Twenty-one years ago, Tim Browning was the quarterback at Evarts where he spent a lot of time giving the ball to Scott Russell, who rushed for 7,090 yards, a state record at the time, and won Mr. Football honors.
"I had the best seat in the house," Browning said this week. "I'd hand off to Scott and watch him run."
If only the game were still that easy for Browning, who is in his seventh year of building a football program at Gallatin County.
Compared to other rural schools that have started, or restarted, football in the last 10 years, Gallatin County has been pretty successful. The Wildcats beat next-door rival Carroll County 7-6 in the program's opening game; they went 7-4 in 2007; they beat Bellevue in a playoff game in 2008; they won five games last year, and they're 2-0 this season.
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Clinton County also started football in 2006, but has struggled mightily. It has only a handful of victories, and is currently trying to end a 28-game losing skid. Jackson County hasn't found much traction yet, either, and has lost 32 of its last 33.
Despite its modest success, Gallatin County still doesn't have permanent lights at its field or a fieldhouse. But those things are secondary to developing a football attitude in a community where the sport has no history. Browning said it takes a while for "kids who hadn't played the game before to realize the time, effort and commitment it takes, even in the off-season, to get bigger, stronger and better."
Jamie Miller, who's in his fourth season at Clinton County, has faced the same challenge. "In a small county where football was non-existent before, the football mentality's not there. You've got to spend time teaching basic fundamentals, and get the kids in the right frame of mind about how much time and work football takes."
Jackson County first-year coach Russ Shearer said sometimes it's a challenge to get the parents on board. "A lot of moms and dads are afraid their kids will get hurt. They'll buy them a dirt bike, but won't let them play football," said Shearer, who never encountered that problem when he was coaching at Bellevue in football-crazy Northern Kentucky.
Shearer is looking for small victories for his team, victories not necessarily reflected in the final score. Last week, for example, Jackson County led Lawrence County 8-7 in the first half before things unraveled in a 42-8 loss.
"We've talked about focusing on the part of the game where we took the lead," Shearer said, "and changing the doomsday mind-set that the first thing that goes wrong will kill us."
Playing a reasonable schedule is also important. Morale and self-confidence can get sacked if a new program gets pummeled week after week, year after year. "You need some winnable games," Shearer said. "If you walk away from a 16-14 loss to Trimble County, your kids are going to feel better than playing a good Middlesboro team and getting beat 48-0."
■ Lone Oak junior quarterback Cole Ousley will miss at least five games, probably more, after suffering a separated shoulder against Paducah Tilghman in the opening game. The injury may keep Ousley from breaking the state career records for passing yards and TDs. He ended his sophomore year with 6,681 yards and 86 TDs, which put him on pace to threaten the state's all-time marks of 13,642 yards and 133 TDs. Coach Jack Haskins said he knows all about separated shoulders. His son Billy Jack Haskins, a star QB at Paducah Tilghman and Mr. Football in 1992, twice separated his left shoulder at UK, and his right shoulder after he transferred to Rhode Island. "My experience with Billy Jack taught me you don't want to bring them back early," Haskins said. With Ousley out, Lone Oak has freshman Zyaire Hughes at QB, and the Purple Flash are running the ball more. Sophomore Djuan Sherrill rushed for five TDs in last week's 48-13 victory over Hopkinsville.
■ Last year, Lexington's five public high schools went 0-5 in the iHigh Fayette County Football Frenzy as Bell County, Bowling Green, Eastern, Harlan County and Ryle outscored the locals 188-89. Last week, those same visitors swept the Lexington schools again, outscoring them 212-131.
■ In Tates Creek's 65-54 loss to Harlan County, the Commodores scored the most points in a game since they beat Clark County 54-48 in double overtime in 2007.
■ Paul Laurence Dunbar football assistant Cisco Bryant sought out Bowling Green Coach Kevin Wallace and chatted with him at last weekend's Frenzy. Bryant was a star receiver and defensive back at Bowling Green in the early 1980s before going on to play at UK. "Once a Purple, always a Purple," Bryant said.
