When Henry Clay senior Colby Barnes signed a letter of intent Wednesday to play football at Eastern Illinois, his dad stood off to the side during the school assembly, watching quietly with pride.
John Barnes has had lots of practice being an unnoticed fan of his son.
John Barnes is an associate principal at Bryan Station, which is Henry Clay's district rival in football and basketball. Colby has played both sports for the Blue Devils.
"It's been a tough spot for me," the elder Barnes admitted. "When it comes to Bryan Station and Henry Clay, I don't wear either color. I sit back by myself and watch the games.
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"But the kids at Bryan Station know at the end of the day I'm pulling for my son."
Colby, a 6-foot-3 wide receiver, said his dad is in a "win-win situation" because one of his favorite schools is sure to win when they meet.
Bonnie Barnes, John's wife and Colby's mom, said there "hasn't been much awkwardness at all" in the Henry Clay-Bryan Station dynamic. "The priority is Colby, and always has been."
Colby wasn't sure which sport to pursue in college until his junior year. He settled on football, figuring it offered the better opportunity.
Henry Clay has been a run-first team recently, but Barnes had chances to show his skills at receiver. Over the past two seasons he had 58 catches for 900 yards and nine touchdowns.
"It was all about the team," he said. "I just tried to block hard on every single play even though I wasn't catching many balls."
Barnes drew interest from EKU, Morehead State, Georgetown and Grand Valley State before deciding on Eastern Illinois.
"It was a family atmosphere there, and I like the offense," Colby said. "They throw the ball a lot."
Eastern Illinois' quarterback is Jalen Whitlow, a transfer from Kentucky.
Colby hopes to wrap up his athletic career at Henry Clay by helping the basketball team get to the 11th Region finals for the second year in a row, and a shot at reaching the Sweet Sixteen.
The Devils could possibly play Bryan Station a couple more times. If that happens, John Barnes will be in the background, quietly watching and pulling for his son.
■ Six other Henry Clay football players made their college choices official on Wednesday, including all-city and all-state center Sullivan Simpson, and all-city defensive end Elijah Barnett, both of whom will walk on at UK.
Griffin Brixey, a two-way lineman, signed with Kentucky Wesleyan. Rhoman James, a quarterback/defensive back, is headed to Centre College. Maurice Gibson, a defensive lineman, signed with Kentucky State. Clark Dupree, a linebacker, is going to Samford.
■ Brannon Sturgeon, an all-city offensive lineman at Bryan Station, is headed for Morehead State.
■ Lafayette had five players make their college choices official, including all-city and all-state wide receiver Dontavion "Lucky" Jackson and all-city linebacker DeVon Quincy, both of whom are going to Western Kentucky.
Logan Kendrick, a second-team all-city lineman, will be a preferred walk-on at EKU. Evan Shaw, a second-team all-city linebacker, is going to Lindsey Wilson. Kareem Smith, a linebacker, will be a preferred walk-on at West Virginia State.
■ Lexington Catholic quarterback Reese Ryan will grayshirt at WKU. According to Knights Coach Mark Perry, that will delay the clock starting on Ryan's eligibility, and give him a better opportunity to compete for the QB job after Brandon Doughty finishes his career next season.
"The fit is phenomenal," Perry said of Ryan and WKU. "He gets along with them as well as possible."
Four other Lexington Catholic players signed Wednesday: linebacker Chase Boling and defensive back Braxton Couch with Murray State; lineman Cameron Bailey with Morehead State, and defensive back Cody Mitchell with Davidson.
■ Tates Creek running back Martavious Carter, wide receiver Austin Rogers and receiver/defensive back D.J. Mayfield are going to Kentucky Wesleyan. Lineman Jacob Czarnecki is headed to Centre. Quarterback Graham Gordon will walk on at EKU.
■ Five Scott County players who helped the Cardinals to a 51-5 record during their careers, including a state title in 2013, signed to play college football: quarterback Clay McKee (Georgetown), defensive back Grayson Miller (Michigan State), lineman Chase Daff (Pikeville), defensive back Tyler Carpenter (Campbellsville), and lineman Duncan Lewis (Campbellsville).