Louisville Trinity had Plan B ready for the Class 6A state championship game just in case James Quick's rib injury prevented him from playing.
Turns out the Shamrocks were able to stick with their original strategy against Pleasure Ridge Park.
After being cleared to return earlier that week and catching a few balls during warm-ups, Quick went out and helped Trinity rout PRP 61-7 for its third consecutive state title. The senior wide receiver caught three passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns as the Shamrocks (13-1) won their 22nd championship.
For the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Quick, the game capped a stellar season that included 1,416 yards and 16 TDs on 85 receptions.
It also clinched his selection as Kentucky's Mr. Football by members of The Associated Press.
"I was happier that we won the championship," said Quick, who closed his football career with 267 receptions for 4,209 yards and 52 touchdowns. "The key was just going out and having fun. I tried to touch up on my skills and improve in every area."
Already known for his 4.4-second speed in the 40, Quick said this season he focused on sharpening his ability to separate from defenders and running tighter routes. He also gained 10 pounds of muscle.
Then there was Quick's determination to return from the injury that caused him to miss two games. Trinity Coach Bob Beatty said that typified his player's drive that was apparent as a freshman, earning his promotion from junior varsity to the big squad midway through the season.
"He just has this passion to compete," Beatty said. "My philosophy is, if you're good enough, you're good enough. His speed was great, he was a sponge for knowledge and it was an everyday process. Each year, he used that speed to get better and of course he has big receiving skills."
Beatty believes that Trinity had enough depth to fill the void if Quick didn't play in the state title game. But his availability allowed the Shamrocks to do what they planned, and Beatty said Quick's two TD receptions of 35 yards despite the injury showed the magnitude of his talents.
Quick's next step is deciding where to play in college. His choices are Louisville — where his father, Rhonyia, ran track and played football — Ohio State and Oregon.
He has also been chosen to play for the East squad in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 5 in San Antonio.
"It's a great honor to be able to participate in that game," Quick said. "It's going to make me better."
Hiser reconstructed PRP
Jason Hiser always believed he could bring Pleasure Ridge Park back from tragedy.
The challenge was convincing prospective players to buy into the rebuilding process.
Hiser took over the football program at the Louisville school in 2009 after former coach Jason Stinson was charged with reckless homicide following the heat-related death of Max Gilpin the year before. Stinson was acquitted, but Hiser had to start over with a small staff and no junior varsity.
Two losing seasons followed before PRP reached the second round of the Class 6A playoffs. The Panthers went even further this year, going 14-0 and reaching their first state championship game before losing 61-7 to Trinity.
"It was the most exciting year here for football," said Hiser, chosen Coach of the Year by a statewide panel of Associated Press members. "To have the staff that I had and the support of the school and the players, it was very rewarding."
Hiser was a PRP assistant coach at the time of Gilpin's death. After becoming head coach, his simple goal was finding players willing to put in the commitment to make the Panthers competitive.
In other words, there was no timetable for success. The Panthers went 3-8 and 5-6 and were throttled in the first round of the playoffs both times.
Then came last season's breakthrough, when PRP went 9-2 before losing 48-0 to Henderson County in the second round. The loss taught Hiser and his players that they had to get stronger if they were going to compete with the state's dominant teams.
"I've never been big on numbers, so what we required was that the kids show up and be accountable," said Hiser, 31-18 in four seasons at PRP. "This senior class, many of them we had as freshmen and it seemed like it multiplied by two every year.
"The more kids that bought into the system, the better the attitudes were. And this year's attitude was a big reason why we had the year we had."
Hiser's simple goal this season was beating the teams the Panthers were supposed to beat and carrying that momentum into games against tougher opponents. By any measure it worked: Pleasure Ridge Park, with 17 seniors, averaged 47.3 points per game and won by an average margin of 30.4 points.
Powerhouse Trinity had the final word in the championship, but Hiser views that as a major step forward.
"It was very significant," he said. "We wanted to say our goal was a state championship but wanted to be specific about what we wanted to accomplish: a district title, going 10-0, winning the regional championship. ... Next year, I have to say I believe that we'll be back."