Betsy Layne is the happiest 3-5 football team in the state. There's no question about that after the Bobcats beat Phelps 18-0 last week to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in the program's 31-year history.
"It's the biggest win we've ever had," Coach Jonathan Parsons said. "The kids wanted to tear down the goal posts, but the athletic director was on one side, and a teacher on the other, so they didn't get to do it.
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"It was a great night, one of the best things in the world to happen here. It's taken forever, but we're finally in the playoffs."
Betsy Layne and football success are strangers. The Bobcats have had two winning seasons (6-4), and both came when they weren't competing in a district.
Sophomore Dylan Maldonado, who is closing in on 1,000 yards rushing, has provided the spark for this year's young team that has earned the fourth seed in the six-team district.
In anticipation of last week's game, a booster parent painted a big "31" in the middle of the field to signify the historic significance of the night. Parsons was afraid it might jinx his team, especially when heavy rain nearly washed away the "31" in the second half. But Betsy Layne posted its first shutout in four years, touching off a wet and wild celebration.
"People are starting to believe here," Parsons said, referring to the small Floyd County community. "Everybody on our staff is homegrown, so this is really special for us. It's a year that we don't want to end."
■ North Oldham's football program, born in 2003, is growing up fast. Two years ago, the Mustangs were 0-10. Last season, they went 8-4. This year, they are 8-0 — one of only 10 undefeated teams left in the state — and district champs after beating Western Hills last week. "To come from nothing to district champs was a big moment for them," Coach Billy Martin said. Andrew Tuller, Chase Maddox and Spencer Gooch are among the seniors who've persevered through tough times. North Oldham is undergoing a $29 million renovation, converting the old middle school into a new high school. The Mustangs played the first game in their new football stadium two weeks ago against Trimble County, and they have a new fieldhouse, too. "I've been amazed by the leadership and maturity of the team in keeping all the distractions out of the way and just focusing on football," Martin said. The Mustangs face a challenge Friday night when they play Bullitt Central.
■ When Estill County was mired in a 17-game losing streak a couple of years ago, Coach Mike Jones learned a lesson: be true to your heart and your double-wing offense. After having success with the double-wing for a few seasons, Estill County tried something different in 2005, but it didn't work. So midway through the '06 season, the Engineers went back to their power-oriented running attack. Since then, they've won 20 of 26 games, including a 7-1 record this season. Led by running backs Ben Benedict (1,005 yards), Kenton Roberts (913) and Justin Covey (442), Estill County is on track to lead the state in rushing for the third time in the last six years. "The double-wing goes great with the weight room," Jones said, noting the strength of his backs and linemen. "There's a lot of double-team (blocking), a lot of angles, a lot of power. We're lined up so tight, it's hard to tell where the ball is going." The Engineers are so proficient in the double-wing that Jones gets inquiries from coaches all over the country. "We've gotten calls from Arizona, California, Michigan, even Hawaii," Jones said.
■ Paducah Tilghman, rated in the top 10 in 3A in the pre-season, is 2-7 after a loss to Muhlenberg South and will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1984. The Blue Tornado's record includes a forfeit to Webster County because they used an ineligible player. Paducah Sun sportswriter Joey Fosko wrote that "speculation is swirling that first-year head coach Randy Wyatt" will be fired or asked to resign.
■ Christian County rallied from a 20-point deficit with seven minutes left to knock off previously undefeated Owensboro 42-34 and win its 5A district title. The Colonels' late 28-point explosion included three TDs that came after Owensboro turnovers. The clincher came on a 60-yard interception return by Ricky Tinnin.
■ Bell County's defense hasn't allowed a point in 15 consecutive quarters after a 70-0 wipeout of McCreary Central last week. Dudley Hilton's Bobcats are the stingiest team in the state, having allowed only three TDs this season. One of those was a fumble recovery in the end zone. Sophomore John Dudley Hilton, seniors Matt Simpson and Tyler Harbin, and junior Billy Lawson are the leading tacklers. Spencer Greer leads the offense, having rushed for 941 yards despite seeing limited action in blowouts.
■ Even when it's bad, Fort Campbell is good enough to win. The defending 2A champs were penalized 14 times for 145 yards and had two TDs called back but still beat district rival Owensboro Catholic 20-0.
