North Laurel, in its 22nd year of football, has had four winning seasons and has never won a playoff game. Covington Scott has had one winning season (1990) and one playoff victory (2002) in its program's 34-year history.
But it's a whole new ball game for the Jaguars and Eagles this season. Both teams are off to their best starts ever and arrive in October still unbeaten.
North Laurel is 5-0 after beating Class 5A district foe Southwestern 21-14. Southwestern had the ball at the Jaguars' 4-yard line in the closing seconds but couldn't score. "In the past, we probably would've lost that game," North Laurel Coach Chris Larkey said. "The kids are starting to get that winning mentality, starting to believe."
Scott is 6-0 after beating Cooper 28-21. Cooper, 5A state runner-up last year, had the ball at the Eagles' 5 in the closing minutes but couldn't crack the goal line. "I don't think anybody outside of us thought we'd be undefeated," Scott Coach Dan Woolley said. "But I admit, I still wake up and pinch myself every morning."
Woolley and Larkey faced the challenge of changing a program's "culture" from that of a perennial loser into a consistent winner.
Woolley credited his predecessor, Dave Campbell, for laying the foundation for Scott's turnaround. Campbell coached the Eagles for four years, with Woolley his top assistant. Before that, Campbell was defensive coordinator at Georgetown College when it won two NAIA national titles. Woolley was a nose guard at Georgetown in those glory days. But Woolley had a winning attitude before he joined Bill Cronin's Georgetown Tigers. He was part of three state championship teams at Beechwood under Mike Yeagle.
Scott has one of its most talented senior classes ever, players who won a freshman league against Northern Kentucky competition, then gained varsity experience as sophomores and juniors.
The Eagles rely on a stable of backs, including Josh Castleman, Nick Brinkman, Roberto London, Dylan DeTatta, Chris Roberts and quarterback Ben Osborne. The line is anchored by Kameron Crim and Corey Fitzwater. "This team really believes in itself and what we're doing," Woolley said.
North Laurel's success has followed the same pattern, with players gaining experience as sophomores and juniors, then breaking through as seniors. That group includes dual-threat quarterback Michael Nelson and running back Gabe Blair, along with Cole Lewis, Zack Abner and Austin Baker.
Larkey has coaching in his blood. His dad, Tom Larkey, was a highly successful coach at Rockcastle County before starting the Harlan County program. He has more than 285 career wins.
"The biggest thing I learned from him was to be considerate of your players," Chris said. "They're going to mess up because they're teenagers, so you give them a second chance. You've gotta be tough on 'em, but you gotta love on 'em, too."
North Laurel has a tough district test Friday when it visits unbeaten Pulaski County.
■ Pulaski County is pickin' and grinnin'. Johnny Hines' Maroons have 16 interceptions, including a single-season school record six by senior Jacob Denney. He had one pick last year, and his seven overall are a school record. Sophomores Christian Holman and George Gregory have three interceptions each this season.
■ Wayne County routed Bell County 41-6 in front of what Cardinals Coach Shawn Thompson called a record crowd in Monticello last Friday. "A huge win for our kids, our program, even our community," Thompson said. Wayne County was led by Tyler Guffey, who threw for 274 yards and two TDs, and ran for two scores, and Jason Perkins, who had four catches for 190 yards and two TDs. The Cards are 6-0 for the first time in school history. "The kids have really been focused," Thompson said. "After losing to (eventual 3A state champ) Central in the playoffs last year, they've worked their tails off to get better." Wayne County hosts unbeaten Corbin on Friday and Thompson expects an even bigger crowd. Corbin has beaten the Cards 24 out of 26 times. Wayne County beat the Redhounds last year, and when Thompson played for the Cards in 1987.
■ Pikeville threatened a school scoring record in its 77-46 win over Middlesboro. The Panthers put up 79 in a rout of Johns Creek in 1989, the year they won a third straight state title. In last week's victory, Austin Charles was 13-for-15 passing for 322 yards and three TDs, and ran for a TD. Cody Estep had eight catches for 223 yards and two TDs, and ran for a score. Chase Hall rushed for 129 yards and five TDs, giving him 15 TDs this season. L.J. Allara kicked 11 extra points, one shy of the state record set by Michael Adams of Fleming-Neon in a 92-9 win over Elkhorn City in 2000.
