Hard work for the holidays

Because the high school football playoffs fell a week later on the calendar this year, more teams (48) practiced on Thanksgiving Day than ever before.

That meant various coaching strategies were at work, not just about X's and O's, but also about turkey and pumpkin pie.

Some teams practiced Thursday morning so the players could go home and eat mom's cooking without worrying about making it through wind sprints later.

Some teams held drills in the evening so the coaches could makes sure their players didn't linger too long at the dinner table.

Edmonson County Coach Kyle Pierce seemed to have the best idea. He had his team on the practice field mid-afternoon, then they all gathered in the school cafeteria and had Thanksgiving dinner with their parents, who supplied the food.

"I wanted to make it an experience the kids would remember," said Pierce, who recalled having the same kind of Turkey Day get-together when he played for Edmonson County in the mid-1990s.

Pierce didn't plan on monitoring how much his players ate. "I don't care if they stuff themselves on Thursday, but I told them no turkey on Friday because it'll make them sleepy," he said with a laugh. "We're having ham or bologna sandwiches on the bus trip to Union County."

Edmonson County travels to Union County for Friday's Class 3A region title game. This is the first time in more than a decade the Wildcats have advanced this far in the playoffs, and Pierce said the community is excited about the team's success.

"We're a small school in a small town," he said. "We don't even have a traffic signal. If you blink you're past Brownsville. Everybody gets behind our sports teams here. It's small-town America, and we're very lucky we live where we do."

■ Breathitt County's Channing Fugate, who ran for more than 400 yards in a win over LCA earlier this fall, came close to that number again in a 62-34 playoff victory over Harlan County last week. Fugate, a 6-2, 220-pound junior, ran for 378 yards and five TDs, including 299 yards and four TDs in the second half. Fugate has 2,481 yards and 31 TDs on the season. The Bobcats may need a big game from him when they play Estill County Friday night. When the teams met in the regular season, Breathitt County struggled to a 7-6 win. Its only score came on a fumble return by Ryan Allen. Bobcats Coach Mike Holcomb has seen Estill County improve dramatically over the last few years. "They've got a bunch of kids who've been playing since they were freshmen. They've worked hard and gotten stronger to where they're a really good football team."

■ Jim Swinford of radio station WCYN in Cynthiana noted that Harrison County's loss to Lexington Catholic last week was the final football game at Lawson Field/ Ingles Stadium. The Thorobreds will move into a new athletic complex next year. The old stadium opened Sept. 13, 1940, with Lawrenceburg beating Cynthiana 10-0. That was the first of 356 games played there by the Cynthiana Bulldogs and Harrison County Thorobreds over the next 69 seasons.

■ Lone Oak's Jamarielle Brown, who set state records as a wide receiver as a junior, had a great senior season at quarterback. He passed for 2,745 yards and 36 TDs, and rushed for 922 yards and 12 TDs. Lone Oak, 4A runner-up last year, lost to Allen County-Scottsville last week.

■ Letcher Central's Charlie Banks kicked a 23-yard field goal with one second left to give his team a 13-12 win over Mercer County last week. It was a big night for Banks. The Cougars' QB passed for 149 yards and a TD, rushed for 102 yards and kicked two field goals and an extra point.

■ The KHSAA will have to tweak district alignments in western Kentucky in a few years because of consolidation. The McCracken County Board of Education has voted to combine Heath, Lone Oak and Reidland. Those schools are in the same basketball district. Heath and Reidland are in the same football district. The Muhlenberg Board of Education is planning to combine Muhlenberg North and Muhlenberg South into one high school. North and South are in the same district in basketball. North is in the same football district as Lone Oak.

■ Calloway County's Tyrell Willis ran for 222 yards and four TDs in a win over Franklin-Simpson, giving him 1,429 yards, only 49 shy of the single-season school record. Casey Brockman threw for 156 yards, giving him a school-record 5,588 in his career. Chris Dobbins became the Lakers' all-time receiving leader. He had eight catches for 115 yards, giving him 1,911. Calloway County has advanced to the third round for the first time in 11 years.

