Paris suited up only 12 players for its football game at Raceland last week. Predictably, the Greyhounds lost 55-12 for their school-record 19th consecutive defeat.
Paris' current struggles stand in stark contrast to the Greyhounds' glorious tradition that includes icons Bill Arnsparger and Blanton Collier from the 1940s, and back-to-back state titles and a then-state record 38-game winning streak under Randy Reese in the early 1980s.
Reese, who's been out of coaching a few years, said it "really hurts" to see how far Paris has fallen. "I can't tell you the pain I feel."
J.J. Everage is the guy trying to resurrect the Greyhounds. In his third season as coach, he's giving stability to a program that changed coaches three times in four years (and eight times in 14 years) before he arrived.
Everage is committed to turning things around, but it may take a few more years. Paris graduated 12 seniors from last year's team. It has only one senior this season, and is basically a jayvee squad playing a varsity schedule. Everage had 23 players a few weeks ago, but the roster has been thinned by injuries and academic problems. The Greyhounds have some talented freshmen and sophomores, and a promising crop of middle-schoolers. "The key is to keep them together," Everage wrote via e-mail. "We can't afford to lose any. These past few years we've had players go to (Bourbon County), private schools in Lexington, or simply families uproot and move."
Reese, who had two stints with the Greyhounds (1979-86 and 1998-2002), said Paris' overall athletics program suffered when administrators seemed to "de-emphasize sports" and when Paris and Bourbon County did away with "open enrollment" that allowed kids to attend the school of their choice.
Eugene "Puck" Puckett has been part of the Paris sports program for 34 years in a number of roles, including scorekeeper, statistician and historian. He celebrated the football titles in 1981 and '82, and now he's suffering through the tough times. "I wouldn't wish what Coach Everage is going through on anybody," Puckett said. "I'm trying to help him keep his head above water. I do think there's hope on the horizon with the young players coming up, and with a new principal (Jami Dailey) and new superintendent (Gary Wiseman), who seem to be showing support."
Every so often the "m" word surfaces, with people speculating that if Paris and Bourbon County merged, it would produce a school with stronger sports. Puckett is not convinced that's true, but he doesn't think consolidation will happen in his lifetime. He's about 50.
Everage, meanwhile, said he reminds his players daily of the Paris tradition and challenges them to work hard. He tells them the payoff will come, if not in football, "maybe in their personal life after graduation.
"Win or lose," Everage said, "it is an honor for me to be coaching at such a storied program."
■ Trinity, St. Xavier and Male have combined to win 22 of the last 25 big-school state titles, but they're all lumped in the same district, along with Manual, in the proposed district realignment. Geographically it might make sense, but competitively it does not.
■ Paul Laurence Dunbar Coach Bob Lawson said he had no idea the Bulldogs would be shipped out of town to a district with Central Hardin, Meade County and Nelson County. But will that hold? Speculation is that Ohio County has moved from 5A to 6A and will be assigned to the district with Central Hardin, Meade County and Nelson County, and that Dunbar will be reassigned to the same district as Bryan Station, Henry Clay and Scott County. Simon Kenton, which is in that district now, would go back to Northern Kentucky to join the district with Boone County, Campbell County, Dixie Heights and Ryle.
■ Michael Brooks was a two-way football star at Shelby County in 1995 and was named Class 4A's player of the year. Fifteen years later, his son Michael Brooks Jr. is a two-way standout at new Collins High in Shelbyville. The 6-foot, 205-pound junior has the biggest impact at middle linebacker. He has 84 tackles in seven games, two interceptions (one returned for a TD), and he's caused four fumbles (one returned for a TD). "His leadership on defense is a big reason we're off to a 6-1 start," Coach Jerry Lucas said. Collins' offense is led by senior QB Branden Cresap, who's thrown for 1,722 yards and 22 TDs.
■ Rhett Hughes kicked a 45-yard field goal with four seconds left to give Rowan County a 38-35 victory over Greenup County. Rowan County's defense gave up 500 yards on the ground. Greenup County's Corey Lyle ran for 274 yards, and Brandon Marsh ran for 226.
