High School Sports

Wild formations giving thin Trimble Co. a shot, and it's fun, too

Trimble County football coach Johnny Poynter was quoted in the New York Times last Friday. "They talked to me for 30 minutes, and all I got was one sentence," Poynter said with a laugh.

The Times called Poynter to ask him about the newest fad in high school football: the A-11 offense. Trimble County has employed it at times this season.

Poynter's only comment about the A-11 that made the Times: "My wife says it looks like basketball on grass."

The A-11 is the brainchild of Kurt Bryan, a high school coach in Piedmont, Calif., and it makes Tony Franklin's spread offense look like three yards and a cloud of dust. In the A-11, all 11 players are potentially eligible pass receivers.

It uses a kick formation, with a quarterback lined up at least seven yards behind the line of scrimmage. Under the rules, that formation allows interior linemen wearing certain numbers to be eligible to catch a pass. Only the center initially goes to the line of scrimmage. Just before the ball is snapped, the other players take their positions. Seven players are required to be on the line for the snap, but in the A-11's bizarre-looking formations (some use two quarterbacks), the defense has to figure out in seconds which players are eligible receivers.

According to the New York Times, a standard formation permits 36 possible scenarios, but that number jumps to 16,632 in the A-11.

Poynter was looking for a new offense after he lost 14 seniors to graduation and was left with a thin 26-man roster this year. "Our team average is 5-6, 151 pounds," Poynter said. "Physically, we just can't line up and play with most teams." Trimble County had success with the A-11 in pre-season scrimmages, and used it some of the time in a season-opening win over Casey County. Poynter said he "got scared" and didn't use it in a couple games. When the Raiders used it against Eminence, Poynter said he got a "negative reaction" from the officials. Critics call the A-11 nothing more than a gimmick, or an insult to old-school football.

Poynter hasn't been discouraged. He's committed to using the A-11 the rest of the season. "It's made things fun and exciting for the kids," he said. "They love it." Trimble County has nothing to lose. Since their win over Casey County, the Raiders have lost six in a row, including lopsided defeats to Frankfort (56-6) and North Oldham (31-0).

■ McCreary Central star athlete Aaron Watts had a scary accident last week that will keep him off the football field for a few weeks. Watts was playing pickup basketball in the school's old gym when he went up for a dunk and was bumped. As he came down, he put out his right arm to catch himself. But his arm went through a glass window in a gym door. He was bleeding profusely until Dustin Jones, a former McCreary Central player who was also in the pickup game, applied a tourniquet. Watts was air-lifted to the University of Tennessee hospital where he received 22 stitches and spent two nights. "Aaron's a very lucky kid," football coach Clinton Gay said. "It could've been a lot worse. The glass didn't cut any ligaments and did only a little muscle damage. Aaron told his mother that Dustin probably saved his life." Watts, a quarterback, has more than 1,500 yards passing and running this season. There's a chance Watts could return in time for the playoffs. The 6-2 junior is also one of the top basketball players in the state.

■ Harlan County's Nathaniel Gilliam ran 19 times for 426 yards, seven TDs and a two-point conversion in a 58-36 win over Middlesboro. Gilliam's 426 yards rank eighth on the state's all-time list. The record is held by Moore's Montquantae Gibson, who rushed for 574 yards against Shawnee in 2001. Gilliam's TD runs of 81, 79, 79, 58 and 53 yards helped the Black Bears roll up 630 yards on the ground against Middlesboro.

■ Marion County QB Eric Miles had a fun night when the Knights beat Campbellsville 47-0. Miles threw three TD passes (all to Bryson Bell), ran for a TD, and was crowned homecoming king.

■ Breathitt County's Channing Fugate carried 32 times for 403 yards and six TDs in a 40-26 victory over LCA. Fugate pushed his season rushing total to 1,486 yards.

■ It was a good night to be a running back in northern Kentucky last Friday. Newport Central Catholic's Mark Kelly had 307 yards and three TDs in a win over Ryle; Beechwood's Nieco Teipel had 249 yards and three TDs in a win over Covington Holy Cross; Simon Kenton's Miles Simpson had 237 yards and five TDs in a win over Russell, and Boone County's Charles Quainoo had 207 yards and three scores in a win over Dixie Heights.

