Lyndon Brian Johnson (yes, LBJ) didn't expect to be the interim head football coach at Henry County this season, but based on family history, he's a perfect fit for the job.
Johnson's father, Calvin, was a longtime assistant with the Wildcats starting in the 1970s. Lyndon's brother Mark was Henry County's head coach for nine years starting in the early 1990s.
Lyndon has been on the Cats' staff for a decade and was staying on to work with Ray Graham, who was hired in February to replace Chris Engstrand as coach.
But in late June everything was thrown into chaos. Graham, who had been an assistant at Lexington Christian Academy, got the chance to return to LCA as coach after Paul Rains unexpectedly resigned. That led Henry County to name Lyndon Johnson as interim coach.
"A lot of people around here were definitely upset when Ray left," Johnson said. "The timing couldn't have been worse. But they didn't realize how important the LCA program was to him."
Johnson said he and Graham "are on very good terms. He's a good man and a good coach. We still talk to each other every other day."
Johnson, meanwhile, is excited about Henry County's talented senior class, which is led by quarterback Luke Magness and defensive end Dylan Doll, both Division I prospects. "I coached these seniors when they were in middle school, and they're the most football-minded group of young men I've ever been around," Johnson said.
Henry County went 10-3 last year. It was leading Louisville Central in the region finals when Magness suffered a broken leg. Central rallied for a 48-38 victory.
■ For the first time since the mid-1960s, Newport Central Catholic has a new football coach. Bob Schneider, who led the Thoroughbreds for 44 years, retired as the state's winningest coach with 345 victories. Eddie Eviston, a former NewCath star and an assistant under Schneider, has taken the reins. Eviston, who quarterbacked Georgetown College to two NAIA national titles, said the opportunity to coach NewCath "is truly a blessing." The most important lesson he learned from Schneider? "You always have to do what is best for the kids. ... Sometimes the right way is not the most popular way, or outside forces try to guide you in a different direction. But if you stay with what you know and believe is right, that is the direction you should always take." Eviston debuts as head coach against Dixie Heights on Aug. 20.
■ Tates Creek hosts Lafayette on Aug. 20 in the inaugural Roy G. Walton Bowl, appropriately enough in Roy G. Walton Stadium. Walton, who died a few months ago, was a coaching legend. He began his career at Lafayette, but accumulated most of his 219 victories in 25 years at Tates Creek. The annual clash between the city rivals will now be known as the Roy Walton Bowl. Before this year's game, Tates Creek will hold a tribute to Walton in the school theater starting at 6 p.m., with some of Walton's former players speaking. The bowl game kicks off at 7:30. The winner takes possession of the Roy Walton Trophy.
■ Hungry for some high school football? You can get a double helping at Lexington Catholic on Friday. Defending Class A champ Lexington Christian Academy will scrimmage Green County at 4:30 p.m., and Lexington Catholic will scrimmage Lafayette at 7:30. It's the first time in 13 years that a Lexington public school will face the Knights in football. Henry Clay lost to host Lexington Catholic in the 1997 Bluegrass Bowl.
■ The Recreation Bowl, the longest running bowl game in the state, will match host Montgomery County against Harrison County on Aug. 21 at 7:30 p.m. This will be the 63rd Rec Bowl, but the first played on artificial turf in Montgomery County's refurbished stadium. The officials who worked the last game on the old field in October will call the first game on the new field: referee Joe Stephan, umpire Bob Lusardi, linesmen Tom Henderson and Jeffery Clark, and back judge Darrell Douglas.
■ Boyle County is also switching to artificial turf. On the way to the Class 4A title last fall, the Rebels had to move one of their playoff games to Centre College because their own field was a mess. In the off-season, money was raised to redo Boyle County's facility. It is expected to be ready for the Rebels' home opener against Mercer County on Sept. 17.
■ Three-time defending state champs Highlands (5A) and Fort Campbell (2A) will take long winning streaks into the new season. Highlands has won 28 games in a row and 44 of its last 45. The Bluebirds have won 41 in a row against Kentucky competition (their last loss was to Covington Catholic in the 2006 playoffs). Fort Campbell has won 20 consecutive games and 42 of its last 43.
■ Bracken County will start the season with a 28-game losing streak. The Polar Bears have won once in their last 56 games since 2004.
