Football and injuries go together like jalapenos and heartburn. Cause and effect.
But in football, there's no antacid to ease the pain.
Last Friday night, two of the state's best players, Travis Elliott of Ryle and Josh Harris of Mason County, both of whom were in the mix for Mr. Football honors, suffered season-ending injuries.
Elliott tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while playing defense against Cincinnati Colerain. Harris wrenched his foot while trying to catch a pass against Rowan County.
Ryle Coach Bryson Warner and Mason County Coach David Buchanan know that injuries are part of the game, but when they happen to players like Elliott and Harris, it's difficult to accept.
"We feel for Coach Buchanan, his program and the young man (Harris) there," Warner said. "You have injuries in football, but when you've got guys like this, who've worked so hard and dedicated so much of their time to the program, it's a little tougher to take.
"Travis was as committed a player as we've ever seen."
Buchanan said all the attention Harris was getting as a future UK player "was like fuel to the fire. Josh took everything to another level with his work ethic. You couldn't ask for a better leader or a kid with better character."
The good news is, both players have bright futures.
Harris, who is thinking about someday going to medical school, has committed to play football at Kentucky. Elliott is headed to Western Kentucky.
Depending on the final diagnosis of his foot injury, Harris could play basketball for Mason County this winter. Warner expects Elliott to be back running track for Ryle next spring.
In the meantime, both will be on the sidelines, cheering, encouraging and still leading their football teammates.
■ When Western High Coach Lavell Boyd was putting together the Warriors' schedule for this year, he wanted them "to play the best of the best so we could get to the point where we could compete on any level." Boyd's plan seems to be working. Class 4A Western started the season with road wins at traditional 6A powers Ballard and Male, and this week it visits 5A Highlands, a four-time defending state champ.
Next week Western is at home against 3A champ Central. "Regardless of the outcome, win or lose, we'll be a better football team for playing this schedule," Boyd said. Last year Western won a school-record 10 games and made it to the state semifinals. The Warriors return a strong group, including RB/LB Armon Langford, QB Javon Armstrong, OLB Antonio Turner and DB Jalen Boyd, the coach's son. Jalen, a 6-1, 190-pound senior, is being recruited by Louisville (where his dad played wide receiver), UK and Illinois. Lavell Boyd said his son will make his college choice by the end of November because he will graduate in December.
■ Nick Britt has helped Russell County beat Marion County, Whitley County and South Laurel to start the season 3-0 for the first time in five years. The junior tailback has rushed for 622 yards (13 per carry) and 11 TDs, caught two TD passes, and returned a kickoff for a TD. Coach Bill Sharp's Lakers are in a new 4A district with Clay County, Knox Central and Rockcastle County.
■ Chasing Derek Homer: Johnson Central's J.J. Jude ran for 174 yards and two TDs in a win over Clay County. For the season Jude has 641 yards, pushing his career total to 6,156, which is 2,068 behind Homer's state record of 8,224 yards. Meanwhile, Central's Anthony Wales ran for 233 yards and three TDs (and had an 80-yard TD catch) in a victory over DeSales. Wales' career rushing total is 6,089, 2,135 behind Homer.
■ Christian County figured to be rebuilding after graduating 20 seniors, including Marcoreyon "Bubba" Tandy and Anthony Hickey off last year's 5A state runner-up team. But the Colonels haven't missed a beat. They are 3-0 after whipping Henderson County 41-7. Juan Jones is the newest Christian County star. He rushed for 168 yards, including an 80-yard TD on the Colonels' first play of the game last week.
■ Trinity, rated No. 7 in the nation by Rivals.com and riding a 13-game winning streak, will play in Cincinnati the next two weeks. Bob Beatty's Shamrocks visit Elder on Friday night. They beat Elder 22-20 last year. Trinity's tougher test comes next Friday at Cincinnati St. Xavier, which is rated No. 26 by Rivals.com. The Rocks host No. 20 Cincinnati Moeller in their regular-season finale.
■ City-county rivals Middlesboro and Bell County played each other in football for the first time in seven years last week. Bell County won 63-20 as Cory Davenport rushed for 198 yards and four TDs on just nine carries.