■ Defending 2A champ Fort Campbell ripped Murray 47-0 as Antonio Andrews threw for 142 yards and three TDs, and ran for 102 yards and two scores.

■ John Hardin's Elias Camper, who rushed for 216 yards against Grant County two weeks ago, rambled for 227 in a win over Oldham County last Friday. Coach Mark Brown has the Bulldogs in the region finals for the third time in four years.

■ Led by Daniel Harmon's 282 yards rushing, Pikeville eliminated Hazard from the playoffs for the eighth time in 14 years.

■ Simon Kenton junior Miles Simpson carried 41 times for 287 yards and six TDs as the Pioneers held off Conner 46-41 to reach the third round of the playoffs for the first time in school history. Simon Kenton avenged a 20-19 regular-season loss to Conner.

■ Zach Vincent ran 36 times for 264 yards and three TDs as Edmonson County upset Russellville 35-13. The Wildcats lost to Russellville 40-23 in September. Edmonson County is in the region finals for the first time in 12 years.

■ For the second straight year, Danville is out of the playoffs after the second round. Green County beat the host Admirals 28-21 last week. Dragons QB Justin Pendleton threw two TD passes to Seth Jones, and Ricky Garrett ran for 136 yards and a TD. The Advocate-Messenger noted that Danville hasn't won a state title since 2003, its longest championship drought in 25 years.

■ Condolences to Bowling Green Coach Kevin Wallace, whose dad, Howard E. Wallace, died last Friday. He was 72. Bowling Green lost to Owensboro 28-21 that night, ending the Purples' bid to reach the state finals for the fourth year a row. Owensboro was led by Yorel Shemwell, who ran for 240 yards. Khiry Maddox's goal-line interception with a minute to go sealed the victory.

■ Condolences to Tates Creek baseball coach and 1975 Mr. Basketball Dom Fucci, and his brother Bo, on the death of their mother, Betty, who died Sunday at age 77. Mrs. Fucci was a loyal sports fan, especially when the games involved her sons or grandchildren.

■ Elliott County senior guard Ethan Faulkner signed with Northern Kentucky University. Faulkner averaged 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists last season. He shares the Elliott County backcourt with twin brother Evan, who signed with Radford.

■ Former Lexington Catholic basketball standout Jordan Smart, a walk-on at Vanderbilt, is being redshirted this basketball season.

■ Fort Campbell won't have a girls' varsity basketball team this year because not enough girls wanted to play. The Lady Falcons went 0-25 last season. Fort Campbell will play a junior varsity schedule and hopes to put a varsity team on the court again next year.

■ Paul Dunbar's Brandi Ore, an all-city pitcher, signed to play softball at Bradley University.

■ Henry Clay's Cal Staben has been named an Academic All-American by USA Swimming. He is nationally ranked in the 100 breast stroke, and has a 4.0 GPA.

■ Henry Clay wrestler Matt Zarth, a two-time state champ and straight-A student, signed with Davidson College.

■ Kentucky had 11 girls' teams and five boys' teams recognized by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America for academic excellence (minimum 3.25 GPA for the 2007-08 school year). The girls' teams, with coaches in parentheses: Bourbon County (Jeff Jett); Bryan Station (Kristian Tyler Junker); Dunbar (Emily Coleman); East Jessamine (DeAngelo Wiser); Henderson County (Scott Wilson); Highlands (Nina Kearns); LCA (Scott Stevens); Murray (William McCuiston); Ohio County (Chuck Adams); Taylor County (Jason England); Warren Central (Sam Flener). The boys' teams: Danville (Brent Beauman); Owen County (Jerry Doolin); Owensboro (Dale Poole); St. Xavier (Andy Schulten); Trinity (Gregory Moss-Brown).