Going into the final four of the football playoffs Friday night, there's still a chance we could have three state title game rematches from last year: LCA and Mayfield are still kicking in Class A; Paducah Tilghman and Somerset are still alive in 3A, and Highlands and John Hardin are still standing in 5A
■ When he was in college, Brad Hood wanted to be anything but a football coach, even though the game was in his blood. His dad, Royce Hood, and his uncle, Joe Hood, were both longtime high school coaches.
Brad eventually got the football itch, however, and is now thankful that eight years ago he left his job as a warehouse manager in Louisville and "took a $49,000 pay cut" to become a college assistant at Campbellsville and earn his teaching degree, a first step toward becoming a head coach someday.
Someday came in 2006 when Hood became head coach at Allen County-Scottsville, where his dad had coached for almost 20 years.
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Last week the unbeaten Patriots beat Lone Oak in the Class 4A playoffs to reach the semifinals for the first time in school history. They play at Louisville Western on Friday night. "To see all the hard work pay off that my father put in all those years and that I've put in, the reward is very great," Brad Hood said.
Allen County-Scottsville's success is built on a strong ground attack, led by 1,000-yard rushers Brandon Boards and Hunter York, and double-threat quarterback Jacob Costello. "It's exciting to see the community get behind us, and it's great to see our seniors, who went 1-9 as freshmen, get rewarded for all their hard work," Hood said.
The Patriots never made the playoffs in Royce Hood's eight years (1979-86) as head coach, so Brad was eager to seek out his dad after last week's win. "It was for him," Brad said. Royce Hood was paralyzed by a stroke the year after Brad graduated from college. Royce's brother Joe, a former head coach at Butler and Warren Central, is Allen County-Scottsville's freshmen and junior varsity coach. It's his job to arrange for his brother Royce to be in Louisville on Friday night in hopes that the Hood family can celebrate another landmark victory for the Patriots.
■ When Harlan County opened as a new high school in 2008, it hired Tom Larkey to start its football program. The veteran coach, who had built Rockcastle County into a power (state runners-up in 2001 and '02), faced a huge challenge in taking players from Cawood, Cumberland and Evarts and molding them into the Harlan County Black Bears. But only three seasons later, they're in the 5A semifinals. They host three-time defending champ Highlands on Friday. "I didn't expect it to be this fast," Larkey said of this playoff run.
Since the new school doesn't have a football facility yet, the Bears play and practice at Cawood's field. "This wasn't home to these kids at first, but it is now," Larkey said. "It was kind of hard bringing them together and making them feel this was our house. But they love playing here now."
Harlan County lost two key players to injuries in the pre-season, then lost to Pulaski County 40-7 in the season opener. But the Bears adopted their coach's hard-nosed style and kept getting better, capped by a 35-21 win over Pulaski County last week. Dylon Smith and Marcus McMillian combined to rush for 295 yards and four TDs. Harlan County's defense, led by Jordan Calton, sacked Maroons QB Zach Eastham seven times.
Even though the Bears are a relatively new team, Larkey said they won't be intimidated by Highlands' tradition. Larkey knows the Bluebirds aren't invincible. In 2002 Rockcastle County beat Highlands in the 3A semifinals.
■ Johnson Central junior RB J.J. Jude, who ran for 103 yards in last week's loss to Highlands, finished the year with 3,203 yards. That gives him more than 5,100 yards in his career. If Jude can rush for more than 3,000 yards next season, he'll have a shot at Derek Homer's state record of 8,224 yards set in 1993-96.
■ Mayfield had trouble getting to its playoff game in Louisville last Friday, and Coach Joe Morris had a bit of trouble returning home, but in between his Cardinals sped past Louisville Holy Cross 59-14. Kickoff was delayed 40 minutes because Mayfield's bus got caught in a traffic jam near Holy Cross. On his way home that night, Morris, driving a school SUV, hit a deer that darted onto the Western Kentucky Parkway near Central City.