■ West Jessamine's Devin Taylor rushed for more than 300 yards for the third time this season when he had 328 yards and three TDs in a 42-32 loss to Franklin County. Taylor is on pace to surpass last year's production when he ran for 2,442 yards and 23 TDs in 11 games. He has 1,581 yards and 19 TDs in six games this season.
■ Chase Lightfoot threw three TD passes to lead South Oldham past Conner 34-32 in a 5A district game. Conner quarterback Drew Barker, who has committed to the University of Kentucky, passed for 270 yards and two TDs, and ran for another. He was picked off twice. On the season Barker has completed 99 of 154 passes (64 percent) for 1,234 yards, 12 TDs and four interceptions. He has rushed for 415 yards and six TDs.
■ Mayfield senior quarterback Jake Guhy should be in the Mr. Football conversation. He led the Cardinals to a state runner-up finish in 2011, a state title last year, and he's helped them to a 6-0 record this season. Mayfield is 34-2 in his three years as a starter. Last season, Guhy threw for 2,872 yards, 34 TDs and just one interception. He's thrown for 1,388 yards, 17 TDs and three picks this year. He's passed for 6,484 yards and 74 TDs in his career.
■ Lexington Catholic senior wide receiver David Bouvier has 43 catches for 615 yards this season, giving him 180 career receptions and 2,633 receiving yards, both school records.
■ Caldwell County junior QB Elijah Sindelar, who has an offer from UK, has pushed his career passing totals to 7,068 yards and 72 TDs. The Tigers, 2A state runners-up last year, are 6-0 after bashing previously unbeaten Ballard Memorial 63-28.
■ Mismatch of the week: In a Thursday night game, Bowling Green took its 35-game winning streak to Logan County, which is on a nine-game losing streak.
■ Corey Robinson, who set state passing records at Lone Oak and was Mr. Football in 2007, is still flinging it. Robinson, a senior at Troy, has thrown for 11,587 yards and 71 TDs in four years. Add those to his high school numbers and he's passed for 20,858 yards (12 miles!) and 203 TDs.
■ West Jessamine's boys won the 4th Region golf title and will head to Bowling Green next week in hopes of defending their state championship. The Colts won the region by 18 shots, led by reigning individual state champ Fred Allen Meyer. He shot a 71 to tie Andrew McKinney of Danville for the lower round at Campbellsville Country Club. McKinney took medalist honors in a playoff. Connor Haas had a 76 for West Jessamine and Landon Adkins a 77. The Colts' Byron Speach and Austen Swentzel each had an 80. Anderson County beat Taylor County in a playoff to qualify for the state as region runner-up. The boys' state tournament is Tuesday and Wednesday at Bowling Green Country Club. The girls' state tournament is next Friday and Saturday.
■ No Lexington boys' golf team qualified for the state tournament for the first time in 12 years. Clark County and Scott County finished 1-2 in the region at Kearney Hill this week. Clark County and Shelby County earned the qualifying spots in 2001.
■ The KHSAA will mark the silver anniversary of Tates Creek's 1988 boys' state soccer title team by recognizing the Commodores at next month's state finals. Tates Creek's '88 champs, coached by Gary Mayrwieser, had a state-record 15 shutouts on their way to a 23-2-1 record. They beat Owensboro 2-0 in the finals, with Raul Hernandez and James Trusley scoring goals, and Greg Kotzbauer at goalkeeper. Team members who want to attend this year's finals can get two free tickets. Call the KHSAA (859-299-5472) or email Alec Jury (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Kentucky's unbeaten football teams
Class A: Bethlehem (5-0), Fairview (5-0), Mayfield (6-0), Russellville (6-0).
Class 2A: Caldwell County (6-0), DeSales (6-0), Louisville Christian (6-0).
Class 3A: Belfry (5-0), Bourbon County (5-0), Corbin (6-0), Mason County (5-0), South Warren (6-0), Wayne County (6-0).
Class 4A: Boyle County (6-0), Highlands (6-0), Johnson Central (6-0).
Class 5A: Bowling Green (5-0), Covington Scott (6-0), Franklin County (6-0), Madison Southern (5-0), North Laurel (5-0), Pulaski County (6-0).
Class 6A: Central Hardin (6-0), Henry Clay (5-0), Male (5-0), Manual (5-0), Scott County (6-0), Simon Kenton (6-0).