High School Sports

Mike Fields' notebook: Fewer playoff teams might yield better games

Highlands quarterback Patrick Towles won a state title with the support of his grandfather, Sen. Jim Bunning, a great athlete himself years ago.
Highlands quarterback Patrick Towles won a state title with the support of his grandfather, Sen. Jim Bunning, a great athlete himself years ago.


That was the combined halftime score of the Class A, 2A, 3A, 5A and 6A football championship games in Bowling Green last weekend.


That was the combined final score of the title games won by Mayfield, Newport Central Catholic, Central, Highlands and Trinity.

The only close contest was Boyle County's hard-fought 21-14 victory over Allen County-Scottsville in 4A.

Were the five blowouts an indication that six-class football has left us with mostly non-competitive finals?

KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett doesn't think so. "We just had some situations where some teams were vastly superior, whether it was Central's speed or Highlands' discipline," said Tackett, who noted that six-class finals produced several close games the previous three years.

"What happened this year was a fluke. We had some round-five games that were like round-one games," Tackett said.

Nevertheless, one can't help but think that with fewer classes, we might have been treated to a Mayfield-NewCath title clash. But Tackett doesn't sound like he wants to constrict the post-season to get such a showdown. "Sure, if you want a nice close game, but you'd have a lot less teams in the playoffs early."

Sounds like a good idea to me.

■ Despite the frosty weather, last week's attendance was the best since the six-class format was adopted in 2007. Total attendance at WKU was 47,759, up more than 10,000 from 2009. Allen County-Scottsville had the biggest turnout of fans. They filled the entire lower stands in Houchens/L.T. Smith Stadium. "I've never seen a team with that kind of following. It was beautiful," Tackett said.

■ This was the last year of the KHSAA's contract with WKU to host the finals. The two sides are negotiating an extension, although Tackett said "it'll have to involve some corporate help. We've given them until January to take a strong look at it. We'll bring it back to the (Board of Control) in February."

It's unlikely the finals will return to Louisville's Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. The Big East Conference dictates U of L's playing dates, which leaves the KHSAA in limbo. Also, Tackett said Papa John's "is frankly a little too big. You take that crowd of 12,000 we had in Bowling Green on Friday night and put it in Papa John's or Commonwealth Stadium, and it gets a little lost. It doesn't have the atmosphere. The feedback I'm getting is the coaches like what it's turned out to be in Bowling Green."

■ Bob Schneider was among KHSAA officials who presented Newport Central Catholic its championship trophy and medals after its win over Owensboro Catholic. Schneider retired as NewCath's coach last January after 44 years and a state-record 345 victories, including three state titles. Did he miss coaching this season? "More than a lot," he said. Schneider figured the Thoroughbreds would be contenders this season. "We only had five seniors last year, so I knew these guys would be pretty good," he said. "I'm real happy for them."

■ Mayfield has had eight state championship teams, but none more dominant than this year's Cardinals. They went 15-0, capped by a 47-6 win over Hazard in the Class A finals. Under KHSAA rules, once a team takes a 45-point lead, the rest of the game is played with a running clock. That rule kicked in late in the third quarter of Mayfield's win. The Cards had a running clock in 11 of their 15 victories this year, which has to be a state record. In the finals, senior quarterback Luke Guhy threw for 303 yards — the first 300-yard game in the program's history — and three TDs. Guhy is a star scholar and athlete. He scored 35 on the ACT and has applied to Ivy League schools Harvard and Columbia. "It'd be a dream to play football up there," said Guhy, who has the option of going to Louisville or Kentucky and being a walk-on. Guhy also plays basketball (his dad, Chris Guhy, is Mayfield's coach) and baseball. Mayfield's football star of the present and future is Jonathan Jackson, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound sophomore running back/linebacker who has the potential to be the best player in Cards history.

■ Highlands' QB Patrick Towles had a nearly perfect half of football when he ran for 165 yards and five TDs against Christian County to stake his team to a 33-0 lead. The 6-5, 230-pound junior is the grandson of outgoing U.S. Sen. and baseball Hall of Famer Jim Bunning, who threw a perfect game for the Phillies against the Mets in 1964. Bunning was in Bowling Green to watch his grandson's performance, which he described as "awesome. I thought it was better than a perfect game."

■ Central running back Anthony Wales will take aim at Derek Homer's state career rushing record of 8,224 yards next year. Wales ran for 2,994 yards this season in leading the Yellowjackets to the state title. He has 5,429 career yards, 2,795 behind Homer.

