The Kentucky High School Athletic Association is surveying its football-playing members to see whether they might want to tweak the current playoff format.
If I were a dues-paying member of the KHSAA, my response would be: Please do something, anything, to spare us the mess of mismatches we witness in the first round of the playoffs every year.
But that's just me.
What do the coaches think? Specifically, the coaches whose teams are on the receiving end of the mercy-rule beat-downs. I emailed several coaches who were on the short end of lopsided losses last week. A sampling of their responses:
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Paris Coach J.J. Everage, whose Greyhounds lost to Beechwood 60-7, would prefer that only the top three teams in each district make the playoffs, with the district champ getting a first-round bye. He'd like to shorten the season by a week so the state finals would be Thanksgiving weekend. Everage also thinks five classes would be better than six, with 5A being a "super class." Did Paris get anything out of playing Beechwood? "There was no benefit," Everage wrote.
Gallatin Coach Tim Browning, whose team lost to defending state champ Newport Central Catholic 56-0, also thinks only the top three district teams should make the playoffs, with the top seed getting a first-round bye. While Browning thought it was a good experience for Gallatin County to face NewCath, he's not sure what the Thoroughbreds got out of it.
Boyd County Coach Lee Evans, whose Lions got mauled by Highlands 63-7, thinks taking only two teams from each district "would be perfect. Don't get me wrong. We like making the playoffs ... but, oftentimes, a four seed and most times a three seed do not deserve to be in the playoffs. Football is not like basketball. Getting blown out is not good in either sport but, in football, it often includes a physical beating, not just a beating on the scoreboard." Evans also thinks all teams should have to play in the classification dictated by their enrollment.
Washington County Coach Eric Sagrecy, whose Commanders were crushed by Glasgow 63-6, agreed that only the top two teams in a district should make the playoffs, "not because of mismatches, but because the playoffs are a reward for a good season, and you should have to play your way in."
Elizabethtown Coach Adam Billings, whose winless Panthers lost to Bell County 66-0, also thinks too many teams make the playoffs. Billings, who has coached in Wisconsin and North Carolina, said "playoffs should be something that your team gets rewarded for," and that "it doesn't make much sense to give a winless team a gift of the playoffs. In Wisconsin, you have to finish with a minimum .500 record in your conference to advance to the playoffs." Billings thinks the KHSAA should "completely seed each class 1-through-32, or split each class into regions based on location and then seed each region."
Caverna Coach Michael Garnis Martin, whose team got mashed by Mayfield 65-8, thinks the current format is OK, but he'd like to see travel times reduced. It was a long haul from Caverna to Mayfield last Friday. Martin, the grandson of the late Bardstown coaching legend Garnis Martin, liked the four-class system that he grew up with.
Simon Kenton Coach Jeff Marksberry, whose Pioneers got trounced by powerhouse Trinity 72-0, said the only thing he doesn't like about the current system is that there are only 32 teams in Class A and 6A. "There could be an argument for lowering the number of classes." Asked whether there was any benefit playing a team as powerful as Trinity, Marksberry said, "As hard as it was on coaches, it was harder on the kids. The only positive from it is that you truly get a sense of how good you must be to compete at that high level."
Jackson County Coach Arthur Carter, whose team lost to Belfry 55-0, said he thinks it's "great" to let just about every team experience the playoffs. He said if the first round was a waste of time, "you would never have a four seed defeating a one seed," and that happened a couple times last week. (Montgomery County beat Cooper in 4A, and Boone County beat Madison Central in 6A.) Even though Jackson County got drummed by Belfry, Carter said his players had "a great experience in a great atmosphere against a class act in Coach (Philip) Haywood and Belfry."
■ J.J. Jude of Johnson Central smashed the state career rushing record with 437 yards and six TDs in a rout of Holmes last Friday. That pushed Jude's career total to 8,539 yards, well past Derek Homer's 15-year-old record of 8,224. "It still hasn't sunk in that I'm on top of the chart that has guys like Derek Homer and Shaun Alexander on it," Jude said. "Alexander played in a Super Bowl!"
