James Ishmael, Devert Owens and Bruce Pieratt share many of the same recollections of the day 50 years ago when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. They also share many of the same recollections of that night. On Nov. 22, 1963, Ishmael, Owens and Pieratt played for the Lafayette football team that lost at Caldwell County 25-0 in the Class 2A semifinals.
Coach John Snowden and his undefeated Generals had made the trip to Caldwell County in far Western Kentucky the day before, and were at their motel in Princeton that rainy Friday afternoon when they heard the news from Dallas.
"We were numb emotionally," said Owens, now a Lexington dentist. "We were crushed. President Kennedy was such a hero, particularly to young people."
As national events roiled, the Lafayette players wondered if the game would be played that night. Ishmael, now a Fayette circuit judge, said his father, James Sr., who was Lafayette's principal at the time, told him later he had pleaded with Caldwell County officials to postpone the game, but they wouldn't.
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"So we did what we were told and went out there and played," Owens said.
"Not a lot of minds were on football," said Pieratt, owner of Pieratt's stores in Central Kentucky.
Lafayette's speed and quickness were negated by sloppy field conditions. "We played in a quagmire," Pieratt said. "Not a blade of grass, just deep mud. But they beat us fair and square."
If the Generals had won, they would have advanced to the finals to face Highlands, a team they had beaten earlier in the season.
The loss, coming only hours after JFK's murder, "was another emotional blow for us," Owens said.
Ishmael confessed that football was his main concern. "This sounds terribly selfish and immature, but I don't know that I had an overwhelming emotional response" to the assassination. "I was worried whether we were going to play football or not, and how the rain was going to affect us." In retrospect, however, Ishmael feels the full importance of that fateful Friday. "It was a day and night that still haunts me 50 years later," he said.
■ Male's Davis Mattingly and Marque Northington set state records in the Bulldogs' 23-21 victory over St. Xavier. Mattingly completed a state-record 47 passes (out of 64 attempts) for 429 yards and two touchdowns. The old record was 40 completions by Steven Duckworth of Woodford County in 2008. Northington had a state-record 26 catches for 205 yards and a TD. The old record of 19 receptions was shared by J.T. Britt of Lewis County in 2007, and Patrick West of Franklin-Simpson in 2002. "We needed every one of those completions and every one of those receptions," Male Coach Chris Wolfe said. "During the game I had no idea we were throwing that much. But we had to because St. X is so big up front, we couldn't run it." Male had 87 plays and rolled up 33 first downs. Next up for the Bulldogs is a rematch with Trinity. They beat the Shamrocks 24-14 during the regular season.
■ Franklin County is in the 5A region finals for the second year in a row despite graduating star wide receiver Ryan Timmons (now at the University of Kentucky) and star quarterback Logan Woodside (Toledo). The Flyers, who visit Anderson County on Friday, are averaging 42 points a game compared to 57 last year. Chris Roberts has 1,481 yards and 23 TDs rushing and receiving. Lorenzo McCaskell has 1,441 yards and 22 TDs rushing and receiving. Barrett Sanderson has thrown for 1,767 yards and 20 TDs. Franklin County's defense is stingier, giving up 19 points a game compared to 31 last year. Anderson County beat the Flyers 35-21 during the regular season. Anderson County is in the region finals for the fifth time in school history, and Bearcats Coach Mark Peach has been part of four of those. He played on the 1987 team, and has coached in three — 2010, 2011 and now 2013.
■ Highlands senior QB Drew Houliston, who missed a few games with an injury, was back in the lineup as the Bluebirds beat Ashland Blazer 56-6. Houliston threw for 243 yards and five TDs. Highlands plays host to rival Covington Catholic on Friday. The Bluebirds won the regular-season meeting 42-6 when CovCath was missing several injured starters.
■ Madison Southern junior Damien Harris, who has committed to Michigan, ran for 342 yards and six TDs in the Eagles' 41-28 win over Harlan County. Harris had 220 yards and four scores in the fourth quarter. He's rushed for 2,470 yards and 39 TDs this year. Madison Southern faces unbeaten Pulaski County on Friday in the 5A playoffs.
