First impressions from the first week of football:
Harlan should have been rated in the Class A pre-season poll; defending 3A champ Central must be really good again, and Covington Catholic might, just might, challenge defending champ Highlands' supremacy in Northern Kentucky and 4A.
■ J.B. Donahue, in his 20th year as Harlan coach, said these Green Dragons "on potential, could be one of the best teams we've had here." They beat No. 8 Pikeville 41-21 last week for only the second time in the last 15 years. "We've got 13 seniors, guys who've been around a while, and they want to make their niche," Donahue said. "We've got a lot of room for improvement, but I liked the aggressive, physical way we played against Pikeville."
Donahue also liked Harlan's balanced offense, led by senior quarterback Ty Saragas, who threw for 122 yards, and senior halfback Dakota Morris, who ran for 103.
The Dragons will be tested by a schedule that Donahue says might be the toughest Harlan has played since the 1960s. It includes Williamsburg and Lexington Christian the next two weeks.
■ Central Coach Ty Scroggins was asked in the pre-season about Tae'shawn Gibbs, who was taking over as the Yellowjackets' quarterback after playing receiver the last couple years. "He's taken reps as the backup quarterback for three years," Scroggins said. "Now it's his show."
Gibbs put on a show in Central's 29-7 victory over 6A Manual last week. He returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown and rushed for 88 yards and a TD. The Jackets' defense, led by linebackers Demontre Boyd, Phillip Francis and Donald Styles, stuffed Manual all night.
Central is favored to win its fifth state title in six years, a possibility that Scroggins finds hard to believe. "When we came here (in 2007), we never thought all this could come true this fast."
■ Covington Catholic quarterback Blake Bir threw for 295 yards and three TDs in a 37-0 rout of 6A Campbell County. Bir pushed his career passing totals to 5,077 yards and 53 TDs. Coach Dave Wirth's Colonels are talented, experienced and tired of losing to Highlands the last several years. They visit the Bluebirds on Sept. 21.
■ Lexington teams can't be accused of playing patsies in the iHigh Fayette County Football Frenzy. The locals went 0-5 against the visitors last year and 1-4 two years ago. The best matchup in this weekend's event at Bryan Station should be defending 5A champ Bowling Green facing Lafayette on Friday night. Bowling Green graduated 18 starters off last year's unbeaten state title team, but it's rated No. 1 in 5A again. The Purples opened last week with a 45-0 rout of Allen County-Scottsville. Lafayette is rated No. 9 in 6A. This is the first time these teams have met since 1982, when Bowling Green beat the Generals 7-6.
■ Harlan County Coach Tom Larkey and his wife Darlene attended a dinner/news conference last week to help promote this weekend's Football Frenzy. Larkey said the get-together at bd's Mongolian Grill was perfect timing: His wife celebrated her birthday the day before, and their 43rd wedding anniversary was the day after. "So I was able to get her a free meal here," Larkey joked. Larkey, who has 271 wins in 32 years as a head coach, had heart bypass surgery on March 2. He told his doctor he had to be ready for the start of spring football on April 9. "I was back for the first practice, and I haven't missed a day since," he said.
■ Because of financial reasons, this is the fourth and final year for the Fayette County Football Frenzy.
■ When Lexington Catholic plays Ensworth, Tenn., in the Bluegrass Bowl on Saturday night, the Knights won't be playing only for themselves in the nationally televised game. "We hope to carry the flag for the rest of the state," Coach Bill Letton said. Letton had a nice moment in last week's win over Bell County when his son, freshman Sam Letton, had a 46-yard touchdown catch. Bill Letton admitted that "it was kind of fun" seeing Sam make a big play on his first reception as a varsity player. "But the main thing was we scored and got the momentum."
■ Knox Central got big performances from Jeffrey Canady, Matthew Barger and Devon Evans in a 40-21 win over South Laurel last week. Canady ran for 111 yards and two TDs, had 41 yards receiving and returned an interception 48 yards for a TD. Barger had three catches for 96 yards and a TD, and had three interceptions. Evans was 8-for-9 passing for 147 yards and two TDs, ran for 63 yards, and picked off a pass.
