For 20 years Russell County bobbed along as a .500 football program, posting a 107-107 record from 1990 to 2009. But the Lakers have found success the last couple seasons, going 15-2, including a 6-0 mark this year.
There's no secret formula to their winning ways: "We've got more skilled kids, better athletes than in the past," Coach Bill Sharp said.
The best of the bunch is Nick Britt, whom Sharp calls "by far the best running back who's come through this system." The 5-foot-8, 165-pound senior, with 4.5 speed, has rushed for 75 touchdowns and more than 4,600 yards in his career.
"If he's 2 inches taller and 20 pounds heavier, he's a Division I prospect," Sharp said. "I think he's a big-time kid who could play someplace like Eastern Kentucky."
Russell County, rated No. 21 in the state by Dave Cantrall, has talent surrounding Britt. Barton Mann, a 6-4, 205-pound senior quarterback, has thrown for 2,100 yards and 18 TDs over the past two years. Junior speedster Evan Fletcher complements Britt at running back. Junior Blake Ellis has 1,100 receiving yards and 12 TD catches. Sharp thinks he has the best kicker in the state in senior Lucas Williams, who has 12 field goals in his career, including a 49-yarder last week. "The kid's killing the ball," Sharp said.
Sharp played for Russell County in the 1970s, and was an assistant coach from 1991 until he took over as head coach in 2005. He knows the program's history includes one team (1983) that had an undefeated regular season, and only two teams that have won a playoff game (in 2000 and 2009) in 43 years.
The Lakers have a shot at both this season. They appear to be on a collision course with unbeaten Class 4A district rival Knox Central. They play on Oct. 19. But Sharp isn't about to look past Rockcastle County and Clay County the next two weeks. "We've gotta control our own destiny. We can't afford to blink," he said.
■ South Oldham Coach Jamie Reed called last week's 63-57 district victory at Conner "a signature win" for the Dragons. It also proved that a team doesn't have to employ a wide-open offense to pile up points. "What we do is not as sexy or pretty as what some of those shotgun spread teams do," Reed said. "We run the triple-option." And they run it very well with Jack Sherry at the controls. The 6-5, 225-pound senior is an effective passer. He's thrown for 53 TDs and more than 3,900 yards over the past three years. He's also quick and nimble enough to be a threat to run. "I sing his praises about being a good decision-maker, which is the key to the triple-option," Reed said. Sherry has the smarts — a 4.3 GPA and 33 on the ACT. Reed said Sherry's success in the classroom hurts his recruiting status since some schools ask him to walk on, figuring he can qualify for academic scholarships. "But high school kids want a little love," Reed said. "Walking on is not the same thing as being offered a (football) scholarship." Sherry had a big game against Conner. He threw for 245 yards and four TDs, rushed for 91 yards and three TDs, and kicked nine extra points. Drew Grimm led the Dragons' defense by returning two interceptions for TDs, including a 100-yarder. Conner's Cameron Fogle ran for three TDs, caught two TD passes, and returned a kickoff for a TD.
■ When he picks off a pass or picks up a fumble, Bryan Station's Elijah Burdette is 5-for-5 on taking it to the house. Burdette returned three interceptions for TDs (49, 43, 43 yards) against Tates Creek last week. He had one pick last year and ran it back 58 yards for a score against Paul Laurence Dunbar. He also returned a fumble 44 yards for a TD in that game.
■ Raceland's 54-14 homecoming win over Lawrence County last week had an interesting twist. Rams kicker Amber Delcourt not only kicked extra points, she was named homecoming queen. The Ashland Daily Independent reported that Delcourt wore her uniform, minus her helmet and shoulder pads, while riding in the halftime parade. After she was crowned, she put her helmet and pads back on for the second half. "She's an awesome girl," Coach T.J. Maynard told the newspaper. "This is definitely a first for me, having a player named homecoming queen."
