Kentucky's Capital City has more than one high school football team worthy of newspaper headlines and TV highlights.
Undefeated Franklin County (12-0) is impossible not to notice. The Flyers are averaging 59 points a game and in Ryan Timmons they have one of the most electrifying players in the state.
But Frankfort (11-1) deserves attention, too. Craig Foley's Panthers, whose only loss was to Franklin County, have their own stars, including quarterback Chris Hawkins and receiver Aaron Jackson. "I get a little discouraged at times because everybody's always talking about Franklin County, and they deserve it," Foley said. "But don't forget about Frankfort High. We're having a pretty good season, too."
The Panthers have a more wide-open offense this year, with Hawkins getting the ball to playmakers Jackson, Teantre McGee and Jalen Washington. Hawkins has thrown for 2,409 yards and 29 touchdowns. Jackson has 48 catches for 1,251 yards and 16 TDs. Foley credits a solid offensive line — Josh Boone, Mathew Collins, Jackson O'Daniel, McKinley Stonewall and Trevon Washington — for making it all possible.
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"We've got a good group of kids who've bought into what we're doing," Foley said. "We thought we'd be good this year, but not 11-1. It's a case of success breeding success, the kids working hard to succeed."
Frankfort visits Beechwood in the Class A playoffs on Friday, hoping to reach the semifinals for the first time since 2007. Beechwood has been a stumbling block for the Panthers, having eliminated them from the post-season four of the past five years. Foley said the key to beating Beechwood is not being overpowered. "If I'm any team playing us, I'd line up and run the ball right at us. I expect we'll get a large dose of that at Beechwood. We have to tackle if we're going to win."
■ Cooper forced six turnovers in a 42-0 rout of Anderson County last week, but Jaguars Coach Randy Borchers isn't fooling himself into thinking his defense can shut down Franklin County in the 5A quarterfinals. "Franklin County has a totally different style of offense and different group of athletes," he said. "You're not going to stop them. The biggest thing we've got to do, and it's a lot easier said than done, is not give up the big play." Ryan Timmons, averaging 208 all-purpose yards a game, is one of several playmakers for the Flyers. Cooper prefers to run the ball. A.J. Collins has rushed for 1,462 yards and 15 TDs. Quarterback Tyler Morris has generated 2,100 yards and 29 TDs running and passing. "We don't want to get into shootouts with anybody," Borchers said. "We don't feel we have a high-powered offense. We've got to get it done on the ground, controlling the clock and not make mistakes."
■ Central, rated No. 1 in 3A, visits No. 2 Bell County on Friday. Last year host Central beat the Bobcats 26-0 en route to its fourth state title in five years. This time around Bell County has the home-field advantage on Log Mountain. Bobcats Coach Wayne Mills thinks his team will be prepared for Central's athleticism. "We got out of the mountains and played some teams with speed, like Bryan Station and Lexington Catholic." Mills said Bell County's "blueprint" for beating Central is running the ball. Jonathan Polly and Ryan Collett have combined for almost 3,000 yards and 43 TDs rushing.
■ When Mason County hosts unbeaten Bourbon County in the 3A playoffs on Friday, it will be the Royals' first appearance in the quarterfinals in nine years. Nobody, not even Coach David Buchanan, saw this success coming. "That's what's so neat about it," he said. Mason County lost its last four games last season and its first three this year. After beating Harrison County to end that seven-game skid, the Royals were blasted by Highlands 61-3. "Things were rough," Buchanan said. "But the kids and my assistant coaches kept a good attitude and got things turned around. I'm really proud of them." Mason County has won seven in a row to improve to 8-4. "The only team I've had comparable to over achieving like this was at Mercer County in 1986 when we made it to the semifinals," Buchanan said. He credits Trae Lofton and Demetrius Morton for maturing into senior leaders. The Royals were overdue good fortune after key injuries derailed their state title hopes in 2009 and 2010. They face a big challenge against Bourbon County. First-year coach John Hodge has guided the Colonels to a 12-0 record. They have outscored their opponents by an average of 49-11. "I don't know if there's a better young coach in the state than John Hodge," Buchanan said. "He's done a great job utilizing some really talented skill kids on both sides of the ball."
