Owen Hauck, who coached Boone County football during its glory days, celebrated his 87th birthday a few days ago.
Hauck is still into football, but as a spectator. He doesn't get to games much, so he watches college football and the Cincinnati Bengals on TV.
He said he doesn't have a connection with Boone County anymore. He retired as Rebels' coach in 1997. But Hauck knows Boone County football isn't what it used to be. Two weeks ago the Rebels ended a 17-game losing streak. They've had only one winning season since 2009.
When Boone County plays Lafayette and Henry Clay the next two weeks, it will be a decided underdog in both games. That was never the case when Hauck was coaching the Rebels. During one stretch, Boone County won 31 of 33 games against Lexington opponents. It dominated with a physical style that employed strong linemen and a string of hard-running tailbacks, including John Alford, John Ransdell, Tony Law, Brandon Black and, the best of the bunch, Shaun Alexander. In one memorable game, Alexander ran for seven TDs in an 83-7 romp over Lafayette.
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Boone County was Class 4A state runner-up in 1986, '87, '92 and '94. The Rebels couldn't sustain that consistent excellence, not after its talent pool became shallower with the opening of two more high schools in Boone County — Ryle in 1992 and Cooper in 2008. "That cut off a lot of good players we used to get," Hauck said. "And from what I hear, before this decade is over, there may be an additional high school in Boone County."
There's always a reduction in talent when a school's enrollment is split. Shelby County, once a sports power, took a big hit when Collins opened in 2010. Here in Lexington, a new high school is projected to open in 2017, which means the talent in town will be spread even thinner. There's also talk of a second high school in Scott County, which could adversely affect the Cardinals' program.
On the other hand, consolidation can be a boon. McCracken County is flexing considerable muscle in sports since the consolidation of Heath, Lone Oak and Reidland last year. And Harlan County has had strong athletics since Cawood, Cumberland and Evarts merged a few years ago.
■ Bowling Green beat St. Xavier 6-0 in overtime last week on Campbell Gott's 4-yard TD pass to Robbie Lofton. It was the Purples' 47th consecutive victory, tying them with Boyle County (1999-2002) for the second-longest winning streak in state history. Trinity (1988-1991) holds the record with 50 victories in a row. St. X was shut out for the first time in 48 games, and only the second time in 99 games. Trinity, no surprise, was the team that blanked St. X in 2010 and 2006.
■ North Bullitt sophomore Nate Johnson starred in the Eagles' 33-26 win over Jeffersontown. He had seven catches for 125 yards and a TD, ran three times for 77 yards, and had three interceptions on defense.
■ Manual star Michael Nero, who suffered a slight ACL tear in his right knee against Fern Creek last week, had surgery Monday and will miss the rest of the season. Nero, a senior, was one of the top running backs in the state. He rushed for 1,800 yards and 20 TDs last season, and had almost 300 yards in five quarters this year. Crimsons Coach Oliver Lucas said Nero's injury wasn't severe, and he'll need only about three months of rehab. Nero, 5-foot-11, 210 pounds, has not committed to a college, but Lucas called him a "big-time prospect, definitely." Despite losing Nero, Lucas thinks Manual still has the talent to be one of the best teams in the state. "We like to think of ourselves as 'Tailback University.' We feel we have a stable of running backs, guys who can step in and pick up the slack. We'll be all right." Trae Gordon, a senior, will take over as Manual's top back.
Lucas, who coached at Bryan Station before leaving for Manual, keeps up with the Defenders and is happy to see them playing well. "I'm proud of them and like what's going on over there," Lucas said. "My heart is always going to be with Bryan Station."
■ Lexington Catholic had an 8-0 record in football against city competition before the Knights lost to Lafayette 34-24 last week. Lexington Catholic, which had beaten Lafayette the previous three years, is 3-0 against Lexington Christian, 1-0 against Bryan Station and 1-0 against Henry Clay. The Knights play host to Bryan Station on Friday night.
■ Bourbon County's Brent Holman has rushed for 493 yards, averaging 11 yards a carry, in three games this season. Holman has been that effective his whole career. In four years he's run for 3,056 yards, averaging 11 yards a carry, and 52 TDs.