■ Bell County brothers Cory and Cody Davenport combined for 210 yards and three TDs (rushing and receiving) as the unbeaten Bobcats beat Knox Central 21-7. The victory assured Bell County Coach Dudley Hilton of his 34th consecutive winning season.
■ Green County upset previously undefeated Lone Oak 20-17 on QB Chavis McDermott's TD run with 2.7 seconds left. Lone Oak had won 35 of its previous 36 regular-season games.
■ Lone Oak wasn't the only unbeaten team to fall last week. Also losing for the first time were Bishop Brossart (to Bellevue), Grayson County (to Bowling Green), Monroe County (to Franklin-Simpson) and Pineville (to Estill County).
■ Highlands beat Dixie Heights 42-14 for its 35th consecutive victory, the seventh longest winning streak in state history. If the Bluebirds polish off another undefeated state title this year, they will stretch their winning streak to 43, giving them a shot next season at Trinity's all-time record of 50.
■ After going three years and more than 3,000 games without a 3-0 result in Kentucky high school football, it's happened two weeks in a row. Last Friday, Eli Maloy's 31-yard field goal in the fourth quarter gave Boyd County a 3-0 win over East Carter. On Sept. 24, Washington County beat Marion County 3-0 on Seth Mattingly's 22-yard kick.
■ The KHSAA has set the schedule for the state football finals at WKU's L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green: Dec. 3: Class A, 11 a.m. (Central time); Class 2A, 3 p.m.; Class 4A, 7 p.m. Dec. 4: Class 3A, 11 a.m.; Class 5A, 3 p.m.; Class 6A, 7 p.m.
■ Seneca QB DaMarcus Smith, who's committed to U of L, gets his toughest test of the season when the RedHawks host Trinity in a district game on Friday. Trinity has won 44 consecutive district games.
■ Eastern's Jon Davis, who's committed to UK, had 157 yards and three TDs rushing and receiving in a rout of Shelby County.
■ Cameron Thomas rushed for 201 yards and three TDs to lead East Jessamine to a 49-0 win over Owen County.
■ James Johnson of Bullitt East ran for 288 yards and four TDs in a win over Doss. It was the second week in a row he topped 250 yards.
■ Bob Sphire, who led Lexington Catholic to the Class 3A state title in 2005, is having another successful season as coach at North Gwinnett, Ga. Sphire guided Gwinnett to a 5A state runner-up finish in 2007, and this year's Bulldogs are 5-0 and rated 14th in the nation by USA Today. Sphire's staff at Gwinnett includes former Lexington Catholic assistants Charles Allen and Troy Hobbs, former Bryan Station head coach Traye Moore, and former Hazard head coach Maurice Dixon.
■ Bob Redman, who won 317 football games and three state titles in Kentucky, left Male after last season to become coach at Jeffersonville. Ind. Redman is having a rough first year with the Red Devils. They are 1-6 after a 61-33 loss to archrival New Albany last week. It was the most points New Albany has scored in the rivalry since a 91-0 rout in 1912.
■ Kentucky high school basketball has another talented transfer. Chris Freeman, who was at Warren, Texas, last season, will play his senior year at Muhlenberg County where his uncle, Reggie Warford, is the coach. Thelma Freeman, Warford's sister and Chris' mother, moved to Muhlenberg County in February to help care for their critically ill father. Chris has since joined his mom. "He's a special kid and a real specimen," Reggie said. "He's a perimeter player that can play inside. He's an excellent shooter, quick and strong." Indiana State has already offered a scholarship, but bigger schools, including Louisville, are now showing interest. Freeman strengthens a Muhlenberg County team that won the 3rd Region last year. The Mustangs' returnees include Warford's son Tiger, Michael Civils and 6-8 LeMon Gregory. "I thought we'd be good before Chris came," Warford said. "Now he makes us a factor in every game. If we do what we're supposed to do, we could have a fairly exciting season."
Freeman is the latest in a number of high-profile players moving to Kentucky. Before last season Bowling Green got Chane Behanan, who has since committed to U of L. This year Jeffersontown has added 6-11 Zach Price and Louisville Western got Ryan Taylor. Both have committed to U of L.