Just returned from a trip to my childhood where I celebrated the San Francisco Giants' first World Series title. I've been a loyal Giants fan since Willie Mays caught my fancy more than 50 years ago. San Fran's triumph over the Texas Rangers erased painful memories of 1962 and 2002 when the Giants came so close to a championship. The roll call of Lincecum, Posey and Renteria doesn't have the ring of Mays, McCovey and Marichal, but my childhood heroes never won a World Series ring.
■ Rowan County football player Darrell Cross isn't very big — he's 5-foot-7, 180 pounds — but the senior running back came up huge again last week. He had 458 all-purpose yards and seven TDs in a 56-35 win over Montgomery County. His output included 355 rushing yards, pushing his career total over 4,300. "Darrell may be small, but he's one of the strongest guys on the team," Coach ShaDon Brown said. "He can do some spectacular things. I always say you couldn't tag him in a phone booth if he didn't want you to." Cross has led the Vikings to a 9-1 record, their most victories in almost 20 years. Rowan County now hopes to make some noise in the post-season. When it hosts Madison Southern on Friday, it will be looking for its first playoff win since 1984. "The key for us is to keep playing with confidence," Brown said.
■ The bar is set high for Hazard football these days. The Bulldogs were state runners-up in 2008, and state semifinalists in '07 and '09. Hazard has the look of a state contender again. It beat Clay County last week to finish the regular season 10-0. "I'm proud of the way we've played when we've been challenged," Coach Mark Dixon said. Bulldogs QB Jon Combs has been sensational. He's thrown for 2,653 yards and 37 TDs, and run for 395 yards and four TDs. "He sees the field as well as anybody I've ever coached," Dixon said. "This is his second year at quarterback, and he's a lot more calm in the pocket." Receivers Jordan Olinger and Austin Johnson have 1,400 yards and 19 TD catches between them. Olinger is a familiar name in Hazard football. Jon Olinger, Jordan's cousin, was a star receiver for the Bulldogs who played college ball at Cincinnati and was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons. Chris Olinger, Jon's brother, was also a receiver. Durrell and Tyler Olinger, Jordan's older brothers, were Hazard QBs. "They've all been really good athletes with a lot of God-given talent, physical-type kids who could run well," Dixon said. The Bulldogs play Allen Central Friday night in the first round of the Class A playoffs.
■ Clark County Coach Paul Columbia and his staff didn't have to scramble to get a scouting report on first-round playoff opponent Campbell County. The teams met last Friday in a wild double-overtime shootout. Clark County rallied from a 28-7 deficit before losing 45-42 in double overtime. Campbell County QB Michael Kremer completed 32 of 55 passes for 437 yards and five TDs, so it's obvious what Clark County must do in the rematch. "We've got to get more pressure on (Kremer)," Columbia said. Clark County junior Pokey Harris had a big game. He had eight catches for 197 yards and two TDs, including a school-record 97-yarder. He also ran 13 times for 72 yards and a TD, and had an interception on defense. Columbia said this is the first time Clark County has played the same team two weeks in a row.
■ Ryle upset Highlands 28-26 last week, ending the Bluebirds' 49-game win streak against Kentucky competition, and 37-game winning streak overall. Bryson Warner's Raiders, who lost to the three-time defending state champs 29-14 early in the season, was led by senior QB Conner Hempel, who ran for 128 yards and three TDs. Highlands Coach Dale Mueller told the Cincinnati Enquirer going undefeated is never his team's top priority: "We either win the state championship or we don't win the state championship. We have those two kinds of years. And this year we want to win the state championship."
■ Defending 4A champ Boyle County has the state's longest winning streak — 25 in a row — going into the playoffs after beating Christian County last week. Devon Cox ran for 217 yards to lead the Rebels.
■ Fort Campbell's 34-0 loss to Owensboro Catholic last week was the first time the Falcons had been shut out in eight years and 108 games. It also snapped Fort Campbell's 31-game winning streak against 2A competition.