■ Danville Coach Sam Harp needs one victory to reach 300 for his career. Harp has guided the Admirals to seven state titles and has an overall record of 299-94 in 30 years, 23 at Danville. The Admirals struggled to a 5-7 record last year. They open the season hosting Mason County on Aug. 20.
■ The Brohm name is synonymous with Louisville Trinity football. Brothers Jeff and Brian Brohm were star quarterbacks and both won Mr. Football honors after leading the Shamrocks to glory. Now it's cousin Luke Brohm's turn as the QB in the spotlight. But Luke, a 6-foot, 210-pound senior, is calling signals at St. Xavier, Trinity's archrival. Luke saw considerable action last year as a backup on the Tigers' state title team, but he'll be the main man this season.
■ Louisville Eastern was scrambling to fill its schedule and was willing to play anybody. The Eagles wound up getting a date with Highlands. They will host the three-time defending champ Bluebirds in a noon game Sept. 25. The University of Louisville has a Thursday home game against Connecticut that week, so Eastern-Highlands should attract a crowd on that Saturday. The Eagles have star Jon Davis, who has committed to the University of Kentucky.
■ Former UK quarterbacks Jared Lorenzen and Will Fidler are coaching that position on the high school level. Lorenzen, who led Highlands to an undefeated state title in 1998, is on Dale Mueller's Bluebirds' staff. His main QB protégé is junior Patrick Towles. (Towles, the grandson of baseball Hall of Famer and U.S. Senator Jim Bunning, led Highlands to a state title last season.) Fidler, meanwhile, is on the staff of new Paul Laurence Dunbar Coach Bob Lawson. Fidler played at Henderson County, where Lawson was an assistant. Fidler is working with junior QB Blake Martin, who will run the Bulldogs' spread offense.
■ No surprise that Louisville Trinity is the state's winningest team since 2000. The Shamrocks have 126 victories (and seven state titles) under Coach Bob Beatty during those 10 years. Boyle County is next with 121 wins, followed by St. Xavier (119), Beechwood (118), Newport Central Catholic (118), Belfry (109), Danville (109), Male (108), Highlands (107), Bowling Green (106), Mayfield (105), Bell County (104), Corbin (100) and Russell (100).
■ Chris Hould, a longtime assistant softball coach at Lafayette, has been hired to take over Henry Clay's fast-pitch program. Hould replaces Mark Reese, who went 33-27 in his two seasons with the Blue Devils. In Hould's four years at Lafayette, the Generals went 102-39 and won two district titles.
■ West Jessamine has hired Michelle Baker as its new softball coach. Baker was a star at Lafayette and standout catcher at Campbellsville University. He was an assistant coach at Campbellsville the past two years.
■ Lexington Christian Academy's boys' golf team has created early-season buzz with sensational play. The Eagles shot a phenomenal 24-under-par 264 in the first round of the Flyer Classic at Griffin Gate a couple weeks ago. Hunter Stewart had a 9-under 63, Hager Collins a 64, Chandler Fischer a 67 and Taylor Combs a 70. They were 30 strokes higher in the final round at Juniper Hills, but still won by 25 shots. They stayed hot this week at the Clark County Invitational at Southwind, with Stewart firing a 62 and Combs a 65 to lead LCA to a 13-shot victory. The Eagles figure to contend for the state title. They were runners-up by one shot to St. Xavier last year, and were third two years ago.
■ Mike Whitson, a standout golfer at Paris High and Eastern Kentucky University, is the new women's golf coach at EKU. He was the women's coach at Indiana State the past five years.
■ UK's baseball program is getting an influx of local talent, including Lexington Catholic senior Taylor Martin. The ace of the Knights' 2009 state title team will sign with UK in November. Martin, a right-hander, had a 10-2 record over the last two years. Rodney Martin, his dad, said Taylor also had offers from EKU, Xavier and Cincinnati. Also joining UK this season will be West Jessamine pitcher Alex Lester and Lexington Christian catcher Steven Hoagland (who will walk on). Lester went 7-2 with 81 strikeouts in 66 innings this spring for the Colts, who made it to the state tournament for the first time in school history. Hoagland hit .393 for LCA, which also made it to the state tournament. Hoagland hit a walk-off homer against Tates Creek in the eighth inning to win the district title.