Stuck at home
Newport Central Catholic football coach Bob Schneider said he "couldn't be prouder" of his Thoroughbreds, who have bounced back from a 1-5 start to win six in a row and reach the third round of the Class 2A playoffs.
But Schneider, 71, also said he's never been through a more difficult time in his 44 years as NewCath's coach.
After being on the sidelines for 526 consecutive games, Schneider has missed the last three weeks because of blood clots in his leg and an aneurysm on his heart.
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"It's been hard, really hard," Schneider said. "Toughest thing I've ever been through football-wise. Not being able to go to practice or the games, it's just driving me crazy."
Schneider's troubles began when he noticed his left leg was swollen before the game against Lloyd on Oct. 23. The team doctor told him he needed to go the emergency room, which he did at halftime. He wound up spending five days in the hospital. He's at home now, taking a blood thinner and waiting for the clots to clear before doctors can address the aneurysm.
Schneider breaks down film at home and fills out personnel sheets for his son Dave, an assistant who's subbing as head coach. On game nights, Schneider keeps up with the score by watching a sports ticker on a Northern Kentucky cable channel. He's made a couple of Saturday morning appearances at NewCath to congratulate the players, but it's not the same as being there Friday nights, especially at playoff time.
The winningest coach in state history (345 victories, including three state titles) is left to wonder if he'll ever return to the sidelines. "I don't know what my future in football is," Schneider said. "I'll take it a step at a time."
■ A torn ACL is almost always a season-ending injury, but not for Green County senior Ricky Garrett. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound fullback blew out his knee against Lone Oak in early October. Coach Mike Griffiths, figuring his veteran back was done for the season, told the team that Garrett was "the kind of kid, with his heart and discipline, that we built this program around." But to Griffiths' surprise, Garrett wasn't finished. After sitting out the next game, he put on a knee brace and has played the last four weeks with a torn ACL. He had three touchdowns in last week's 61-22 victory over Danville and is only 21 yards shy of 1,000 yards rushing for the second year in a row. "We're blessed because of his leadership," Griffiths said. Green County's running attack also features sophomore Chavis McDermott, who rushed for 377 yards and four TDs against Danville. The Dragons play host to Monroe County in the 2A playoffs Friday. They beat the Falcons 21-14 in the regular season.
■ Trinity wore black jerseys for the first time in school history in its victory over Shelby County last week. Was it a little black magic? After all, it was Friday the 13th and game No. 666 in Trinity's history. The Shamrocks' overall record is 515-144-7, including a 108-20 mark in the playoffs. They play Male Friday night.
■ Bowling Green's Sam Howard was the hero in the Purples' come-from-beind 25-21 victory over Owensboro. Howard caught two TD passes, returned a punt 77 yards for a score, and his interception in the closing minutes set up LaVance Anderson's game-winning TD.
■ Antonio Andrews threw five TD passes as unbeaten Fort Campbell beat Trigg County 41-7. Andrews has passed for 1,373 yards and 24 TDs, and run for 1,232 yards and 25 TDs this season.
■ Prestonsburg Coach John DeRossett, whose unbeaten team plays host to Corbin on Friday, gets plenty of input from his football-savvy administrators. Prestonsburg principal Ted George played for the Blackcats, was an assistant for three years and served as head coach at Betsy Layne. Assistant principal Tommy Poe played at Prestonsburg and was an assistant coach for five years. Jerry Butcher, another assistant principal, played at Johnson Central and has been on the Blackcats' football staff for seven years. "I'm sure Coach DeRossett wished we didn't give him pointers ... but he takes it pretty good," George said in an e-mail.
■ Bellevue's Ricky Buckler has become the school's all-time leading rusher with 5,108 yards, including a record 2,682 yards this season. Bellevue faces two-time defending champ Beechwood Friday night. Beechwood has won 30 of the last 33 games in this rivalry.
■ Vince Murray, who ran for 1,700 yards and 21 TDs in leading Ryle to a state runner-up finish to Trinity in 2006, has been a key player in Navy's 8-3 season. The 6-1, 217-pound junior has rushed for 796 yards and five TDs, including 158 yards in a victory over Notre Dame. He's also the first Navy back to rush for 100 yards in four consecutive games since Napoleon McCallum in 1983.