■ Boyle County linebacker and Mr. Football candidate Lamar Dawson has been named Gatorade's Kentucky player of the year. Dawson made 323 tackles the last two years while helping the Rebels to two state titles.

■ Dudley Hilton's decision to leave Bell County for Pikeville College means Belfry Coach Philip Haywood is in line to become the state's winningest coach. Haywood, who led the Pirates to a runner-up finish in 3A this year, has 337 career victories, eight behind the record shared by Hilton and Bob Schneider. Belfry won 10 games this season with a long playoff run. Can Haywood get to 345 next year? "I don't know about that," he said. "This year we managed to get six (wins) in the regular season. With our schedule, I just hope we can get five or six next year." Haywood thinks Hilton "will do a great job at Pikeville. They've never really hired a Kentucky guy before, and they need to get more Kentucky kids in there. I think Dudley will do that."

■ Boone County has the most football playoff victories (46) without winning a state title. Trinity, a 20-time state champ, has the most playoff wins (115). Glasgow has more playoff losses (36) than any school in the state.

■ The Best of the Bluegrass all-star football game is Sunday at 2 p.m. at St. Xavier. It will match high school seniors from the Louisville area against seniors from the rest of the state.

■ More than a dozen Division I basketball prospects will play in the Racing to the Rim Showcase, sponsored by Kentucky Basketball Academy. There are two games Friday and four Saturday at Scott County, and 10 games Sunday in Rupp Arena. "We've got a mix of local teams, and we also tried to bring in quite a few D-I prospects," said Stuart Goldsborough of the KBA. "We hope to make it an annual thing." Among the brightest stars is L.J. Rose of Houston (Texas) Second Baptist, rated the nation's top point guard in the class of 2012. UK is recruiting him. Also in the event are Michigan State signee Branden Dawson of Lew Wallace (Ind.); LSU signee Johnny O'Bryant of East Side (Miss.), Xavier commitment Michael Chandler of Indianapolis Lawrence North, and Cincinnati signee Jeremiah Davis of Huntington (W.Va.) Prep. Former Lexington Catholic star Jaylen Beckham also plays for Huntington Prep. Sunday's best game might be Marion County's No. 1-rated girls taking on No. 4 Scott County at 4 p.m. in Rupp.

■ Elliott County star Timmy Knipp had his first career triple-double (19 points, 15 rebounds, 11 assists) against East Carter.

■ Woodford County's 6-6 junior Jay Johnson had a triple-double (10 points, 18 rebounds, 10 blocked shots) in two quarters of play in a season-opening win over Bourbon County.

■ Harrison County's girls beat Bourbon County in their 1,000th basketball game Monday night. Jim Swinford of radio station WCYN noted that the victory came almost 36 years to the day after the Fillies' first game, played on Dec. 5, 1974 against, yep, Bourbon County. The Fillies' overall record is 580-420.

■ Bracken County's Sara Stricklin is off to a strong start. The 6-0 junior is averaging 22.3 points and 15.7 rebounds after three games.

■ Henry Clay's Daniel Kiesling will play basketball at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., which is currently No. 5 in the NAIA national ratings. Kiesling, a 6-6 senior, has a weighted 4.6 GPA. Brandon Nichols, who also plays hoops for Henry Clay, has committed to run track at UK. Nichols set a state meet record in the 400-meter dash last spring. He ran a 47.11 to break Cris Dishman's 27-year-old record.

■ Northern Kentucky University won the Division II national soccer title last week by beating Rollins 3-2 in Louisville. Jack Little, a freshman from Woodford County, had a goal for NKU, which finished the season 20-2-3. Four other Kentuckians are on the Norse roster — sophomores Michael Bartlett of Bishop Brossart and Shawn Parker of Oldham County, and freshmen Dakota Beerman of Highlands and Ryan Horn of Madison Central.

■ Bryan Station junior Michael Bollmer has committed to play baseball at Louisville. Bollmer, recruited as a first baseman/pitcher, also had an offer from Coastal Carolina. As a sophomore Bollmer hit .363 with 38 RBI, and as a pitcher had a 2.29 earned run average.

■ Four-time state cross country champ Emma Brink of Sacred Heart finished fifth in the Foot Locker South Region in Charlotte, N.C., last week to qualify for the nationals in San Diego on Saturday.