■ South Laurel QB Ricky Bowling threw three TD passes in a loss to Knox Central. That gives Bowling 124 TD passes in his career, nine shy of tying Tim Couch's state record.

■ Zach Lewis of Clay County added to his state career passing yardage record by throwing for 231 yards and three TDs in a win over Edmonson County. Lewis has 12,726 yards and 108 TDs.

■ Monroe County junior LB/WR Neal Wilson showed his versatility in a win over Glasgow. He had nine tackles, returned an interception for a TD, caught a TD pass, and threw a TD pass.

■ Bullitt Central's Jeremy Bennett had better numbers than North Bullitt rival Dalton Cissell last week. Bennett, a junior, rushed for 200 yards and three TDs in leading his team to victory. Cissell, a senior, ran for 189 yards and two TDs. "I know Cissell gets a lot of publicity and that he's a great player, but I wouldn't trade (Bennett) for (Cissell)," Bullitt Central Coach Dan Leasor told the Courier-Journal.

■ Junior QB Jacob Russell led Anderson County past Spencer County, passing for 159 yards and two TDs, and rushing for 116 yards and three TDs. Russell has thrown for 1,016 yards and 15 TDs, and run for 273 yards and 11 TDs this year.

■ Conner lost to Newport Central Catholic 28-27 Friday night, but bounced back to beat winless Cincinnati Belmont 39-6 Saturday night. Cougars QB Nick West had 278 yards and five TDs against Belmont. A misunderstanding in the contract with Belmont forced Conner to play back-to-back games.

■ Jeremy Thompson carried 15 times for 228 yards and five TDs to lead Mason County past Bourbon County.

■ Powell County sophomore Jesse Rose played a key role in a rout of Betsy Layne. Rose intercepted three passes, including one he returned 84 yards for a score. He also rushed for 133 yards and a TD, and had 331 all-purpose yards. On defense he had 12 tackles and forced a fumble.

■ Tates Creek will honor its 1978 State 4A champs before Friday's game with Henry Clay. Thirty years ago Roy Walton's Commodores were 4-6 and on a three-game losing streak before they beat Bryan Station 14-7 in the district title game. In the playoffs, they beat Lafayette 17-14 on a late field goal, slipped past Boyd County 14-13, and outlasted Franklin County 14-6 for the at-large state title. They took an 8-6 record to the overall finals where they lost to St. Xavier. More than 30 members of the '78 team are expected to be at Tates Creek tonight, along with Walton and most of his coaching staff.

■ One of the best matchups of basketball's regular season will be Dec. 13 when Scott County and Holmes meet in the Bluegrass-Buckeye Charity Classic at the Bank of Kentucky Center in northern Kentucky. Scott County and Holmes might be rated 1-2 in the pre-season. But the game doesn't figure to get much media attention. Dec. 13 is also the date for the Class 2A, 4A and 6A football finals in Louisville, and the UK-Indiana basketball game in Rupp Arena.

■ Madisonville basketball star and UK recruit Jon Hood will be the main attraction in the 17th annual Kentucky Prep Classic at Montgomery County on Jan. 10. The quadruple-header: Jeffersontown vs. Madison Central, 4 p.m.; Elliott County vs. Anderson County, 5:45; South Laurel vs. Madisonville, 7:30; Montgomery County vs. Manual, 9.

■ Elliott County basketball standout Evan Faulkner has committed to Radford University in Virginia. "Evan had an outrageous summer," Elliott County Coach Rick Mays said. Evan, who shares the backcourt with identical twin Ethan, averaged 17 points and five rebounds as a junior.

■ Dunbar outfielder Brandon Eggenschwiler, second-team All-City last spring, has committed to play baseball at Murray State. Eggenschwiler started as a sophomore and hit .420 for the Bulldogs' 2007 state title team.

■ UK has gotten another commitment from a sophomore standout — not in basketball, but in volleyball. Lauren O'Conner, a 15-year-old sophomore middle hitter at Covington Scott, committed to UK over the weekend.