■ After losing five of its first six games, Breathitt County has won six in a row to renew its hopes of a return trip to the 3A finals. The Bobcats beat Garrard County last week behind Channing Fugate, who ran for 257 yards and four scores (giving him 100 career TDs). After being slowed by a hip injury early in the season, Fugate has regained his form. He's run for 1,332 yards. Last season he rushed for 3,052 yards in leading Breathitt County to a state runner-up finish. The Bobcats visit unbeaten Somerset Friday night.
■ Caleb Watkins rushed for 217 yards and three TDs in leading Corbin past Shelby Valley last week. Watkins is averaging more than 10 yards a carry and has run for 1,498 yards and 23 TDs.
■ Longtime Lexington sportscaster Dick Gabriel said it was "weird" hearing the voice of his son Jack on the radio doing color commentary on the Lexington Catholic-Holmes playoff game last week. Jack, who played football at Henry Clay, was filling in for his uncle, Jim Trammel, on the WMJR-AM broadcast with Steve Tressler. Jack's future isn't in radio or TV, though. He's majoring in police studies at EKU. "So as far as his career is concerned, the only broadcasts he likely will be a part of will originate from a police cruiser," Dick said in an e-mail.
■ Kevin Kelley, a high school coach at Pulaski Academy in Arkansas, no doubt relished the hubbub over Patriots Coach Bill Belichick's late-game decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 on New England's 28-yard line against the Indianapolis Colts. Kelley was featured in Sports Illustrated a few weeks ago because his football team almost always goes for it on fourth down no matter its field position. Kelley studied the statistics and came up with his strategy, which obviously works. Pulaski Academy won a state title last year and did not punt a single time all season.
■ Tom Posey will be taking a group of high school football players (juniors and seniors) to Australia again this summer for the Down Under Bowl. This will be his 12th time in the event. A meeting for interested players and parents will be held at Tates Creek High on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. For information call (606) 759-1830.
■ Best wishes for a speedy recovery to former Fairdale boys' basketball coach Stan Hardin, who had heart bypass surgery on Tuesday. "He's doing well," said Lloyd Gardner, Hardin's close friend and former Fairdale coach. "He's in good spirits, the same ol' Stanley."
■ For a peek at some pre-season boys' basketball, Pleasure Ridge Park is hosting the "Super Hoops Classic" on Saturday. Butler vs. Jeffersontown, 1:30 p.m; Manual vs. Boone County, 4:30; Iroquois vs. Shelby Valley, 6; PRP vs. Shelby County, 7:30. Admission is $5.
■ Franklin-Simpson won't have one of its best returning starters in boys' basketball. Coach David Clark has dismissed Terry Bryant from the team for undisclosed reasons. The 6-7 senior averaged 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists last season.
■ Jasmine Franklin, who was originally ruled ineligible to play basketball this season after transferring from Tates Creek to Marion County, is now eligible. The 6-0 senior joins a Lady Knights team that will be among the favorites to win the state title.
■ LCA tennis player McKinley Mason signed with Western Kentucky. She has been ranked as the top girls' 18-and-under player in Kentucky by the United States Tennis Association. Mason played on LCA's 2006 state championship team.
■ Paul Laurence Dunbar senior pitcher Chris Beymer has signed with Purdue.
■ North Laurel's Tanner Smith signed to play baseball at WKU. He hit .522 last spring.
■ Lafayette senior Heather Oakley signed to play softball at Campbellsville University.
■ Emily Gaines of South Laurel signed to play softball at UK. Gaines, who bats left-handed, set single-season state records for hits (81) and doubles (27) in 2008.
■ Former Dunbar soccer standout Cassie Yannelli is having a big freshman season at Campbellsville. She was first-team all-Mid-South Conference, ranking third in shots on goal and 10th in total points. Campbellsville is in the National Christian College Athletic Association region finals this weekend.
■ Frankfort High grad Zack Lawson earned first-team Presidents Athletic Conference soccer honors after a standout sophomore season as Thomas More's goalkeeper. Lawson had a 17-3-1 record in goal, including a school-record nine shutouts.