■ Caldwell County's Elijah Sindelar is 67 yards shy of 10,000 passing yards in his career. His 111 TD passes are 11th-most in state history. Caldwell County has been an offensive machine this season, beating Christian County 78-57, Union County 62-27 and Ohio County 72-27. The Tigers play Trigg County on Friday night.
■ When Dale Mueller was coaching at Highlands, he never got to see former Bluebirds Jared Lorenzen or Derek Smith play for Kentucky in person. "I didn't have a Saturday free," he said. In 33 years as a high school coach, Mueller saw only two of his former players play in college: Justin Frisk at Thomas More and Gino Guidugli at Cincinnati. But now that Mueller is out of coaching — he stepped down after last season — he has some open Saturdays. He attended UK's opener against Tennessee-Martin two weeks ago and watched former Highlands star Patrick Towles quarterback the Cats to victory. "He looked great," Mueller said. "He's definitely improved. We ran a different offense than they're running at UK, and he has a faster, quicker release now. He didn't need that for us." Even when Towles struggled early in his career at UK, Mueller never doubted he would earn the starting job eventually. Mueller recalled that when Towles was the backup quarterback on Highlands' freshman team, and fourth on Highlands' depth chart before his sophomore season, he still saw himself as a future Division I starter. "At the time his mom told him, 'It's not working out too well for you right now is it?' But he said, 'Don't worry, Mom, it's all going to work out.' He's always had that confidence."
■ This week in high school football in 1995: Tim Couch's 39-yard TD pass to Ricky Hensley with :03 left gave Leslie County a 12-6 victory over Johnson Central. ... Roni Robinson rushed for 184 yards and three TDs to lead Franklin County past Scott County 26-0. ... Demetrius Gay's 63-yard punt return for a TD lit the fuse on Henry Clay's offensive explosion as the Blue Devils led Lafayette 40-0 at halftime on their way to a 54-14 rout.
■ Former Bryan Station basketball great Mike Allen will be inducted into the Louisiana-Lafayette Hall of Fame the weekend of Oct. 31. When Allen played for the Ragin' Cajuns in the early 1990s, the school was called Southwestern Louisiana. (It became Louisiana-Lafayette in 1999.) Allen scored 1,673 points with the Ragin' Cajuns, which ranks him among the school's all-time top 10 scorers. He was the Sun Belt Conference player of the year in 1994, when he averaged 23 points. Allen said the highlight of his career was winning the Sun Belt title in his senior year by beating Western Kentucky in Diddle Arena in the conference finals. "They were a great team, with Darrin Horn, Mark Bell, and coached by Ralph Willard, but we upset them at their place and went on to the NCAA Tournament." Allen also had a career-high 38 points against Memphis State and Penny Hardaway in 1992. Allen works at Bryan Station Middle School as youth service center director. He took his son Isaiah, an eighth-grader, to a basketball camp at Louisiana-Lafayette this summer.
■ Condolences to Johnny Ginn, the KHSAA's longtime physical plant director, whose wife, Billie, died last week after a battle with cancer.
■ The KHSAA Board of Control will hold a special appeals meeting Oct. 21 about the sanctions against the Cordia boys' basketball program. In late July, after an almost yearlong investigation, the KHSAA levied sanctions against Cordia that included a ban on playing any boys' games during the 2014-15 regular season or postseason, and the 2015-16 postseason. Cordia was assessed fines totaling almost $26,000. Commissioner Julian Tackett said in a news release that Cordia's violations illustrated "the most wanton and blatant disregard for association rules in its 97-year history."
■ The Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches' 21st annual fall clinic will be at the Hyatt Regency and Lexington Center on Sept. 19 and 20. Speakers will include Tennessee Coach Donnie Tyndall, Morehead State Coach Sean Woods, Marshall Coach Dan D'Antoni, Kentucky Wesleyan Coach Happy Osborne, Covington Catholic Coach Scott Ruthsatz, former Transylvania coach Don Lane, and Louisville women's coach Jeff Walz. Go to Kentuckybasketballcoaches.org for more information.