■ Trinity's James Quick had eight catches for 116 yards, including a 45-yard TD, in a 52-33 win over Brentwood Academy (Tenn.). Quick has 203 career receptions; he's only the fifth player in state history to reach the 200 plateau. Ahead of him are Male's Montrell Jones (266), Lawrence County's Gerad Parker (238), Somerset's John Cole (237) and Bullitt East's Jason Reynolds (227). Trinity takes its 26-game win streak to Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville on Friday.
■ Ryan Timmons had three catches for 132 yards, including TDs of 57 and 53 yards, in Franklin County's 62-41 win at Nelson County.
■ Bourbon County's Kentayvus Hopkins, one of the top rushers in the state last year, had a strong start to his senior season. He carried 16 times for 143 yards and a TD, caught a TD pass, and played well on defense in a 34-0 victory at Middlesboro.
■ Beechwood senior fullback/linebacker Max Nussbaum will miss the first few games. Coach Noel Rash said Nussbaum had minor knee surgery and should be back within three or four weeks. Beechwood opens at Simon Kenton on Friday. The 1A Tigers hope to have Nussbaum back for defending 2A champ Covington Holy Cross on Sept. 6 and 4A power Covington Catholic on Sept. 14.
■ Fleming County and Perry County Central are looking for boys' basketball coaches. Brian Kelly resigned at Fleming County because of a "personal, family situation" and is moving to Franklin, Tenn., where he will coach middle school basketball. Allan Hatcher stepped down at Perry Central to return to West Virginia, where he began his coaching career. He led Williamson to a state title in 1983. Hatcher took three Kentucky schools to the Sweet Sixteen — Graves County six times, Marshall County four times and Perry Central once. The Williamson, W.Va., newspaper reported that Hatcher might be in line to get the Chapmanville High School coaching job.
■ When G.J. Smith died of a heart attack at age 59 last week, he was most often referred to as a former UK basketball player. But Mr. Smith had his greatest success as a high school basketball player and baseball coach. He led Hazel Green and Laurel County to back-to-back state tournaments in 1970 and '71. He averaged 22 points and 12 rebounds in his senior season. Mr. Smith coached Laurel County and South Laurel baseball for 28 years and had 696 victories. His 1998 team lost to eventual state champ Harrison County in the sectional finals. He was in the inaugural class inducted into the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1997. Mr. Smith's humility was his hallmark.
■ Ashland Blazer senior Logan Salow has committed to play baseball at Kentucky. A left-handed pitcher and center fielder, Salow helped the Tomcats reach the state quarterfinals last spring. He had a 6-3 record, a 1.11 earned run average, 120 strikeouts and 31 walks in 561⁄3 innings. He also batted leadoff for Ashland and had a .345 average and 37 runs. "Logan has a great upside," Ashland Coach Jeff Wilcox said. "He has played three sports in high school, so when he concentrates solely on baseball, the sky is the limit for him."
■ Woodford County baseball star Clinton Hollon was invited to pitch in the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field last Saturday. He didn't make the trip to Chicago, though, because his arm wasn't 100 percent, according to his dad, Dwayne.
■ Lexington Catholic baseball grad Colton Cleary is a freshman pitcher with the Cincinnati Bearcats. Cleary went 6-2 with a 1.17 ERA for Catholic last spring. His sister Casey is a senior softball player at Bellarmine.
■ Woodford County will host a boys' basketball tournament the week before Christmas. Coach Scott Hundley said he decided to start the Woodford County Invitational when the Fayette County Invitational Tournament went kaput. The eight-team WCIT will be Dec. 20-22. First-round matchups: Clark County vs. Woodford County; Scott County vs. Paul Laurence Dunbar; Henry Clay vs. Frankfort, and Jeffersontown vs. Highlands.
■ The Scholastic Ball Report starts its 10th season on WKYT-TV on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Gary Ball's new co-hosts are Doug Flynn and Leah Pear Kerkhoff.