Jack Haskins is a high school football institution in far Western Kentucky. He's been a head coach at Ballard Memorial, Calloway County, Graves County, Heath and Lone Oak, and he was an assistant coach at Paducah Tilghman when his son Billy Jack was a star quarterback and Mr. Football there in the early 1990s.
Haskins' newest coaching challenge is a big one: starting the football program at McCracken County, a Class 6A school formed from the consolidation of Heath, Lone Oak and Reidland.
The Mustangs haven't eased into their first season. They missed a couple extra points and lost to Paducah Tilghman 24-23, and they missed a last-second field goal and lost to Mayfield 35-34. McCracken County's remaining games are against Bullitt Central, Christian County, Daviess County, Dyer (Tenn.), Fort Campbell, Graves County, Henderson County and Marshall County. "An awesome schedule for a first-year team, not really a fair schedule," Haskins said.
Two-time defending 5A champion Bowling Green was floated as a possible opponent for the regular-season finale, but Haskins nixed that idea. "Just good ol' common sense told me I couldn't put these kids in that kind of game right before the playoffs," he said.
Haskins, who guided Heath to a state runner-up finish in 1975, was at Lone Oak the last nine years, and his Purple Flash were 4A state runners-up in 2007 and 2009. Most of his players at McCracken County were with him at Lone Oak. The Mustangs' roster includes 51 players in grades 10-12, and 42 freshmen, so the room for growth is there.
Haskins is using the spread offense that was so successful at Lone Oak. Sophomore Zyaire Hughes is an emerging star at quarterback. He threw for 290 yards and a TD, and ran for 70 yards and two scores against Mayfield. "He went to a camp at Kentucky and ran a 4.42 just off the bus," Haskins said. "The kid can play any of the skill positions. He's gonna be a good one."
(Cole Ousley, a QB star at Lone Oak who was on pace to set state passing records, hurt his shoulder and had surgery last season. He has yet to regain his old form and will be Hughes' backup.)
McCracken County's ultimate goal is reaching the highest level of 6A where Trinity and St. Xavier rule. "I don't know if anybody will beat them," Haskins said. "But I don't see why we can't get there eventually and compete with 'em. We've just gotta get everybody in McCracken County playing football, and get things rockin' and rollin' here."
■ Mayfield visits Paducah Tilghman on Saturday for the 100th meeting between the traditional powers. Mayfield has beaten the Blue Tornado the last seven years, the longest winning streak for either side in the series, which began in 1911. Tilghman has a 46-43-10 edge in the rivalry, and has outscored the Cardinals 1,472 to 1,310. That works out to a 99-game average score of 15-13.
■ Bullitt East rallied from a 40-27 halftime deficit to beat Nelson County 67-59. The teams combined for almost 1,200 yards. Bullitt East had 620 yards, 469 on the ground. Austin Colvin ran for 219 yards and three TDs, and Brandon Samuels ran for 137 yards and a TD. Nelson County quarterback Jonathan Breeding hit on 32 of 49 passes for 467 yards and five TDs, and ran for 100 yards and four TDs. Austin Lovvorn had seven catches for 260 yards and four scores. In two games, Breeding has thrown for 765 yards and seven TDs and run for 242 yards and seven TDs. Bullitt East Coach Darrell Vincent called Nelson County "a great offensive team. They take advantage of every mistake. We were fortunate to win."
■ DeSales is in Class 2A in football, but the Colts run against bigger horses to tune up for their district. Over the past few years they've played 3A Central, and 6A Fern Creek and Seneca. They had chances to beat those teams, but never did. But DeSales finally got over the hump last week by beating 5A John Hardin 25-20, ending the Bulldogs' 43-game regular-season winning streak. "It felt good to finally beat a team we weren't expected to beat," Coach Harold Davis said. DeSales has enjoyed a high level of success in recent years. It lost in the semifinals to Caldwell County last fall, and was state runner-up to Fort Campbell in 2009. The Colts are led by senior Dylan Byrd, who's rushed for 276 yards and five TDs in two games. The 5-foot-8, 175-pound running back had more than 2,300 yards and 31 TDs rushing and receiving as a junior. "He's special," Davis said. "I hope some college takes a chance on him."
■ Sam Harp, who won 326 games coaching high school football in Kentucky, got his first victory in Tennessee last week. Harp, who left Danville after 25 years and seven state titles, led Lebanon, Tenn., past Franklin County (Tenn.) 31-17.