■ Nelson County QB Dylan Beasley threw for 533 yards and nine TDs, which tied a state record, in a 76-36 rout of North Bullitt. Beasley played only three quarters but had TD passes to five different receivers. Khalil Bourn had eight catches for 191 yards and three TDs. In six games Beasley has thrown for 2,475 yards and 27 TDs, and is on pace to become only the ninth player in state history to pass for 4,000 yards in a season. Corey Robinson set what looks like untouchable records — 5,872 yards, 91 TDs — in his senior season at Lone Oak.
■ Prestonsburg's Jarredd Jarrell and Bryson Williams, who set state records for passing yards and receiving yards two weeks ago, followed that up with solid performances in a 48-24 win over Betsy Layne. Jarrell hit on 14 of 17 passes for 281 yards and a TD, and rushed for 85 yards and three TDs. Williams had four catches for 122 yards and a TD.
■ Christian County whipped Hopkinsville 63-14 last week, giving the Colonels seven consecutive wins over their cross-town rivals.
■ Holy Cross football has had a tough season so far. Defending Class 2A champ Covington Holy Cross is 1-5, and perennial Class A power Louisville Holy Cross is 0-6.
■ Trinity star James Quick is closing in on the state record for career receptions. His 238 catches are 28 shy of the state mark set by Montrell Jones of Male in 2000. Quick's 48 career TD catches are 21 behind the record set by John Cole of Somerset in 2007. Cole also holds the record for receiving yards with 4,981. Quick has 3,739 yards.
■ Franklin County star Ryan Timmons' stats over the last two seasons (18 games): 154 touches (rushing, receiving, returning kicks) for 3,895 yards, 62 TDs. Timmons is averaging 25 yards a touch, and scoring a TD every 2.5 times he gets the ball.
■ Edmonson County senior Jacob Tobias rushed for 369 yards and five TDs, and returned an interception for a score in a 49-14 win over Logan County.
■ Morgan County is 5-0 for the first time in 29 years after beating Middlesboro. The Cougars had three players rush for more than 100 yards — Jordan Whitt (157), Walker Crase (118) and Kody Thornsberry (114).
■ Highlands beat Covington Catholic 35-21 for its 25th consecutive win. Since 2007 the Bluebirds are 73-1 against Kentucky opponents.
■ Former Lexington Catholic football and baseball standout Wes Caldwell, who played both sports at Middle Tennessee, is in his first year as a graduate assistant at Bethel University, an NAIA school in McKenzie, Tenn. He's coaching wide receivers.
■ Former Henry Clay principal (and former Bryan Station football coach) John Nochta is enjoying retirement. One of the most enjoyable parts is watching his son Pete coach tight ends as a graduate assistant at Purdue. John traveled to South Bend a few weeks ago to watch the Boilermakers play Notre Dame. Pete played quarterback at Tates Creek and tight end at Louisville.
■ Dalton Brown, an eighth-grader who plays on West Carter's varsity golf team, had two holes-in-one in practice rounds with the Comets last week. He aced the par-3 third hole at Carter Caves, and the par-3 seventh at Hidden Cove. Brown is the grandson of the late West Carter girls' basketball coach John "Hop" Brown.
■ North Hardin senior Lydia Gumm won her sixth region golf title in seven years by firing a 66 at Fort Knox's Lindsey Course on Monday. Gumm qualified for the state tournament for the 10th year in a row and will be the favorite to win her first state title next week in Bowling Green.
■ St. Xavier, which has won 18 state golf titles, had the top four finishers in the 6th Region Tournament on Tuesday. Michael Sass was medalist with a 69 at Charlie Vettiner Golf Course. Defending state champ Stephen Stallings and Brendon Doyle had 73s. Ben Sullivan had a 74 for the Tigers.
■ Gary Kidwell has been selected for the National High School Athletic Coaches Association's Hall of Fame. A longtime coach and athletic director at Lewis County, Kidwell was also a baseball and softball umpire, served on the KHSAA Board of Control, and as commissioner of the Eastern Kentucky Conference. He's a longtime newspaper sports editor and host of a radio sports show in Vanceburg.