You can go home again, to coach where you once played, to beat a big rival, to ramp up the enthusiasm among your hometown high school football fans. Zach Massengill of Middlesboro and T.J. Maynard of Russell are first-year coaches at their alma maters, and both are enjoying early success.
■ Massengill, who played on Middlesboro's Class A state championship team in 1998, thought he'd like to coach the Yellow Jackets someday. "But I didn't think it'd happen this soon," he said. Massengill, 33, spent the past decade as an assistant at Boyle County (eight years) and Bourbon County (two years) before succeeding Randy Frazier as Middlesboro's coach. He inherited a veteran team and, after weather wrecked the Jackets' season opener against Grant County (it went into the record books as a truncated 7-7 tie), they've beaten Pineville and Bell County to claim county bragging rights.
Last week's win over Bell County was a thriller. Tanner Hoskins' 22-yard field goal as time expired gave the Jackets a 17-14 victory. Middlesboro, which went 9-3 last year, seems to be on the uptick. "The community is excited about football again," Massengill said.
His dad, Danny, played on Middlesboro's 1965 Class 2A state runner-up team and was an assistant on the 1998 title team. The Jackets' current staff includes three assistants with ties to the '98 championship. Neal Pucciarelli was offensive coordinator then, while David Kelley and Adam Bowling played on that team.
■ In Maynard's last football game during his senior season (1987) at Russell, the Red Devils lost to Ashland Blazer with a playoff berth on the line. In his first game against Ashland as Russell's coach, Maynard guided the Devils to a 29-27 overtime victory against the Tomcats last week. "It was a long time for redemption," he said with a laugh. Russell and Ashland aren't in the same classification any longer, but they're still big rivals. Maynard, 43, succeeded his former coach, the legendary Ivan McGlone, at Russell. Maynard previously coached at Raceland for four years (and was 0-4 against Ashland). He's put in a new offense and defense at Russell, and knows "it'll be a process" getting the players to adjust. Beating Ashland probably will speed up that process. Jacob McKee's TD pass to Bronson Korzep gave Russell a 27-21 lead in overtime. The Devils missed the extra-point kick, but a penalty against Ashland gave them another try. They took advantage, with Bobby May's two-point pass to Jacob Martin. Ashland pulled to within 29-27 on Quinton Baker's TD but failed on its two-point conversion.
Maynard, who played college football at Kentucky, didn't get to see the dramatic ending to the Cats' triple-overtime loss to Florida. He set his DVR to record the game. When he got home at 10:30 Saturday night, he settled in to watch it, not knowing the outcome. But his DVR stopped recording with two minutes left in regulation. "So I didn't see the most exciting part," he said. Maynard thinks Mark Stoops has UK going in the right direction. "You can see they're vastly improved. The physical talent is there. They're just a little bit young."
■ Davon Davis, who rushed for 1,400 yards and 27 TDs for Lexington Catholic in 1992, said "it was strange" watching his son Andre quarterback Bryan Station to victory over his alma mater last week. "I always envisioned Andre going to Lexington Catholic and playing. But I left the choice up to him, and he wanted to go to Bryan Station. It's been a joy watching him play." Davon was in Chicago on business and wasn't sure he'd get back in time for Friday's game. "Andre texted me the night before that he was ready to beat my old school, laugh out loud," said Davon, who made it back to Lexington just before kickoff. After Andre threw for 199 yards and two TDs, and ran for 72 yards and a score in the win over the Knights, he was surprised to see his dad there after the game. He got a congratulatory hug. "I see a lot of my moves in him," Davon said. "I think he's a little more athletic than I was, and I know he's got more nerves than me. I never could've played quarterback." Blood is thicker than water, so father always cheers for his son no matter the opponent. But unless it's his son playing against his old school, Davon said Lexington Catholic "always has a special place in my heart."
