben Revere has been named the Midwest League's MVP and also Prospect of the Year after hitting .379 for the Beloit (Wis.) Snappers, a Class A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. Revere led all full-season minor-leaguers in hitting, and his 44 steals were second in the Midwest League.
■ "Big" Bill Gaines, who as a 6-foot-9 sophomore led Paris to the 1969 Sweet Sixteen, died last week. Gaines had 30 points in the 10th Region final against Clark County that year. The Greyhounds haven't been back to the boys' state tournament since. Gaines finished his high school career with 1,859 points, and was Paris' all-time leading scorer until Alvin Sims eclipsed him in 1993.
■ Lexington Christian senior shooting guard Anna Martin, who was a standout sophomore on the Lady Eagles' Sweet Sixteen title team in 2007, has committed to DePaul. Martin averaged 19 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists last season.
■ Russ Middleton, who averaged 15 points as a junior guard on Mason County's Sweet Sixteen title team last season, will sign with Georgetown College on Friday. Middleton's father, Kelly Middleton, was a star at Mason County and Georgetown College in the 1980s.
■ Clint Cashen, a football and baseball standout at Corbin, is playing baseball at Mineral Area College in Park Hills, Mo.
■ Kentucky State signed three Lexington baseball players: Tates Creek second baseman Evan Broome, Lexington Catholic outfielder/pitcher Michael Champa, and Lexington Christian pitcher/infielder Josh Stanley.
■ Dunbar baseball players who signed to play college ball: Tyler Back (Georgetown); Chase Ballinger (Georgetown); Josh Burke (St. Catharine); Drew Hillard (Georgetown); Chad Martin (Vincennes). and Cameron Young (St. Catharine).
■ Former Scott County softball coach Sabrina McCullough has been hired as the head coach at Concord University in Athens. W.Va. Concord has another Kentucky connection: former Williamsburg quarterback Thomas Frazier is the Mountain Lions' starting QB. He passed for 1,509 yards as a part-time starter as a freshman last year.