■ Frankfort had an impressive victory last week. The Class A Panthers beat 4A Rockcastle County 42-27 in the Rockets' Jamboree Bowl. Frankfort QB Chris Hawkins threw for 300 yards and four TDs. Aaron Jackson and Jalen Washington had four catches each for a combined 257 yards and four TDs.
■ Bishop Brossart's Jacob Elbert ran 28 times for 430 yards and five TDs in a win over Middleton (Ohio) Christian. That ties him for 14th in the state record book for single-game rushing.
■ Highlands scored a state record 849 points on its way to an undefeated state title last year. Two victories into this season, the Bluebirds have rung up 112 points, six more than they had this time last year. Highlands beat Scott County 60-37 last week and had 617 yards. Three players rushed for more than 100 yards each: Zach Harris (122), Jaylen Haynes (113) and Donovan McCoy (104).
■ Ryan Timmons had 176 all-purpose yards and four TDs in Franklin County's 63-0 rout of Western Hills. QB Logan Woodside has been efficient for the Flyers in two games. He's completed 17 of 21 passes for 553 yards, nine TDs and no interceptions.
■ Trinity won its 27th game in a row, but it wasn't easy. The Shamrocks rallied to win 27-23 at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville. James Quick had 10 catches for 240 yards, including TDs of 77 and 78 yards. Trinity next plays at home against Cincinnati Elder on Sept. 7.
■ Pulaski County opened with a 41-26 win over Rowan County. The Maroons were led by senior running back Tyler Goins, who ran for 164 yards and five TDs.
■ Apologies for jinxing Harlan. Following the Green Dragons' impressive season-opening win over Pikeville, I highlighted them in this column last Friday. That night they went out and lost to Williamsburg 36-0. Credit Coach Jerry Herron's Yellowjackets for a strong performance. A Class A pre-season top 10 pick, Williamsburg has been led by Dalton Sizemore, who has passed for 523 yards and nine TDs in two games.
■ When Ensworth (Tenn.) beat Lexington Catholic 62-14 last week, it was the most points scored against the Knights in the program's 22-year history. The previous high was St. Xavier's 59-7 win over Lexington Catholic in 2008.
■ Bourbon County's Kentayvus Hopkins carried 15 times for 187 yards and two TDs, and caught a TD pass in the Colonels' 48-27 win over Madison Southern.
■ Paris is 2-0 for the first time since 2006 when Brian Washington was in his first stint as Greyhounds coach.
■ Amber Delcourt, who plays basketball for the Raceland girls' basketball team, is kicking extra points for the Rams' football team this season. "She's a good athlete and has a good leg," Coach T.J. Maynard said.
■ Kevin Spurlock is leaving Sheldon Clark to become boys' basketball coach at Perry County Central. "It's bittersweet for me," Spurlock said. "I enjoyed my (two years) at Sheldon Clark and I love the kids there. But to me, Perry County is the best job in Eastern Kentucky. I always said it was the one job I really, really wanted. Perry County is going to be in the mix every year." Spurlock replaces Allan Hatcher, who resigned to move to West Virginia. The Commodores figure to be a strong contender in the 14th Region this season, led by freshman point guard Braxton Beverly and 6-foot-6 senior Dalton Cornett.
■ The Henry Clay girls' golf team won the Kentucky Invitational Tournament in Russell Springs last Saturday. Allison Leigeb's 78 led the Blue Devils, followed by Allison Miller's 82, Sara Bidarian's 83 and Madison Grant's 86. Also playing for Henry Clay were Kristina Ball (100) and Leah-Mabry Mims (113). Lydia Gumm of North Hardin shot a 70 to take individual honors.
■ UK freshman quarterback Patrick Towles is a finalist for the 2012 High School Scholar-Athlete Awards given by the National Football Foundation. Towles was an All-American at Highlands, leading his team to three consecutive state titles.