As a star running back at Evarts High School, Scott Russell always knew when to power inside, when to sprint outside and when to make a cut. That's how he rushed for 7,090 yards — then a state record — and why he was named Mr. Football in 1991.
Russell has had a similar sense of timing in his coaching career. He said he always wanted to be a head coach, "but I didn't want to jump into it. I wanted to wait until everything fell into place and the right opportunity came along."
That opportunity has finally arrived. After 14 seasons as an assistant, the last eight at Knox Central, Russell is the Panthers' new head coach. He takes over for Wayne Mills, who left Knox Central to succeed Dudley Hilton at Bell County.
Russell has learned a lot from several mentors, including Bill Musick, his coach at Evarts. Russell said Musick was tougher on his star players than the others to show he didn't coddle anybody. As an assistant at Bell County, Russell said he watched how Hilton handled the public relations of the job, "the politician part of it." Russell also soaked up the strategies of Steve Jewell and Willard Farris at Corbin and Mills at Knox Central.
Russell, who played college ball at Lees-McRae for one season before finishing his career at Union, is ready to make his mark at Knox Central. "We're real optimistic about this season," he said. "We've got a good group of seniors, a good group of leaders, and some pretty good athletes. The big thing is, we want to keep building the program. Knox Central has never won a district title in football, and we think we've got a chance to do that this year."
Reflecting on his days at Evarts (which was consolidated into Harlan County High School a few years ago), Russell said he didn't think his state rushing record would last long. Derek Homer of Fort Knox set a new mark (8,224 yards) in 1996. Four other have since eclipsed Russell's total.
But Russell did manage to hang on to his high school sweetheart. He and his wife, Michelle, have three daughters — Meredith, Makenna and Madalyn.
■ Trinity and Highlands, who share the state record with 20 state titles apiece, are clearly the top two teams in Kentucky heading into the 2011 season, They'll face off in a scrimmage Friday at 7 p.m. in front of a big crowd at Trinity. Highlands Coach Dale Mueller said while "it's still practice for both teams, it's a big-time scrimmage." Trinity is rated No. 9 in the nation by rivalsHigh. Highlands, four-time defending state champ in 5A, will compete in 4A this season. The Bluebirds visit two-time defending 4A champ Boyle County in the season opener on Aug. 19. Boyle County will put a 30-game winning streak on the line against the Bluebirds.
■ Dates and times for this year's state football finals at WKU's L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green have been set. Times are Central. Dec. 2: Class 1A at 11 a.m.; 2A at 3 p.m., and 6A at 7 p.m. Dec. 3: Class 3A at 11 a.m., 4A at 3 p.m. and 5A at 6 p.m.
■ Madisonville defensive back Jeremy Clark has committed to Michigan, where he plans to grayshirt and enroll in January 2013. Clark also had offers from Illinois and North Carolina State.
■ Anderson County's Chris Fitzpatrick, a 6-1, 235-pound senior long snapper, has committed to Northwestern.
■ Former Bourbon County basketball all-stater and University of Kentucky player Preston LeMaster is the new boys' coach at East Ridge in Pike County.
■ Kerry Stovall, who resigned as Christian County boys' coach after leading the Colonels to the Sweet Sixteen title, stepped down as the school's athletic director to become a teacher at Muhlenberg County. Stovall won't be the only notable former head coach at Muhlenberg County. Steve Sparks, who led Muhlenberg North to three state tournaments, is the Mustangs' athletic director, and Tony Hopper, who won 3rd Region titles at Central City, Muhlenberg North and Apollo, is an assistant to coach Reggie Warford. Warford led Muhlenberg County to the 2010 Sweet Sixteen.
■ South Laurel hired Simon Kenton assistant Jeff Davis as its boys' basketball coach. He'll replace longtime Cardinals coach Steve Wright, who left for Southwestern.
■ Brad Sizemore left Garrard County after one season to take over as boys' basketball coach at North Laurel. Eddie Mahan, a former assistant at the University of the Cumberlands, is the new girls' coach at North Laurel.
■ Brandon Cooper, who had been an assistant at Southwestern, is the new boys' coach at Garrard County, his alma mater.
