Things got a wee bit out of hand during Lafayette’s 50-14 win over Paul Laurence Dunbar on Friday night at Toyota Stadium in Georgetown.
About midway through the first quarter, a scuffle broke out between the teams out that spilled over into the Dunbar bench area. Several Lafayette players left their own bench in an effort to rein in their teammates, resulting in subsequent barking and corralling from coaches in an effort to keep things from getting crazier.
Two Lafayette players and one Dunbar player were ejected after referees convened for about five minutes.
The natural rivalry gained some steam late last season when Dunbar nearly pulled off an upset of the eventual state runners-up in the first round of the 2015 playoffs. Social media banter was rampant leading up to Friday’s game.
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Dunbar Coach Chris Mullins, making his debut as the Bulldogs’ head man after five seasons leading Greenup County, said everyone’s emotions came to a head in that brief sideline moment. He tells his players to keep their cool on social media, and looks forward to using the sideline incident as a teaching moment.
“We talk about it all the time,” Mullins said. “There’s nothing I can do to police what they do when they’re home, but we talk about trying to have class and just show up and play the game and enjoy the game for what it is.
“ ... In the end, these kind of things have to happen in order for people to learn. We’ll make it learning experience and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The Bulldogs hung with Lafayette for most of the first half, tying the game at 14-all on a goal-line touchdown run by Alex Bard midway through the second quarter. Giving up 50 points might look bad on paper, but Mullins was pleased with how his defense showed up before it got winded.
“We just have so many guys going both ways,” Mullins said. “We got wore down pretty quick. ... We were concerned coming out after halftime that they had given all that they had in the first two quarters.”
He thought his group would have more success running against Lafayette, but they were handicapped a bit in the backfield: returning All-City running back Jefferson Harkless is out for the year while recovering from ACL surgery and backup Nate Gay is still not cleared from his own knee surgery from last season. Gay should be back soon, though, Mullins said.
So, how was Mullins’ first taste of Lexington football?
“I woke up this morning trying to figure out if I was happy or not happy,” he said. “I think any good coach will tell you there are things you’re happy with and things that you’re not.
“When the game’s over and I look back, I know that that’s the best team I’ve ever coached against in 11 years. But it’s also the best team that I’ve ever coached as well.”
Wills’ recruitment still open
After Lafayette’s win over Dunbar, offensive lineman Jedrick Wills told reporters that his recruitment was still open and that he was still in contact with college coaches. Scuttlebutt was circulating Friday night that the five-star offensive lineman, who has offers from Alabama, Notre Dame and Kentucky, had informed coaches of an imminent decision.
Wills said he’s close to making a decision, but “they send me texts and send me calls daily, so it’s still a going thing.”
Lafayette Coach Eric Shaw told WLXG-AM 1300 on Saturday that Wills’ announcement is likely to come this week. Shaw told the Herald-Leader that no ceremony is planned.
▪ Walker Wood, Lafayette’s quarterback who committed to UK last season, had an up-and-down night in his senior debut. He was 18-for-31 for 248 yards and three TDs but also threw two interceptions. He rushed for 58 yards on eight attempts.
Highlands takes thriller over Cooper
Highlands, tied for the state record with 23 championships, ended 2015 in the state semifinals after getting off to a 1-5 start, one of the worst in program history. Those hoping to Bluebirds, whose 859 wins entering the season were second-most in the nation, might struggle again will want to avert their eyes this season.
Grant Murray and Jared Pulsfort combined for five touchdowns and nearly 300 rushing yards in a 52-42 victory over Cooper, a preseason top-10 squad in Class 6A. Murray scored the go-ahead TD deep in the third quarter, then Pulsfort added two of his three scores in the final period.
Cooper trounced Highlands 37-13 in last year’s season opener. The Bluebirds defeated Campbell County but then lost four straight, including blowouts to fellow Northern Kentucky juggernauts Ryle and Simon Kenton.
“We went up there last year and they got us pretty good,” Coach Brian Weinrich said. “There’s no other way to say it. It was definitely a rallying point this winter, spring and summer. We needed to make sure we were in position to start the season off successfully.”
Garrard County wins ‘50-50’ battle
After losing by one point late in its season opener against Shelby County last year, Garrard County knew it could compete with a squad that made the Class 4A semifinals.
Ultimately the Golden Lions’ size advantage over the speedier Rockets allowed them to book a 41-31 win this time around.
“We’re really big up front, so in the second half we just lined up in the wishbone and just ran at ’em pretty hard,” Garrard County Coach Jerry Perry said. “Both our backs (Jacob Foley and Devan Logan) had big nights. ... We probably had 300 or 400 yards rushing in the second half.”
Foley rushed for five touchdowns and 294 yards on 30 carries, and also and had an interception for the Golden Lions.
Garrard trailed 31-21 with two minutes left in the third quarter but rallied in a game between foes who were equally disadvantaged.
“They were giving us all kinds of fits,” Perry said. “ ... It’s a tough matchup for us because of what they do offensively with their skill because we just don’t have that kind of skill. But it’s also a tough matchup for them because of our size and what we do is just not good for them.
“They won it last year and we won it this year. We could play next week and they’d win it and we could play the following week and we’d win it. It’s really 50-50.”
▪ Thoughts and prayers go to East Jessamine’s Justin McIntyre, who broke his leg in the first quarter against Elizabethtown in the VisitNich.com Bowl on Friday night. McIntyre was the Jaguars’ leading rusher and tackler last season.
East Jessamine pulled out an emotional 20-15 victory, handing Elizabethtown its first regular season loss since Oct. 10, 2014.
▪ Pulaski County receiver Jake Johnson broke the state record for career receptions in the Maroons’ 26-14 win over Harlan County in the Don Marshall Bowl on Friday night. He had six catches for 62 yards, putting him at 281 total receptions, passing Trinity’s James Quick by one grab.
▪ DeSales gave the 4,200 fans in attendance for its first game at Paul B. Cox Stadium a show, bulldozing Fairdale 30-0. It was the first true home game in the Colts’ history. Since the program started in 1956, they played at fields around Louisville.
▪ Saturday’s highly-anticipated game between Western Kentucky powers McCracken County and Paducah Tilghman was rescheduled to 3 p.m. (local time) Sunday due to inclement weather.