John Hodge is a head football coach for the first time, but he's no new kid on the blocking sled as he takes over at Bourbon County. Hodge served a decade-long apprenticeship at Boyle County, one of the most successful programs in Kentucky. He has four state championship rings to show for his time with the Rebels.
"I was unbelievably blessed to work with great head coaches," Hodge said, referring to Chuck Smith, Chris Pardue and Larry French. "They taught me not only about X's and O's, but how to deal with people, how to treat players, and how to get people involved in your program. Everything I know about football I learned at Boyle County."
Bourbon County doesn't have much football tradition other than the magical 1997 season when Dudley Hilton guided the Colonels to an improbable state title. They've had only three winning seasons in the last 12 years, but they are coming off an 8-4 record last year under Johnny Poynter.
Hodge, 34, knows he's fortunate to have Kentayvus Hopkins, who rushed for 2,957 yards and 38 touchdowns as a junior last season. "He's a dynamic running back," Hodge said.
Hodge's goal isn't short-term. "Our vision is to build a program here at Bourbon County. We want to compete every single year."
■ Steven Collins, Montgomery County's offensive coordinator the past two years, is the new coach at rival Clark County. He'll be back on familiar turf when the Cardinals play at Montgomery County on Aug. 31. "Being coach here will put a new twist on things. Standing on the other side over there will be unique and different," Collins said. "But it'll be fun. too."
■ Bill Mike Runyon is ready to pull double duty again as Paintsville's football and basketball coach. He signed on to be the Tigers' football coach late last year. Runyon was a longtime assistant to Paintsville football icon Walter Brugh, and was head coach for one season (2005). That's when he was still the Tigers' basketball coach, too. Runyon retired from hoops in 2008 after 26 years and 531 victories, including eight region titles and a state championship in 1996. He didn't foresee the possibility of getting back into basketball, but a few weeks ago he took the job again. "It's all about loyalty; it's every bit loyalty," Runyon said. "I didn't want to see Paintsville's athletics program continue to struggle. I'm not saying I'm the man to straighten things out, but I'll give it a good ol' Tiger try." Paintsville hasn't had a winning record in football since Runyon led the Tigers to a 10-3 record seven years ago.
■ If Lexington Catholic makes it to Bowling Green for the Class 4A football finals in December, the Knights will look back on a trip to Hoover, Ala., in July as the first leg of their journey. Lexington Catholic competed in the National Select 7-on-7 Championships in Hoover late last month. "There was a little bit of intimidation because we haven't seen athletes like that," Lexington Catholic senior quarterback Kyle Bolin said. "But it was a good experience. Nothing but positives will come from it." Knights Coach Bill Letton said the main reason he wanted his team to face such talented competition "was we wanted them to see some of the fastest guys who play the game so when we got back home, the game will slow down that much more for them."
■ Superpowers Highlands and Trinity face off in a pre-season scrimmage on Friday in Fort Thomas. A big crowd is expected for the showdown between the programs that share the state record with 21 state titles each. Highlands is a five-time defending state champ (in 4A and 5A). Trinity has won nine state titles (4A or 6A) in the last 11 years.
■ State titles in volleyball, boys' and girls' soccer, and boys' and girls' cross country will all be decided on Nov. 9, 2013. KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett said holding multiple championships on the same weekend will cause "minimal intrusion in the academic year."
■ Kevin Goins is Franklin County's new baseball coach. He succeeds Deron McDonald, who retired after 14 years with more than 300 victories. Goins, an assistant at Paul Laurence Dunbar for seven years, said he "always aspired" to be a head coach and that Franklin County is an ideal spot. "It's definitely worthy of competing in the 11th Region," he said. Goins played on Lafayette's 1988 and '89 state title teams, and was a four-year starter at Indiana University. He also has been a hitting instructor in Lexington for 15 years.
■ When longtime Paul Laurence Dunbar softball coach Mike Wainscott retired last spring, he said it was time for assistant Jenny Dalton Hill to take over the program. Dunbar administrators agreed, and named Hill the Bulldogs' new coach. "She's the perfect fit for our program," Athletics Director Andy Sirginnis said. Hill helped Arizona win three NCAA titles, and was Division I player of the year in 1996. She ended her career as the NCAA's all-time leader in career RBI, runs, walks and slugging percentage. She was an assistant coach for two years at UK, where her husband, Marc, works in sports administration.
■ When the KHSAA recently announced that the Boys' Sweet Sixteen basketball finals would be played on Sunday afternoon next March because of a potential conflict with UK in Rupp Arena, Scott County Coach Billy Hicks was thrilled. He thought the traditional tournament format, which included the semifinals and finals being played on Saturday, shortchanged the semifinals. Hicks would like to see the KHSAA do even more to spotlight the semifinals. He envisions a final four weekend, with the girls' semifinals in Rupp Arena on Saturday afternoon, followed by the boys' semifinals at night. The girls' and boys' championship games would be on Sunday. "Publicity-wise and fan-wise, it'd be great," Hicks said.
■ Henderson County pitcher Sam Higgs, who led the Colonels to the state finals in June, has committed to play college baseball at Western Kentucky University. The senior-to-be right-hander is already Henderson County's all-time leader in victories with 29. He was 9-5 with a 1.98 earned run average this past season, and also batted .356.
■ Kim Kincer, a former standout golfer at Tates Creek High School and former pro at Tates Creek Golf Course, will be inducted into the Methodist University athletics Hall of Fame on Nov. 2 in Fayetteville, N.C. Kincer coached Methodist's women to five consecutive NCAA Division III national titles (1998-2002). She is now director of Eastern Kentucky University's PGA/Golf Management program.