■ Will Deters carried 38 times for a school-record 338 yards and had four TDs to power Covington Catholic past Holmes 42-0.
■ Mason County sophomore quarterback Neal Pawsat threw for a TD and ran for another as the Royals beat Russell 20-7 for the 3A District 7 title. It was Mason County's first win ever in Flatwoods and ended a four-game losing streak to the Red Devils.
■ Herb Wiseman has resigned as Campbellsville coach with two games left in the regular season. Wiseman had a seven-year record of 30-43, including a 2-6 mark this season. Assistant Dale Estes will serve as interim coach.
■ Danville's Antwoine Simon ran for 291 yards and three TDs in a win over Washington County.
■ Mercer County put the clamps on South Laurel quarterback Ricky Bowling in a 48-14 victory. The Titans sacked Bowling five times and limited him to 176 yards and one TD. Bowling has 125 career TD passes, eight shy of Tim Couch's state record.
■ Harlan's Andrew Link ran 32 times for 245 yards and four TDs in a win over Jenkins.
■ Clay County quarterback Zach Lewis, the state's all-time leader in passing yards, needs to throw for 61 yards against Morgan County Friday night to reach 13,000. He's also one TD pass shy of 100.
■ Lexington Christian girls' soccer coach James Jaeger is stepping down after five seasons to spend more time with his family. "The Lord is moving me in a different direction, which is being a Dad," he said via e-mail. "I have two kids at home that want to spend time with me." LCA was in the top 20 all season and finished 12-4-3. All but three starters will return next year. Jaeger had an overall record of 38-47-10 with the Eagles.
■ Pendleton County's boys' soccer team beat Rowan County in overtime in sub-sectional play Tuesday night. It was an emotional victory for the Wildcats, who are mourning the loss of a classmate. Lauren "Katie" Shell, a 17-year-old senior, was killed in a car accident on Friday. She kept statistics for the soccer team and was the boyfriend of leading scorer Matt Feltner. There was a moment of silence before Tuesday's game; Katie's brother Cody, a sophomore, served as ball boy, and the team's uniforms included a patch with the initials "LS" on it. "Our kids responded well to a very emotional situation," Pendleton County assistant principal Gary Dearborn said. Lauren was the third Pendleton County student to die in the last year. Daniel Wood was killed in a school bus accident, and Zach Heringer lost his fight with leukemia. Pendleton County hosts Highlands in the sectional soccer finals Saturday at 3 p.m.
■ The state volleyball tournament will have a "pink" hue at Bellarmine University this weekend to highlight breast cancer awareness. Pink backpacks and lapel pins will be sold, with the money going to the Susan G. Komen Fund. For Saturday's championship match, both teams will wear pink T-shirts during opening ceremonies, officials will wear pink shirts and use pink whistles, and fans will be given pink pompons.
■ Elizabethtown's 6-1 senior center, Alex Jones, daughter of former Louisville star Charles Jones, has committed to play basketball at Eastern Kentucky.
■ To correct an item in last week's notebook, a boys' basketball showdown between Scott County and Holmes, who might be rated 1-2 in the state in the pre-season, will be Sunday, Dec. 14. It's part of the two-day Bluegrass-Buckeye Charity Classic at Northern Kentucky University's new Bank of Kentucky center. Dec. 13: Mason County vs. Cincinnati St. Xavier, 12:30 p.m.; Scott vs. Moeller, 2:15. Dec. 14: Ryle vs. Georgetown, 1 p.m.; St. Henry vs. Oak Hills, 2:45; Covington Catholic vs. Highlands, 5; Holmes vs. Scott County, 6:30.
■ Greenup County senior catcher Billy Logan, who has helped the Musketeers reach the state tournament the last two years, is getting looks from colleges in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten and Ohio Valley Conference, according to his dad and Greenup County Coach Greg Logan. Two weeks ago, Billy took part in the Arizona Fall Classic, which was scouted by every major-league team and more than 250 colleges. He played for Under Armour's national all-stars, and was named to its pre-season All-America team. Last spring, Logan hit .454 with seven homers and 52 RBI. His dad expects him to wait until spring to make a college choice.