■ Covington Catholic QB Blake Bir and Highlands QB Donovan McCoy have impressive stats going into Friday's 5A showdown. Bir has generated 2,917 yards and 40 TDs with his passing and running while McCoy has 3,035 yards and 42 TDs.
■ Walton-Verona, in only its fifth year of football, has won two playoff games for the first time and finds itself facing perennial power Newport Central Catholic in the 2A quarterfinal. Jeff Barth's Bearcats have a school-record 10 victories and an eight-game winning streak.
■ Lexington's five public high school football teams had a combined record of 25-31 this season, and none of them made it past the second round of the playoffs. Then comes news that a sixth high school will probably be built in the next few years, which will further dilute the talent in the city.
■ The schedule for the football championship games in Bowling Green, with Eastern times: Nov. 30: Class A at noon; Class 3A at 4 p.m.; Class 4A at 8 p.m. Dec. 1: Class 2A at noon; Class 5A at 4 p.m.; Class 6A at 8 p.m.
■ Best wishes to Dudley Hilton, who underwent quintuple bypass heart surgery in Lexington on Thursday. Hilton won two state football titles as coach at Bell County, and one at Bourbon County. He just finished his second season at the University of Pikeville.
■ According to CBS MaxPreps, one of the oldest national high school football records is likely to fall on Friday night. Derrick Henry of Yulee (Fla.) is 102 yards shy of breaking the 59-year-old career rushing mark of 11,232 yards set by Ken Hall of Sugar Land, Texas, in 1953. Henry, a 6-3, 240-pound senior, has committed to Alabama.
■ When Tates Creek's girls won the state soccer title two weeks ago, it was the school's first team state championship since the Commodores won a boys' soccer title in 1988. The most recent state team championships for Lexington's other schools: Bryan Station (boys' track in 2012); Henry Clay (boys' soccer in 2010); Lafayette (boys' basketball in 2001); Lexington Catholic (baseball in 2009); Lexington Christian (boys' golf in 2011); Paul Laurence Dunbar (baseball in 2007); Sayre (boys' and girls' tennis in 1985).
■ Destinie Graves, who helped Tates Creek win the state soccer title, is Kentucky's Miss Soccer, and she has also earned All-America honors from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. Tates Creek's Bo Lankster was named Kentucky's coach of the year among large public schools.
■ Curtis Turley, who won 624 games and led three schools to the Boys' Sweet Sixteen in his 32-year coaching career, is the new state coordinator for the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame. The Hall is scheduled to open in Elizabethtown in 2018 to mark the 100th anniversary of high school hoops in Kentucky.
■ North Oldham senior David Levitch will be a preferred walk-on at Louisville next season. The 6-3 guard averaged 18.8 points a game last season and shot 42 percent from three-point range.
■ UK recruiting target Andrew Wiggins will lead Huntington Prep (W.Va.) against Christian Faith Center Academy (N.C.) in a game at Scott County on Sunday at 4 p.m. Tickets are $10.
■ The UK men's basketball team plays its home opener against Lafayette in Rupp Arena on Friday night. That's the Lafayette Leopards from Easton, Pa., not the Lafayette Generals from here in Lexington, although the high school team could match the college team in size. The Lafayette Leopards' starters in their last game went 6-9, 6-9, 6-7, 6-2, 6-0. Mike Mendenhall's Lafayette Generals have a roster stocked with tall guys. Their starting lineup could be 6-9 Jackson Davis, 6-8 Nick Trisko, 6-6 Charles Sweatt-Washington, 6-5 Shon Wright and 6-2 Lance Blakley.
■ Former Tates Creek baseball and basketball star Ryan Fucci, a sophomore at WKU, is leaving the Hilltoppers' baseball program at the end of this semester. Tates Creek Coach Dom Fucci plans on sitting down with his son during the Thanksgiving break "to see what direction he wants to go."