Morris hopes for a less eventful trip to Beechwood for the Class A semifinals. The Cardinals planned to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families early Thursday before heading to Shelbyville for a practice at Collins High Thursday evening. (Collins principal Anthony Hatchell used to be Mayfield's principal, and his son Stephen is Mayfield's offensive coordinator.) Morris knows Mayfield will face a tough test at Beechwood, especially after it whipped the Tigers 38-0 in last year's semifinals. But Mayfield has its own motivation. It wants to get back to the state finals to make up for last year's six-turnover 55-19 loss to Lexington Christian. "That's driven us," Morris said. "The kids want to get back to show people we're better than what we showed last year."
■ On the terrific TV show Friday Night Lights, Coach Eric Taylor and the Dillon Panthers go by the motto "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose." As Louisville Western tries to reach the state finals for the first time in school history, Warriors Coach LaVell Boyd has come up with his own catchphrase: "One team, one dream, do it for the ring." Western hosts unbeaten Allen County-Scottsville in the 4A semifinals on Friday.
■ Dixie Heights junior QB Zeke Pike has gotten a scholarship offer from Georgia, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Pike, whose dad Mark played for the Buffalo Bills for 13 years, generated 3,000 yards and 34 TDs passing and rushing this season. He also has college offers from UK, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Purdue, Texas A&M and Tennessee, among others.
■ Collins QB Branden Cresap had 37 completions (three shy of tying the state record) in 66 attempts (two shy of tying the state record) in last week's loss to Western. He threw for 440 yards and three TDs to push his season totals to 3,549 yards and 42 TDs. Combined with his numbers at Shelby County, where he played three years, Cresap finished his career with 7,256 yards and 84 TDs. (He played only 21/2 games as a sophomore because of a knee injury.) Collins receiver Tavis Elzy had a big year, catching 74 balls for 1,326 yards and 19 TDs. Combined with his Shelby County stats, Elzy had 151 career catches for 2,544 yards and 33 TDs.
■ Owensboro Catholic's Isaac Hardesty hit Brelin Dixon with a 5-yard TD pass to give the Aces a 26-22 win over previously unbeaten Murray last week. Owensboro Catholic visits Danville in the 2A semifinals Friday night. Danville has won seven consecutive games since it lost three in a row. Two of those losses were to Boyle County and Somerset, both of whom are still undefeated.
■ Tates Creek senior Brandon Shrout won the Army Iron Man Award as the best two-way player in the state. Shrout received 4,326 online votes. Meade County's Thomas Wilson was second with 2,844. Shrout had 1,027 all-purpose yards and nine TDs this season; he also played defense.
■ Bill Mason resigned as Mercer County's football coach after posting a 5-17 record in two years.
■ Fern Creek football coach Curtis Higgins resigned after four years and a 28-20 record.
■ Former Lexington Catholic basketball standout Jaylen Beckham has landed at Huntington Prep Academy in West Virginia. After playing his freshman and sophomore seasons at Lexington Catholic, Beckham transferred to St. Benedict's in New Jersey this summer. He left there a few weeks ago and explored the possibility of returning to the Lexington area for his junior year. That didn't work out, so he wound up at Huntington. Beckham will return to his hometown on Dec. 12 when Huntington plays Quality Education of North Carolina in the Racing to the Rim Classic in Rupp Arena.
■ Four-time state cross country champ Emma Brink of Sacred Heart will compete in the Foot Locker South Regional championships Saturday in Charlotte, N.C. The top 10 finishers qualify for the national finals in December in San Diego. Brink, who has signed with North Carolina, finished 13th in the regional last year.
■ Four Henry Clay seniors signed to play college sports — two-time state swim champ Nick Wrightson (Ohio State); volleyball state semifinalists Kate Stromberg (Florida Southern) and Mikayla Reese (Morehead State); and region finalist baseball player Corey Bays (Murray State).
■ Somerset infielder Taylor Sears and Grant County pitcher Aaron Goe signed to play baseball at Morehead State, not EKU as noted here last week.
■ Boyle County pitcher Jacob Bodner, who went 10-2 as a junior last spring, signed with Xavier. Bodner was to be the starting point guard on Boyle County's basketball team, but a knee injury and surgery will sideline him for the hoops season.