This high school football season looks like a replay of autumns past as Beechwood, Highlands, St. Xavier and Trinity dominate their respective classes. Over the last 40 years those four programs have combined to win 52 state championships.
If you're looking for a fresh story, how about Taylor County? "Some teams are trying to win another state title, but we've never even won a district title in 40 years," Coach Rodney Turpin said. "We have a chance at that this year, and it's exciting."
Maybe the Cardinals can borrow from the momentum created by Ryder Cup hero J.B. Holmes, a Taylor County graduate who won a state golf championship in 1998.
Taylor County has two bona fide football stars in Leonard Macon and Chris Thomas, who have helped the Cards to a 4-1 record, including a 65-56 district win over Garrard County last week.
Macon, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound receiver who transferred from Danville last season, was a one-man wrecking crew against Garrard County. He had five touchdowns, two of them on pass receptions and three on returns. He ran back two kickoffs (86 and 75 yards) and an interception (40 yards) for TDs. "I've never seen anybody have a game like that," Turpin said. "It was phenomenal. He had 230 return yards, and 130 receiving." Thomas, a 5-10, 195-pound running back who rushed for 2,089 yards and 30 TDs last season, had 185 yards and three TDs against Garrard County.
"We've got two imposing threats in Chris and Leonard," Turpin said. "Who wants to tackle them when they get going? They're intimidating."
The Cards play unbeaten Green County in a non-district game Friday night. Then it's back in the district next week against Wayne County. "We're not used to having a winning program at Taylor County, so we know we've got to crawl before we walk," Turpin said. Maybe so. But if they beat Wayne County, they'll be in the running for their first district title.
■ Highlands and Covington Catholic have one of the most heated and competitive rivalries in the state, but that wasn't the case in the 40th renewal last week. Highlands crushed CovCath 61-0, the biggest blowout in the history of the series. Austin Collinsworth, son of former Bengals star Cris Collinsworth, set the tone by returning the opening kickoff 85 yards for a TD. Next up for Highlands is a Saturday afternoon game at Hopkinsville.
■ It looks like the state football finals will be moving to Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green in 2009 and 2010. Nobody else bid on the title games, which have been held in Louisville since 1979. The KHSAA will make a final decision on the championship site later this month. WKU's Houchens-L.T. Smith Stadium was recently expanded to hold 23,000 fans. That's probably plenty big enough, although the Class 4A finals in 2003 between St. X and Trinity drew more than 26,000 spectators. If those superpowers happen to meet in the finals at WKU, it's unlikely that many fans would want to make the trip to Bowling Green.
■ Interesting fact about Friday's showdown between St. X and Trinity at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium: The Shamrocks have a 31-0 record in October under Coach Bob Beatty.
■ South Laurel QB Ricky Bowling completed 32 of 38 passes for 424 yards and seven TDs, and his Cardinals totaled 702 yards last week, but it wasn't enough as Pulaski County won 61-60 in overtime. The Maroons were led by QB Chris Muse, who ran for 205 yards and four TDs, and threw for 171 yards and a score. RB Winston Hines ran for 112 yards and three TDs. The winning point came off the toe of Tyler Lester, who booted the extra point in OT. Bowling increased his career TD passes total to 118, 15 shy of Tim Couch's state record. Pulaski County Coach John Hines was impressed with Bowling. "I think he's the best quarterback in the state," Hines told the Somerset Commonwealth Journal. "I haven't seen the boy from Clay County (Zach Lewis) or the kid from Franklin-Simpson (Courtney Dalcourt), but it they're better than this guy, I don't want to see them. (But) I wouldn't trade my own quarterback (Muse) for anybody in the state."
■ Frankfort's team bus broke down on its way to Bracken County last Friday, and the Panthers were stuck for more than an hour before resuming their trip. No problem. They beat the Polar Bears 43-18.
■ Bath County enjoyed the trip home from its long trek to Shelby Valley after it pulled out a 14-12 victory last week. Reed Fields called it the biggest win in his four years as Wildcats' coach. Bath County's defense got big contributions from seniors Zak Metz, who had 23 tackles, and Aaron Roberts, who had four interceptions. (Clark County's Stephen Columbia holds the state record with six picks against Montgomery County in 2001.) Shelby Valley beat Bath County twice last year, including a 23-12 in the 2A playoffs.
■ Boyd County's Danny Waller had three interceptions in the Lions' win over Lawrence County last week.
■ Channing Fugate had 254 yards rushing and 99 receiving to spark Breathitt County's 47-4 rout of Harlan County Central. Bobcats' QB Jade Haddix threw for 155 yards and ran for 148.
■ Fort Campbell rolled to a 57-8 halftime lead and bashed Todd County Central 70-16 for its state-best 17th consecutive victory.
■ Bowling Green kicker Max Oldham, who has converted 66 extra points in a row (fifth-longest streak in state history), and 103 of 104 in his career, is out three to five weeks with torn ligaments in his ankle.
■ Bell County star RB Spencer Greer was out with a high ankle sprain, but the unbeaten Bobcats still handled Churchill Volunteer, Tenn., 52-7. Bell County is off this week, and Greer is expected to play against Madison Southern next Friday.
■ Devin Foster's 238 yards rushing led Union County past Paducah Tilghman 41-35 in overtime. It was only the second time the Braves have beaten Tilghman in 27 tries.
■ Johnson Central had a devastating 1-2 punch in its 54-33 win over Woodford County last week. Chase Richardson rushed for 255 yards and Nate Dillon ran for 254. Richardson and Dillon have combined for 1,500 yards on the ground this season.
■ Lone Oak, which made a surprise run to the 4A finals last year, is still on a roll even though QB (and Mr. Football) Corey Robinson graduated. The Purple Flash are 4-0 after a wild 45-42 win over Calloway County. Lone Oak's Logan Francis intercepted a pass in the end zone with 40 seconds left. QB Jamarielle Brown then drove the Purple Flash into Calloway County territory, and Jack Coorts kicked a game-winning 35-yard field goal. Brown threw for 193 yards and one TD, and ran for 117 yards and a score. Lakers QB Casey Brockman passed for 390 yards and four TDs.
■ Ethan and Evan Faulkner, best known as the starting backcourt for Elliott County's defending 16th Region basketball champs, can play a little golf, too. Evan shot a 76 and Ethan a 78 to help the Lions finish second in the regional tournament at Hidden Cove in Grayson. Jared Flanery's 74 led Elliott County, and Ryan Gillum added a 77 as Elliott County earned its first trip to the state golf tournament in Bowling Green next week.
■ Pikeville senior J.P. Newsome birdied five of the last six holes to shoot a 3-under 68 at Raven Rock in Jenkins to take medalist honors and help the Panthers to their third consecutive regional golf title. Will Branham, Casey Castle, Mac Fain and Don Combs were also part of Pikeville's victory.
■ North Hardin eighth-grader Lydia Gumm won her second region golf title in three years with a 3-over 75 at Fort Knox's Lindsey course. Gumm, who played in her first state tournament as a third-grader, will be one of the favorites in Bowling Green next week. She won the Bowling Green Invitational earlier this season.
■ The baseball playoffs between the Brewers and Phillies feature a couple of former 4th Region standouts. Milwaukee outfielder Corey Hart is a Greenwood graduate, and Philadelphia pitcher Joe Blanton played for Edmonson County and Franklin-Simpson.
■ According to an Associated Press story, high school soccer games at a Capitol View Park field in Frankfort require extra fancy footwork by players who sometimes have to avoid stepping in deer feces. KHSAA Board of Control member Roger Cook said any coach who thinks the field is unsafe should not play there.