■ Harlan County improved to 3-0 with a 48-7 romp at Gate City, Va., a defending Virginia state champ. Black Bears QB Jordy Brewer ran for 124 yards and two TDs, and threw for 45 yards and a score.
■ Defending state champ Mayfield solidified its hold on No. 1 in Class A by beating 3A Paducah Tilghman 24-6. Mayfield's defense forced four turnovers. It was the Cardinals' sixth win in a row over their longtime rivals.
■ Butler County senior Clay Embry is drawing notice from UK, Louisville, Tennessee, EKU and Murray State. The 6-3, 185-pound WR/RB/DB caught 44 passes for 91 yards and nine TDs last year. He's being used more as a running back this season. Against Breckinridge County he touched the ball seven times and scored six TDs, four running and two on punt returns. "He's explosive and has great football instincts," Coach Ryan Emmick said.
■ When Lafayette played host to Lexington Catholic last week, media man Ryan Lemond wondered aloud how short a drive it was between the two schools' football fields. My odometer showed 1.2 miles.
■ It was unbearably hot — temperatures in the mid-90s and humid as a sauna — when Highlands played host to Dixie Heights last week.
But 90 minutes before kickoff, assistant Bluebirds coach (and NFL analyst for NBC) Cris Collinsworth was running back and forth across the heat-radiating artificial turf.
After his workout, Collinsworth laughed and said he was just trying to get his brain to work. Collinsworth's oldest son Austin, a former Highlands star, is a 6-1, 200-pound sophomore at Notre Dame. Third on the depth chart at safety, Austin saw some action in the Irish's loss to South Florida last week.
■ It'll be a fun weekend for the Guidugli family. Former Highlands and University of Cincinnati QB Gino Guidugli is a graduate assistant coach at Central Michigan, which plays at UK on Saturday.
His brother Ben just got news that he made the St. Louis Rams as a tight end after trying out as a free agent. The Rams open at home against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
■ Nicholas County's Caleb Pope ran for 363 yards and four TDs in a win over West Carter. The Bluejackets' Austin Allison rushed for 115 yards and one TD, and had 13 tackles on defense. Nicholas County has rushed for 1,170 yards in three games, averaging 8.6 yards per carry.
■ Jeffersontown QB Demichael Jackson had 381 total yards and five TDs in a 72-21 rout of Moore. Mekale Moore had a big game for Moore, catching six passes for 216 yards and two TDs.
■ Clint Hollon, a standout pitcher for Woodford County last year after transferring from Lafayette, is back at Lafayette. Hollon, a 6-1, 190-pound junior right-hander whose fastball heats up to 95 mph, has committed to UK. He pitched varsity ball for Lafayette as an eighth-grader and freshman. The KHSAA has yet to rule on his eligibility.
■ Jeff Parrett, who pitched in the major leagues for 10 years after starring at Lafayette and UK, is the new baseball coach at Woodford County. Parrett was an assistant to Jay Lucas for seven seasons. Lucas retired after 20 years and more than 400 victories. Yellowjackets Athletics Director Bob Gibson said Parrett's "baseball knowledge and experiences are a tremendous asset" and give him "instant credibility with our players, parents, and fans. He's an excellent role model."
■ Caldwell County senior Emma Talley, a two-time state high school golf champ, is making a splash nationally. This week she won the American Junior Golf Association's championship in Greenville, S.C., with a 4-under 212 (67-71-74). This was an AJGA record fourth consecutive victory for Talley, who will play college golf at Alabama.
■ Tates Creek senior Peyton Hisel has committed to play basketball at Jacksonville State. The 6-1 center has averaged a double-double in points and rebounds the last three years. Tates Creek junior Katie Pippen committed to EKU last month.
■ The inaugural Covington Catholic Basketball Clinic will be held Sept. 17 at Notre Dame Academy (across the street from Covington Catholic). Guest speakers include former Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio, and Ohio prep coaching legend Hep Cronin, father of University of Cincinnati Coach Mick Cronin. For more information, contact CovCath Coach Scott Ruthsatz at (201) 655-1870 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
■ The Bluegrass Basketball Association will hold its first meeting of the season on Sept. 21 at 6:30 p.m. in Lexington Catholic's Alumni Gym. Anyone interested in refereeing basketball in the 10th or 11th region this season is asked to attend.