High School Sports

Mike Fields' notebook: The year in prep sports

On New Year's Eve, a look back at some of the most interesting stories in Kentucky high school sports in 2010.

Up and down but not out: Six weeks after Union County wrestler Caleb Ervin wrapped up an undefeated championship season, he suffered severe burns to his arm and shoulder in a gasoline-fire accident. Would he ever wrestle again? You bet. He recovered, returned to the mat and will go for a third consecutive state title this winter. He's also signed with Illinois to wrestle in college.

Ecstasy to agony: The most obvious missed call of the year came in the first round of the boys' 11th Region basketball tournament. Lyndon McKee's rebound basket at the buzzer should have given Franklin County a 45-44 victory over Henry Clay. But it was waved off by a referee. McKee went from feeling like a hero to feeling like his heart was broken.

One and done: Dave Fraley came out of retirement to coach Knott County Central's boys' basketball team with the express purpose of coaxing the Patriots to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1993. Fraley did his job. Knott Central made it to Rupp Arena in March. A few weeks later, Fraley announced he was re-retiring.

■ LCA limelighter: Sarah Barnette wrapped up an accomplished basketball career at Lexington Christian. She was a freshman starter on the Eagles' 2007 Sweet Sixteen title team, helped LCA to three straight All "A" crowns, set school scoring records, was named Miss Basketball and signed with Kentucky.

Seeing is not believing: Even though I was an eyewitness, I still didn't comprehend Newport's 60-34 rout of defending state champ Holmes in the 9th Region boys' basketball finals.

Justice is served: Nobody had a more memorable four-month stretch than Shelby Valley basketball star Elisha Justice. In February, he was named MVP of the All "A" Classic after leading the Wildcats to the small-school state title. In March, Justice was named MVP of the Sweet Sixteen after leading Shelby Valley to the state title. In April, Justice was named Mr. Basketball. In May, Louisville Coach Rick Pitino rewarded Justice, who planned to be a walk-on with the Cardinals, with a scholarship.

Small-school coach who won big: High school baseball lost a legend when Paintsville's Charlie Adkins died. He proved that a small school could play ball with the big boys by coaching the Tigers to five final fours, including a state title in 1980.

They broke the mold: The passing of former Tates Creek football coach Roy Walton in May was an emotional blow to all who knew him. He wasn't just a championship coach. He was a championship character.

Diamond sparkles: Harrison County won its fourth state baseball title, a remarkable feat considering its small, rural population base and the competition against bigger, urban area schools in a one-class playoff format. Mac Whitaker has a knack for coaxing the Thorobreds to the winner's circle.

Hard Riddle to solve: Western Hills' J.T. Riddle was named Mr. Baseball and he had the credentials for it. As a hitter, he was tough to get out. He batted .514 with 62 RBI. As a pitcher, he was tough to hit. He went 8-0 with a 1.26 earned run average and had 90 strikeouts and only 12 walks. He signed with UK.

Tee-riffic: In 2009 Caldwell County's Emma Talley called a scorecard error on herself that cost her a second consecutive state title. She handled the disappointment with such grace and sportsmanship, it was easy to root for her to win the state this year. She did, romping to a nine-shot victory.

Much better than par for the course: LCA's boys' golf team shot an incredible 24-under par in an early-season tournament at Griffin Gate, a sign that Eric Geldhof's Eagles should probably be favored to win the state championship. The sign was right. LCA, led by seniors Hunter Stewart and Taylor Combs, took the title in convincing fashion over perennial power St. Xavier.

Getting their kicks: Lexington's reputation as a soccer hotbed was burnished by Tim Bernardi's Henry Clay boys' surprising run to the state title, led by junior captain John Manga, and by Paul Laurence Dunbar's Zach Byrd being named Mr. Soccer.

World-class kicks: Wilmore's Arin Gilliland, a senior at West Jessamine, played for the U.S. Under-18 women's soccer national team in Europe. Considered one of the best soccer prospects the state has ever produced, Gilliland was a Parade All-American and Kentucky's Miss Soccer and signed to play at UK.

Two down, four to go? Sacred Heart's Emma Brink won her fourth consecutive 3A cross country title, giving Sayre's Maddox Patterson something to strive for. Patterson, an eighth-grader, won her second Class A title in a row (and broke Brink's Horse Park course record in the process). Don't count out Patterson running the table in high school.

Fit to be tied: After Bell County's Dudley Hilton won his 345th game to tie Bob Schneider as the winningest football coach in state history, Hilton said he didn't mind sharing the record. He wasn't just mouthing words, either. He was pretty sure at that time, three rounds into the playoffs, that he would be leaving Bell County for Pikeville College when the season was over. A few days later, the Bobcats lost to Boyle County in the Class 4A semifinals in Hilton's last game on Log Mountain.

Wearing it well: There hasn't been a recession if you're lucky enough to be the championship-ring vendor for Boyle County, Highlands or Trinity. Those three schools have combined to win 22 state football championships since 1999, including a sweep of their classes earlier this month.

Big numbers

■ After leading Lafayette to a region runner-up finish last season, Mike Walker and Dominique Hagans are leading Southeastern Illinois College in scoring. Walker is averaging 21.3 points and Hagans 15.5 through six games.

■ Taylor Martin of Lexington Catholic was the leading scorer in the Iolani Classic in Hawaii last week. He had 81 points in four games. He and teammate Scott Schuette made the all-tournament team, along with Treg Setty of Mason County. Oak Hill Academy, unbeaten and No. 1 in the nation, beat Montverde (Fla.) in the finals. During the tournament, Steve Smith got his 800th victory as Oak Hill's coach. Smith is from Wilmore, Ky.

■ The appearance by Fayette County, Ga., in the Republic Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic was a homecoming for Tigers Coach Andre Flynn, who was a star player at Woodford County and Transylvania in the early 1980s. Flynn has been in Georgia almost 25 years and head coach at Fayette County the last 10. He has always gotten the Tigers to Georgia's Class 4A state tournament, including a runner-up finish in 2008. Fayette County is rated No. 2 in 4A this season. Despite having pulled up his roots here a long time ago, Flynn said, "I'm still a Kentucky guy." He had family and friends in the stands at Lexington Catholic, including Don Lane, who coached Flynn at Transy. Flynn, 47, still has the quick, easy smile he flashed as a high school and college kid.

■ No. 1 Jeffersontown will play Cincinnati Roger Bacon in the Dunkin' Donuts National Shootout at Lexington Catholic on Jan. 8. The triple-header opener will match Lincoln County and Wolfe County at 5 p.m., followed by Lexington Catholic taking on Henry Clay at 6:30. Unbeaten J-town, led by 6-10 Louisville signee Zach Price, will be featured in the nightcap.

■ Breckinridge County football player Chance Anthony is one of 12 national finalists for the High School Rudy Award. Anthony, who was born without the lower half of his right arm, started at wideout for three years and was one of the Fighting Tigers' leading receivers. He also started at linebacker. For information on the Rudy Award, go to highschoolrudyawards.com.

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