Jude broke the record on a 55-yard TD run in the first quarter, at which point the game was stopped and Jude was awarded the ball. When the Golden Eagles' season is over, Jude said, he'll write his final career yardage on the ball and put it and his game cleats in a glass case. Jude credited his coaches and teammates for helping him get the record. Linemen Quade Ward and John Conley have been mainstays up front the past two seasons. "What I did wasn't just for my team or school or community," Jude said. "I feel like it was for all of Eastern Kentucky. I've gotten a lot of messages saying, 'Way to represent the mountains.' It impacted a lot of people around here." Johnson Central visits unbeaten Highlands Friday. "We know we've got to be perfect to beat them," said Jude, who has scholarship offers from EKU, Liberty and Concord (W.Va.).
■ Central senior Anthony Wales played only the first three snaps of the Yellowjackets' playoff win over Casey County last week. Nursing a minor injury suffered the previous week against Pleasure Ridge Park, Wales gained two yards on three carries before sitting out the rest of the night. Wales has rushed for 2,213 yards this season and has a career total of 7,642 yards. That's 897 yards behind J.J. Jude's record. Central Coach Ty Scroggins said he's not sure Wales will play against Corbin Friday, saying Wales is "day to day."
■ According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Dixie Heights Coach Tom Spritzky is stepping down after 17 years with a record of 107-86. The Colonels went 3-8 this season, which ended with a loss to Lafayette in the first round of the playoffs. Dixie Heights QB Zeke Pike, an Auburn recruit, sat out the first and last games of the season for disciplinary reasons.
■ Matt Morgan of Elizabethtown came close to the state single-season record for receptions. Morgan had seven catches in a 66-0 playoff loss to Bell County last week, giving him 103 for the season. Lone Oak's Jamarielle Brown set the record of 106 in 2007. Morgan had 1,585 receiving yards and 18 TDs this year. QB Kyle Todd threw for 3,023 yards and 27 TDs for the winless Panthers. Bell County had a 46-0 halftime lead over E-town. Cory Davenport led the winners, rushing for 193 yards and two TDs, and returning a punt 68 yards for a score.
■ Unbeaten Bowling Green had 467 yards on just 25 plays in a 56-7 rout of Apollo. For the seventh time in 11 games, the Purples had a 45-point lead and a running clock in the second half.
■ Anderson County's Ethan Kelly had 234 all-purpose yards, and Seth Carmichael extended his school record for TD passes in a season to 33 as the Bearcats beat South Oldham 33-26.
■ Franklin County junior wide receiver Ryan Timmons has a scholarship offer from Kentucky. Timmons, the reigning Class 2A 100-meter state champ, has 1,111 yards and 18 TDs rushing, and 1,083 yards and 18 TDs receiving this season for unbeaten Franklin County. Coach Chris Tracy said the 5-11, 175-pound Timmons is drawing interest from Arkansas, Mississippi State and South Carolina.
■ Scott County (11-0) has outscored its opponents 182-0 in the first quarter, and 381-21 in the first half. Coach Jim McKee's Cardinals play host to Ballard Friday night.
■ Owen County's best season in school history continued as the undefeated Rebels beat Newport for their first playoff victory in more than 30 years.
■ Interesting stats of the week: Clay County's Sam Carr carried 28 times for 381 yards and three TDs in a 76-18 loss to Lexington Catholic. Despite Carr's big game, Clay County's team finished with a net 373 yards.
■ Megan Wilshire of Scott County will sign Friday to play college golf at Auburn. Wilshire is ranked second in the state behind three-time state champ Emma Talley of Caldwell County, who signed with Alabama. In the last four state tournaments, Wilshire finished fifth, second, third and tied for third.
■ Three golfers who helped Lexington Christian win a second consecutive state title last month will sign with colleges on Friday — Chandler Fischer (Mississippi), Hager Collins (Pepperdine) and Scott Barnhart (Belmont).