■ Sarah Van Horn, Paul Laurence Dunbar's new girls' basketball coach, didn't just play college hoops at West Virginia Wesleyan. She was a Division II All-American and West Virginia Intercollegiate player of the year. West Virginia Wesleyan's alumni include NFL Hall of Famers Earle "Greasy" Neale and Cliff "Gip" Battles, and former ESPN president Bill Grimes.
■ Lafayette named Shane Weaver its new softball coach. He was at North Laurel the last five seasons, guiding the Lady Jaguars to the state tournament every year and posting a record of 160-54.
■ Jim Perrin, who built Christian County into a state softball power, is returning to coach the Lady Colonels. Perrin won more than 600 games at Christian County from 1984 to 2003, including four state titles (three in slow pitch) and four state runner-up finishes before leaving to coach at Austin Peay, his alma mater. He left college coaching to become Trigg County's athletic director, and also coached Lady Wildcats' softball for one year. Perrin will be inducted into the Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame next spring.
■ Bryan Station senior Ryne Combs has committed to play baseball at Louisville. The left-hander went 7-2 last spring with a 1.31 earned run average, and 88 strikeouts in 62 innings. He also hit .423. Combs also had offers from UK, WKU, Arizona and Coastal Carolina. Bryan Station senior pitcher/first baseman Michael Bollmer committed to Louisville earlier this year. He went 6-1 with a 1.71 ERA, and batted .303 with six homers last spring.
■ Warren East's Mark Biggs, who led his team to the state tournament and was voted Mr. Baseball, will attend Louisville instead of turning pro. Biggs was an eighth-round draft choice of the Toronto Blue Jays.
■ Tates Creek junior Katie Pippen has committed to play college basketball at Eastern Kentucky. The 5-foot-10 swing player averaged eight points and 10 rebounds last season. Tates Creek Coach Justin Cheatham said Pippen "has taken her game to a new level" with off-season work. She decided on EKU after attending camps there this summer. EKU also made an offer to Tates Creek 6-1 senior Peyton Hisel, but Cheatham said Hisel is still undecided.
■ Bryan Station's Corey Williams won the high jump with a leap of 6 feet, 3 inches at the national AAU track and field championships in New Orleans. Tates Creek's Tamyah Pipkin, two-time state champ in the 100-meter dash, ran her fastest time ever — 11.93 seconds — in the national meet. Pipkin also ran a personal-best 24.75 in the 200 meters.
■ Lafayette senior Rebecca Hamperian, a two-time state diving champion, is rated among the "elite eight" one-meter divers in the nation by the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association.
■ When John Sosby died last week at age 73, his obituary noted he was best known as the longtime manager of Claiborne Farm. Mr. Sosby was also well known for his support of Bourbon County High School athletics. He was the longtime clock-keeper in football and scorekeeper in basketball. He drove the softball team bus for his son Tony, the coach for 17 years. He also drove the girls' basketball bus in Tony's seven-year tenure in that job. Mr. Sosby also built or refurbished just about every sports field in the county. And the last few years he drove a bus for pre-schoolers, who affectionately called him "Papaw." No wonder more than 2,000 people turned out for Tuesday's seven-hour visitation held in the Bourbon County gym. "I've always known what kind of person Dad was," Tony said. "It was really a celebration of his life seeing how many people in all walks of life he touched."
■ Kentucky high school sports lost a good friend when Dick Robinson died last week. He was 71. Mr. Robinson's many interests included high school baseball and basketball. He was not only a fan — he especially loved the Sweet Sixteen — he mentored young people and had a positive influence on everybody he met with his zest for life.
■ Josh Teater will be inducted into the Morehead State Athletics Hall of Fame in October. Teater, a Henry Clay graduate who played at Morehead from 1997 to 2000, is in his second season on the PGA Tour. He won more than $1 million as a rookie in 2010. So far this year Teater is No. 134 on the money list with $545,421, highlighted by a top-10 finish in the Reno-Tahoe Open last week.
■ Rick Heim of Sacred Heart was named cross country coach of the year by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association. Heim has guided Sacred Heart to seven state titles.