■ Two-time defending 5A champ Bowling Green takes its 41-game winning streak to Graves County on Friday. Purples senior Nacarius Fant has pushed his career receiving totals to 212 catches (sixth most in state history), 4,099 yards (fifth most) and 47 TDs (fifth most). Graves County is in the region finals for the first time after knocking off Warren Central 28-27 in double overtime. Warren Central QB Chris Porter-Bunton left the game in the first quarter with a foot injury.
■ Conner senior QB Drew Barker's high school career is over after the Cougars' 35-34 loss at Anderson County. Barker's final stats: He completed 437 of 747 passes (58.5 percent) for 5,805 yards, 60 TDs and 19 interceptions. He ran 602 times for 3,815 yards and 50 TDs. Barker plans to graduate early, enroll at UK for the second semester and take part in spring practice.
■ Caldwell County junior QB Elijah Sindelar, who has an offer from UK, is closing in on 9,000 passing yards in his career. Going into Friday's 2A playoff game against Murray, Sindelar has thrown for 8,775 yards and 93 TDs.
■ Bryan Station QB Ora "Bo" Johnson, injured in the first quarter of last week's loss to Scott County, finished his career with 102 TDs passing and rushing. Johnson threw for 3,403 yards and 36 TDs this season, pushing his three-year totals to 7,568 passing yards and 77 TDs. He also compiled 1,524 rushing yards and 25 TDs.
■ Glasgow's victory over Washington County two weeks ago was the 600th in school history, giving the Scotties the 15th-most wins in the state. Glasgow lost to DeSales last week to finish 10-2. Rick Wood's senior class had an overall record of 42-9, including a state runner-up finish in 2011.
■ Tates Creek senior Mallory Eubanks, who helped the Commodores to a state title last year and a final four appearance this season, was named Kentucky's Miss Soccer. Eubanks has signed with Mississippi State. Tates Creek Coach Bo Lankster said the Commodores "are obviously very proud of Mallory, and proud of the fact that Tates Creek has had two consecutive Miss Soccer winners." Destinie Graves won the award in 2012.
■ Former Paul Laurence Dunbar and Sayre basketball star Mike Smith is having a huge impact as a freshman at Pfeiffer University, a Division II school in Decatur, Ga. Smith is averaging 26 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals through four games. He had 33 points, seven assists and five rebounds against St. Augustine. He was named Conference Carolinas player of the week.
■ Condolences to the family of David Parke, longtime business manager for Eastern Kentucky University athletics. He died this week at age 57. David was a true friend of high school sports. When the KHSAA began sanctioning girls' basketball again in the mid-1970s, David helped EKU stage the Girls' Sweet Sixteen for 10 years (1975-84). He kept an amazingly detailed statistical record of that tournament. Media members used to kid him about the thick, hand-bound tome he produced every year, and David loved the razzing. He also helped out with the Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic when it was held at EKU for more than 20 years, and many 11th Region Tournaments. A Madison Central graduate, David was always loyal to the Indians and reveled in their successes. He was never prouder than last basketball season when his son Daniel was a starter on Madison Central's state championship team. David Parke was a friend who will be missed.
■ Baseball signings in Lexington: Henry Clay infielder Wyatt Terrell, Western Kentucky; Lexington Catholic outfielder/catcher Riley Jackson, Louisville; Lexington Christian pitcher Lincoln Henzman, Louisville; Paul Dunbar pitcher Aaron Ochsenbein, EKU, and infielder Conner McHugh, WKU; and Tates Creek shortstop Devin Hairston, Louisville. Lexington Catholic junior infielder Daniel Little has committed to Louisville.
■ Henry Clay senior golfer Meg Mills, who helped the Blue Devils win back-to-back region titles and a pair of third-place finishes in the state tournament, signed with Coker College, a Division II school in Hartsville, S.C. Mills is an academic star, with a 4.7 weighted GPA.
■ West Jessamine state golf champs Grace Rose and Fred Allen Meyer signed letters of intent with UK last Friday. Rose won the girls' state title at Bowling Green Country Club last month. Three days later Meyer won the boys' title for the second year in a row.