The most poignant moment of the opening weekend of high school football came when C.J. Leadingham kicked a 23-yard field goal in overtime to give Fairview a 16-13 victory over West Carter in Olive Hill last Friday night.
Leadingham, a junior in his first year of football, was boosted onto his teammates' shoulders and given a celebratory hero's ride.
If anybody deserved a lift, it was C.J. Leadingham.
Two years ago this week, C.J.'s parents, Chuck and Denise, were killed in a motorcycle accident. C.J. was a freshman at Ashland Blazer at the time. Last year he decided to transfer to Fairview, where his dad went to school and played football.
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Now living with his grandparents, Chuck and Lillian Leadingham, C.J. went out for the team this year. Having played soccer, he figured he could be a kicker. He even dreamed of booting a game-winning field goal.
His dream came true on the first field-goal attempt of his life. "It felt amazing," C.J. said. "It was one of the greatest feelings I've ever had."
Up in the stands, his grandparents watched and were overcome with emotion. "I think they both had tears," C.J. said. "I saw my grandmother and she was crying her eyes out."
C.J. said being on the football team has helped him cope with the loss of his parents. "It's given me people to fall back on, people to talk to, people to be with."
His grandfather agreed: "Yes, I think football has helped him. That little fella's had a rugged situation, but he's a tough little individual and he seems to be coming through it OK."
Fairview Coach Nathan McPeek said he'll always remember the scene after the game when the team said a prayer and C.J. thanked everybody for helping make a wonderful memory. "That's what high school sports are all about," McPeek said.
■ Letcher County Central got some pre-season notice in 5A even though it has a mostly young, inexperienced team. One reason for the optimism: junior QB Logan Johnson, who last year passed for 1,700 yards and 18 TDs, and ran for 1,000 yards and 16 TDs. Letcher Central first-year coach Mike Whitaker used to have a highly touted junior QB garner attention for his team. Whitaker was Tim Couch's coach at Leslie County in 1994. To tie the years together, Johnson is Couch's first cousin.
Whitaker said people naturally compare the two QBs, "and that's a little unfair." Johnson is 6-foot-1, a few inches shorter than Couch, and doesn't have as strong a passing arm.
Whitaker said Johnson is more like Greg Couch, Tim's older brother and also a QB. "Greg was a very physical runner," Whitaker said. "He could've played tailback." Johnson is physical, too, and started on defense at safety as a freshman.
Letcher Central opened the season with a win over South Laurel last week.
■ Ryle, touted in the pre-season as a Class 6A power, lived up to the hype by routing 5A Covington Catholic 61-7 at Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium. Raiders RB Travis Elliott rushed for 269 yards and four TDs, and QB Connor Hempel ran for 120 yards. "I was pretty surprised," Ryle Coach Bryson Warner said of his team's 42-0 second-half scorching of the Colonels. "But we've got a good football team. We've got a lot of quality football players who've bought into everything we've asked them to do." Ryle visits three-time defending 5A champ Highlands on Friday. The teams will meet again Oct. 27. Warner said the Raiders embrace the challenge of playing Highlands twice in the same year. "We feel playing Highlands will get us closer to a state championship. That's our goal, and Highlands certainly knows how to do it." The Bluebirds have a 42-game winning streak against Kentucky competition.
■ Bowling Green had an impressive season opener, limiting Southwestern to 41 total yards in a 52-0 victory. QB Scooter Hollis threw for 193 yards and two TDs, and he ran for 56 yards and a TD.
■ T.J. Maynard's debut as Raceland's head coach was a winning one as the Class A Rams beat 4A Boyd County 35-7. Raceland dedicated the game to Tyler Baldridge, a freshman on last year's team who died in a four-wheeler accident this summer.
■ Bardstown Bethlehem needed a fantastic finish to clip Fort Knox 27-22. Fort Knox took a 22-21 lead with 15 seconds left, but was penalized for excessive celebration. After Bethlehem's Jordan Cooper returned the short kickoff to the Fort Knox 39, he threw a "Hail Mary" pass to Clay Owens, who made a diving catch in the end zone as time expired.
■ How will defending 4A champ Boyle County replace Rees MacShara, who ran for 3,068 yards and 49 TDs last year? Apparently the Rebels will give the ball to Chris Cook, who rushed for 216 yards and two TDs in a 36-29 win at Johnson Central last week.
■ Danville's Patrick Brand ran for 257 yards and two TDs in a 21-14 win over Mason County, giving Coach Sam Harp his 300th career victory.
■ Seneca QB DaMarcus Smith, who missed last season with a knee injury, threw for 204 yards and a TD in a 47-32 win over Central. Smith has committed to Louisville.
■ Collins, the new high school in Shelby County, scored a touchdown on its first offensive play of the season. On first down at the Sheldon Clark 49, the Titans ran a flea-flicker. QB Branden Cresap handed off to Michael Brooks, who pitched to Ben Axline. The ball bounced off Axline's chest, but bounded into the hands of Cresap, who threw a TD pass to Travis Elzy. Collins beat Sheldon Clark 48-16. Cresap, who passed for 2,367 yards and 30 TDs for Shelby County last season, threw for 219 yards and four TDs in his debut at Collins. Elzy, another former Rocket, had two catches for 117 yards and two TDs.
■ Anderson County, which graduated four-year QB Jacob Russell, didn't miss a beat behind Seth Carmichael in its season opener. Carmichael threw for 176 yards and a TD in a 46-18 win over Garrard County. The Bearcats also got a lift from Ethan Kelly, who ran for 197 yards and two TDs and had a TD catch.
■ Eddie Eviston's first game as Newport Central Catholic coach was a memorable one as the Thoroughbreds scored three TDs in the fourth quarter to beat Dixie Heights 35-28. Eviston succeeded Bob Schneider as coach. Dixie Heights QB Zeke Pike completed 10 of 25 passes for 176 yards and one TD, and he ran for 31 yards and a score.
■ Former Fort Campbell QB Antonio Andrews, who won Mr. Football honors last year and committed to Air Force, has instead enrolled at WKU. Hilltoppers Coach Willie Taggart told the WKU student newspaper that Andrews is on scholarship and is practicing as a running back. Andrews is expected to redshirt this season.
■ Forcht Bank, title sponsor of the KHSAA state baseball tournament since 2008, has extended its sponsorship for the championship through the 2013 season. Forcht Bank also funds four scholarships annually for student-athletes who play in the tournament.
■ Paul Laurence Dunbar senior pitcher Cameron Langfels has committed to EKU.
■ Clark County's Cardinal Classic golf tournament at Kearney Hill Links on Saturday will feature several of the top boys' teams and players. The 24-team field will include defending state champ St. Xavier (Tigers star Justin Thomas lost in match play in the U.S. Amateur on Thursday); Lexington Christian and Hunter Stewart; Dunbar and Will Bishop; Henry Clay and Preston French; Lexington Catholic and Daniel DeLuca and Ben Fister; West Jessamine and Fred Allen Meyer.
■ Lexington public high schools' boys' golf teams have formed the Fayette County Golf Conference. Bryan Station, Dunbar, Henry Clay, Lafayette and Tates Creek will play each other in dual matches leading up to the overall championship tournament at Tates Creek on Sept. 13. An all-conference team will be determined by points accumulated throughout the season. Competition is being held on the varsity and junior varsity levels.
■ Former South Laurel and Transylvania golfer Corey Maggard is the new men's golf coach at Guilford College in North Carolina. Maggard was an assistant at Transy the last two years.