■ Pineville has a couple of familiar names in its starting lineup. Mountain Lions freshman quarterback/cornerback Tucker Woolum is the son of former Pineville and Eastern Kentucky University quarterback Tuck Woolum, and grandson of former Kentucky QB Jerry Woolum. Tucker has thrown for 445 yards and four TDs, and rushed for two scores. Freshman receiver/defensive back Will Adams is the grandson of the late former Pineville coach Bill Adams. Will has seven catches for 145 yards, and has two interceptions. "Most importantly, they're two fine kids that are great competitors on the football field," Coach Bart Elam said.
■ Clinton County ended a 39-game losing streak by topping Trimble County 13-6. It was the Bulldogs' first victory since they beat Caverna in 2009.
■ Ashland Blazer gave first-year head coach Tony Love his first victory when Hunter Prince hit Jordan Kennedy with a two-point conversion pass in overtime to lift the host Blazers to a 35-34 win over Raceland. Prince threw for two TDs and ran for three scores. Love, a Tomcats assistant for 19 years before taking over the top spot, told the Ashland Daily Independent: "Echoes of Putnam Stadium were kind of leaning in our direction, I guess. Hard work leads to great fortune."
■ Caldwell County junior quarterback Elijah Sindelar, who has a scholarship offer from UK, pushed his career passing total past 6,000 yards last week. In wins over Christian County and Union County this season, Sindelar has completed 30 of 53 passes for 351 yards and six TDs. That gives him 6,005 yards and 57 TDs in the last three years. Caldwell County junior running back Jaylen Boyd, who has also started since he was a freshman, has 3,320 yards and 49 TDs.
■ Madison Southern's Damien Harris, a Michigan commitment, leads the state in rushing with 487 yards in two games. West Jessamine's Devin Taylor is on his heels with 459 yards.
■ Freshmen Sebastian Francisco and Jacob Tate, and senior Ben Durham all kicked game-winning field goals on the road last Friday. Francisco booted a 37-yarder as time expired to give Central a 30-27 victory over Lafayette. Tate's 19-yarder lifted Knox Central over Southwestern 31-28 in overtime. Durham's 31-yarder with one second left capped Madison Central's 23-21 comeback win over Woodford County. Madison Central pulled to within 21-20 on Zach Hardin's 44-yard TD pass to John Williams with 1:47 left, then failed on a two-point conversion try. But the Indians' defense forced Woodford County into a three-and-out, and Durham's kick finished off the rally.
■ Trinity quarterback Reggie Bonnafon, a Louisville commitment, passed for 283 yards and two TDs, and Donald Brooks ran for 103 yards and two scores in the Shamrocks' 42-35 win at Carmel, Ind.
■ Paris will hold a reunion for all former football players, coaches, administrators, cheerleaders, band members and fans Friday at 5:30 p.m., before the Greyhounds play Ludlow at Blanton Collier Stadium.
■ Defending girls' state soccer champ and No. 1 rated Tates Creek lost to No. 3 Sacred Heart 3-2 on Wednesday. Lauryn Westman scored twice in the last four minutes to rally Sacred Heart to victory. It was the Commodores' first loss in 12 games dating to last season.
■ Lexington Catholic freshman Michaela Reinhart won the Tiger Run cross country meet at Champions Park in Louisville last weekend. She covered the 5,000 meters in 19:16.8. Lafayette freshman Emma Valle finished third.
■ The Scholastic Ball Report starts its 11th season Sunday at noon on CWKYT-TV. Gary Ball will host the show, along with Doug Flynn and Leah Pear-Kerkhoff.
■ Howie Crittenden, who helped the Cuba Cubs win the 1952 Sweet Sixteen title with his scoring and ball-handling, died last week. He was 80. Mr. Crittenden went on to star at Murray State where he set the school scoring record with 2,019 points. Mr. Crittenden was inducted into the Dawahare's/KHSAA Hall of Fame in 1989, and the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004. This summer, he was named to the inaugural class of the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame.
■ Former Paul Laurence Dunbar basketball player Brandon Sok has been hired as an assistant coach at Cedarville University, an NCAA Division II school in Ohio. Sok played at Cedarville (Class of 2010). He was a volunteer assistant under Pat Estepp for one year before going to Oklahoma Wesleyan as a graduate assistant.