■ The best regular-season finale was Beechwood's 40-39 double-overtime victory against Newport Central Catholic. NewCath went for a game-winning two-point conversion in the second OT, but Cameron Vocke was stopped at the goal line.
■ Bell County's victory over Harlan County gave the Bobcats their third unbeaten regular season in four years. Seniors John Dudley Hilton and Taylor Mills started every game in that stretch, helping Bell County go 39-1. The only loss was to perennial powerhouse Alcoa, Tenn.
■ Owensboro heads into the playoffs without senior QB Kal Prince, son of Red Devils Coach Joe Prince. Kal suffered a broken leg against Apollo four weeks ago. Just before he was injured, he threw a 70-yard TD pass that made him the school's all-time leading passer with 2,850 yards and 22 TDs. He also ran for 1,563 yards and 24 TDs in his career.
■ Elizabethtown junior QB Kyle Todd threw for 479 yards and four TDs in a win over Bardstown. Tight end Mitchell Henry had eight catches for 156 yards.
■ Collins senior QB Branden Cresap passed for 412 yards and six TDs in a win over Madison Central. Travis Elzy had eight catches for 192 yards and two TDs, and Ben Axline had seven catches for 133 yards and three TDs. Cresap, Elzy and Axline played for Shelby County last year before transferring to the new school across town.
■ Ashland's Putnam Stadium, built for $6,000 in 1937 as a WPA project, will undergo a $5.1 million restoration when money is raised. Ashland Blazer athletics director Mark Swift said there is no definitive timetable for the project, although it may become clearer after a donor reception this week. The Tomcats' new home will seat more than 6,000 fans. The main entrance will feature a statue of former coach Herb Conley and a plaque that reads: "You can go to any high school in the country and be an athlete for four years or you can go to Ashland and be a Tomcat for the rest of your life!"
■ Mike Meighan, who built Paul Laurence Dunbar's football program from scratch and guided the Bulldogs to a state runner-up finish in 1996, was honored at last week's game for his 40 years of coaching in Lexington. Meighan was an assistant at Bryan Station for 19 years before moving to Dunbar when it opened in 1990. His last gig was as an assistant at Lexington Christian where he helped the Eagles to a state title last year.
■ Lone Oak set a school record for points in a 70-18 rout of Heath. Freshman QB Cole Ousley had five TD passes as the Purple Flash built a 63-12 halftime lead.
■ Murray beat Crittenden County to wrap up its second straight undefeated regular season, the first time that's been done in the program's 109-year history.
■ On Nov. 6, 2009, Channing Fugate helped Breathitt County beat Wayne County in the playoffs. On Saturday, Fugate will start at fullback for Tennessee for the second week in a row. Fugate got the call against South Carolina last week when Kevin Cooper was serving a one-game suspension. Cooper is back this week, but Vols Coach Derek Dooley has decided to go with Fugate again against Memphis. UT offensive coordinator Jim Chaney told the Knoxville News Sentinel he was impressed by Fugate's "physical play, his energy at the end of the game, his awareness on the football field — he looked like he belonged."
■ Lafayette pitcher/shortstop Blake Smith has committed to play baseball at Morehead State. Smith had a 3-2 record with a 1.63 ERA last spring, and he batted .286.
■ Sayre athletic director and former Woodford County girls' basketball coach Bill Hill was inducted into the Union College athletics Hall of Fame. Hill was among the coaches who led Union to four consecutive conference golf titles from 1969-72.
■ Daviess County's boys' and girls' soccer teams made it to the state final four under the Sandifer brothers. Daviess County's boys are coached by Doug Sandifer, also the school's athletics director. The Panthers' girls are coached by David Sandifer.
■ The 20th annual Joe B. Hall Kentucky Prep Classic on Jan. 22 at Montgomery County will feature a showdown between top-10 boys' basketball teams Jeffersontown and Tates Creek. The other matchups: Elliott County vs. Madison Central; Lafayette vs. Ashland Blazer; Mason County vs. John Hardin, and Montgomery County vs. Rowan County.