Motivational hits, misses
A few decades ago a high school football coach in Western Kentucky feigned a heart attack just before halftime of a big game, and an ambulance whisked him off to a hospital. Just as the coach hoped, his players rallied in the second half to win for their fallen leader. (I can't remember whether the coach was fired for his reprehensible ploy.)
That's an extreme example of what football coaches might do to motivate their teams. Here are a few more palatable, and light-hearted, ways some Kentucky coaches have fired up and/or rewarded their players, or succumbed to their own superstitions:
■ When Tom Larkey was at Rockcastle County in the early 1990s and getting ready to face heavily favored Danville in the playoffs, he told his players that if they won, he would climb up the goal post and sing Wooly Bully to celebrate the upset. "I had sung the song at a karaoke contest at the Chicken Festival in London the year before," Larkey said. Alas, Danville won and Larkey didn't get to warble. "I was pretty sure I wouldn't have to," added Larkey, who now coaches Harlan County.
■ In one of his first seasons at Prestonsburg, Bill Letton was afraid his team would have a letdown against an overmatched opponent. To make the point that his Blackcats needed to "drop the hammer" on the other team, somebody painted a helmet to look like the opponent's helmet. In the locker room before the game, Prestonsburg assistant John DeRossett slammed the helmet with a sledge hammer. "None of us were aware of the physics behind what was about to happen," Letton wrote in an e-mail message. "The helmet compressed like a golf ball on impact, and recoiled violently." It struck Letton on the chin, and his teeth cut into his lower lip. "It was the middle of the second quarter before I could join the team on the field in my blood-stained white shirt," Letton remembered. "One official did comment that it must've been a heck of a speech." Letton, now at Lexington Catholic, said that was his "first and last foray into the world of motivational tactics."
■ Every time Lexington Christian has posted a shutout this season, the players have been treated to cookies or brownies baked by Patsy Graham, wife of Eagles assistant Ray Graham. One treat after the first shutout, two treats after the second, etc. LCA's players probably got a sugar rush after they blanked Fairview for their fourth goose egg in a row last week. Ray Graham wishes he had thought of that tasty technique when he was an assistant at Rowan County in 1981. Graham promised to use the same math in eating raw eggs for shutouts. But he didn't expect the Vikings to ring up seven of them, which added up to 28 eggs consumed overall. "I can still remember eating seven of them after the Lewis County game," he said. "The kids were going nuts, and I was not certain I was going to get them down."
■ Bell County Coach Dudley Hilton used to pass through the gym on game days and got in the habit of trying to kick a basketball through the hoop from mid-court. If he made one, he knew his Bobcats were going to win that night in football. He got pretty adept at it, but one time it took him a couple of hours to succeed. "My leg was so sore I could hardly walk," he said. "So I started not going through the gym."
■ Dale Mueller recalled that before Highlands played Covington Catholic in 1995, Bluebirds assistant Jim "Red" Dougherty had the players' moms write letters to their sons. He gave the players the letters to read in the locker room before the game. "Red Dog" then had the players stuff the letters inside their helmets as they went out the door. Highlands won, of course. Mueller said Dougherty was "the most motivating person I have ever known." (Dougherty died in 1996 at age 72.)
■ In a pre-game pep talk before a showdown with an undefeated opponent a few years ago, St. Xavier Coach Mike Glaser told his players he wanted them to "cut out the heart" of the other team by winning. As Glaser spoke, he pulled out a cow's heart from under his jacket. (A local butcher had supplied the organ.) "The kids went nuts when I held it up," Glaser said. "They left the locker room high-fiving the heart."
■ Tates Creek Coach Mike Harmon might have a second career as an entertainer. "I've had teams want me to dance or sing or rap after a win," Harmon wrote via e-mail. "And I've done them all VERY well!" Harmon said his best performance this season was doing a dance called the lawn mower. I assume Harmon had tongue in cheek when he typed that.
Victory at last
Fort Knox ended a four-year, 40-game losing streak by beating Bardstown 27-17 as Quensie Brown ran for 117 yards and two TDs. Bardstown had beaten the Eagles the last four years by a combined score of 183-0. How big was the victory? "It was real big; big enough to where they put a banner up in front of the school," Brown told the Elizabethtown News-Enterprise. "I can't explain what that feels like."
■ Bowling Green's seven-year, 35-game district win streak came to an end as the Purples lost at home to 5A district foe Warren Central 18-10. Freshman QB Michael Bush led the winners by rushing for two TDs.
■ The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Bob Schneider, who has coached Newport Central Catholic in 526 consecutive games over the last 44 years, will miss Friday's game against Beechwood. Schneider, 71, is home after spending five days in the hospital because of blood clots. "The doctors told me I have to take off this Friday," Schneider told the newspaper. "I'm not sure about next Friday, either." His son Dave, NewCath's offensive coordinator, will run the team in his absence. Bob Schneider is the state's all-time winningest coach with 342 victories.
■ Because of poor field conditions at East Jessamine, the Jaguars' football game against North Oldham will be played at Paul Laurence Dunbar on Friday night.
■ Boyle County's Rees MacShara rushed for a school-record 350 yards and had five TDs in a 48-0 win over East Jessamine. MacShara has run for 1,959 yards and 26 TDs this season.
■ In a battle of unbeatens, Mayfield beat Class A district rival Crittenden County 42-7. Xavier Shelton had a 73-yard punt return for a score to spark the victory. Crittenden County gets a shot at another unbeaten team Friday when it plays Murray.
■ Simon Kenton's Miles Simpson ran for 263 yards — topping 200 for the fifth consecutive district game — and four TDs in the Pioneers' win over Campbell County.
■ Two-time defending 2A champ Fort Campbell crushed Owensboro Catholic 52-0 for its ninth straight lopsided win this season.
■ Bath County senior Caleb Kilburn ran 27 times for 257 yards and two TDs in a win over Morgan County.
■ Ashland Blazer's Trey Rogers plowed through the mud for 270 yards and four TDs in a 36-7 victory at Woodford County.
■ For the second time in three years, Oldham County spoiled Anderson County's perfect record. Jake Weigel's 23-yard field goal with three minutes left gave the Colonels a 10-7 victory.
■ Jay Lasslo, whose deep, rich voice described Sweet Sixteen basketball action for 33 years, died Saturday. He was 84. Mr. Lasslo worked for WSGS and WKIC in Hazard. Shane Sparkman of WSGS sent me an audio file of Lasslo's memorable call of Paul Andrews' half-court shot in Rupp Arena that won the state title for Laurel County over North Hardin in 1982. Mr. Lasslo shouting, "Can you believe it?!" still produces goose bumps. The last game he called was Paintsville's title victory over Ashland Blazer in 1996. Upon his retirement, Mr. Lasslo said, "It's been a long, delightful trip from start to finish, and I've enjoyed every minute." Sports fans in Eastern Kentucky felt the same way, thanks to his broadcasts.
■ Former Tates Creek football coach Roy Walton, who turns 80 in a few weeks, will be feted at a reception, dinner and roast on Nov. 30 at the Lansdowne Signature Club. Tickets are $30. Make checks payable to Dave Bunnell and send them to 1209 Trumpeter Row, Lexington, KY, 40502.
■ Madison Southern graduate Luke Stocker almost earned a spot in Tennessee football lore last weekend. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound junior tight end caught a 23-yard pass in the final minute that put the Volunteers in field-goal range against unbeaten Alabama. Alas, UT's field-goal attempt was blocked, and the Vols lost 12-10. Stocker has caught 13 passes for 180 yards and two TDs this season.