■ Damien Harris rushed for 321 yards and six TDs, and returned a kickoff 91 yards for a score to lead Madison Southern past Paul Laurence Dunbar 49-35 last week. To say Dunbar Coach Paul Rains was impressed would be an understatement. "I think he's better than last year," said Rains, who watched Harris run for 146 yards and a TD against his Bulldogs last season. "He seems like he's bigger, faster, stronger and just a little bit wiser. He's a man among boys, a college player playing in a high school game. When a guy's got that much talent, there's not much you can do to stop him." Rains said he made a mistake by changing up his defense and concentrated on stopping Harris at the line of scrimmage. "But once he broke through, he was gone." Rains was reluctant to compare Harris to other great running backs he's seen. But he thinks Harris' power is similar to that of Domonique Hayden, who starred for Rains' state title team at Lexington Christian. Harris' size and speed remind him of former Bryan Station star Eric Shelton. Rains thinks people don't give Madison Southern's other players enough credit. "Their defense did a great job against us. Their linemen are good blocking linemen. Jon Clark is a good football coach who does a good job with what he's got. He works it around Damien to where Damien's not carrying the ball 35 times a game and risking injury or wearing down. It's not just Damien out there with a bunch of cannon fodder. They've got a nice football team."
Harris has 110 career TDs, tying him for fifth most in state history with Shaun Alexander of Boone County (1991-94) and Monquantae Gibson of Moore (1998-2001). Harris' 102 rushing TDs also rank fifth best. He's rushed for 6,199 yards, which ranks 19th all-time.
■ Riley Hall, who quarterbacked Pulaski County to the 5A finals as a sophomore last year, has broken Cole Draughn's school record of 470 career completions. Hall completed 18 of 25 passes for 209 yards and four TDs in a 41-6 rout of Russell County. Hall has completed 489 passes for 5,995 yards. His 66 TD passes are two shy of Draughn's school record. Draughn, a 2004 graduate, threw for 6,665 yards and 68 TDs, and ran for 4,384 yards and 53 TDs in his career.
■ Bowling Green sophomore Jamale Carothers rushed for a school-record 336 yards and four TDs in a come-from-behind 42-34 victory over Owensboro. It was the Purples' 48th consecutive victory, the second-longest streak in state history. Bowling Green senior tight end Cameron Wallace, son of Coach Kevin Wallace, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and is out for the season. "It's a shame because Cameron put in his time for three years to get to where he was a focal point, a major part of our offense," Kevin Wallace said. Three of the top teams in the state have lost key players to season-ending injuries: Wallace of No. 1 Bowling Green, Michael Nero of No. 2 Manual and Grayson Miller of No. 5 Scott County. "Those injuries are going to have a real effect on three really good teams," Kevin Wallace said. Bowling Green will try to extend its winning streak to 49 — one shy of Trinity's state record — when it hosts McCallie School of Tennessee on Friday. "We'll be swimming in some deep water against McCallie," Wallace said.
■ Trinity senior Donald Brooks ran for 290 yards and five TDs in a 36-27 win at Cincinnati Colerain. Trinity hosts Cocoa, Fla., on Friday night and visits Indianapolis Cathedral next week before playing its first Kentucky opponent, St. Xavier, on Oct. 3.
■ Class 6A champion Scott County has averaged 52 points and 350 yards rushing while winning 19 games in a row. Leading the ground attack during the winning streak have been Keith Guy (1,926 yards, 19 TDs) and Theo Price (1,685 yards, 29 TDs). The Cardinals go for their 20th consecutive victory when they host North Hardin on Friday night.
■ Caldwell County's Elijah Sindelar is climbing the state's all-time passing lists. In four games this season, Sindelar, who has committed to Purdue, has thrown for 1,218 yards and 20 TDs. His career totals of 10,246 yards and 115 TDs rank among the top 10 in state history.
■ This week in high school football in 1990: Tates Creek's Dan Hicks didn't let a muddy field slow him down as he ran 22 times for 264 yards and five TDs in a 35-7 win over Lafayette. ... Scott Russell ran for 150 yards and two TDs, and returned a kickoff 88 yards for a score as Evarts (6-0) beat Lynn Camp 34-7. ... Clay County freshman tailback DeShae Henson carried 24 times for 174 yards and a TD in a 13-7 victory over Bryan Station.
■ Paducah Sun sports writer Joey Fosko, who died last year at age 46, is being remembered in a nice way. A scholarship fund in his name was established in Graves County last year. A dollar is added to the ticket cost of selected athletic events, including Friday night's football game between Graves County and Mayfield. Proceeds go to the Joey Fosko Memorial Scholarship Fund.