As the high school football season kicks off in Kentucky, two senior stars are ready to make a run at the state rushing record, and a veteran coach is on track to break the state record for victories.
■ The race to break Derek Homer's 15-year-old career rushing record begins Friday, but it will be a marathon, not a sprint, that will probably last deep into the playoffs.
Johnson Central's J.J. Jude and Louisville Central's Anthony Wales both have a shot at Homer's mark of 8,224 yards.
Jude, who ran for more than 3,000 yards last season, needs 2,710 to overtake Homer. Wales, who came up just shy of 3,000 last year, is 2,796 shy of eclipsing the mark Homer set at Fort Knox.
But neither of the speedy seniors sees the record as a top priority.
"My personal goal is to help my team win a district championship and make a good post-season run," Jude said. "Yes, I'd love to break the record, but the team comes first."
Wales has the same attitude. "This year my No. 1 goal is to make my teammates better. I'll run as hard as I can, and if the record comes, great. But I'm not worried about it."
The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Wales, with his 4.4 speed, led Central to the Class 3A state title last year while rushing for 2,994 yards. He has a tough road to the state record. Central's 2011 schedule includes 6A teams Ballard, Manual, Pleasure Ridge Park and St. Xavier. "Last year I had 1,000 yards against 6A schools, so I've proven I can do it on a high level," said Wales, who has scholarship offers from Kentucky, Louisville, Cincinnati, Illinois and Indiana.
Jude, a 5-10, 190-pounder, set a single-game state record with 584 yards against Woodford County last year on his way to a 3,258 season total.
"It's kind of weird hearing those big numbers," he said. "I didn't set out to rush for 3,000. That's unheard of."
Jude is also well known for his wrestling. He was undefeated state champ at 171 pounds last winter, and has done well in summer national tournaments.
Although he could probably get a college scholarship in wrestling, Jude wants to play football. He has offers from Eastern Kentucky, Liberty and Concord (a Division II school in West Virginia). "UK and Marshall are showing some interest, and I'd love to get an offer from one of them," Jude said. "But I want to go wherever's best for me."
■ Belfry's Philip Haywood could become the state's all-time winningest coach this season. Starting his 37th year as a head coach (his 28th at Belfry), Haywood has 337 victories. That's eight behind the record of 345 shared by Dudley Hilton, who left Bell County this year to take over at the University of Pike-ville, and Bob Schneider, who retired as Newport Central Catholic coach two years ago. (Schneider is an assistant to Thoroughbreds Coach Eddie Eviston this season.)
The self-effacing Haywood said if and when he ties or breaks the record, he won't consider it a personal accomplishment. "If it happens, it'd be nice for everybody who ever played or coached with us over the years. I've been the beneficiary of a lot of great players and coaches."
Belfry is coming off a state runner-up finish in Class 3A. The Pirates return a good group of skill players, including quarterback Tyler Williams, fullbacks Trey Willis and Gary Runyon, and halfback Josh Robinson. But they've got holes to fill on the lines if they want to be contenders again.
Belfry went 6-4 in the regular season last year, then reeled off four wins in the playoffs before falling to Central in the state finals.
■ Heath's football team will go to great lengths, literally, to open the season. The Paducah-area school plays at Johnson Central Saturday night. That's a six-hour, 325-mile one-way bus trip from one end of the state to the other. Heath's new coach John Adams had to fill a couple open dates on his schedule, and agreed to a one-year contract with Johnson Central. Heath will take a chartered bus to Paintsville on Friday. The team will have a walk-through Saturday morning to get ready for Saturday night's game. "We're kind of treating it like a college trip, staying overnight in a hotel," Adams said. "But it's all business for us. The kids aren't going to be jumping in the pool when we get there." Heath will bus back to Paducah immediately after the game.
■ Two-time defending 4A state champ Boyle County hosts four-time defending 5A champ Highlands Friday night. It's the first time they've met since Highlands beat the Rebels in the 3A state finals in 2004 and ended Boyle County's run of five consecutive championships. The Rebels take a 30-game winning streak into Friday's game. In three years as Boyle County's coach, Larry French has a 43-1 record.
■ Bourbon County's new artificial turf football field isn't completely installed yet, so the Colonels will use Paris High's field when they play Middlesboro in the Adena Springs Thoroughbred Bowl Friday night. Bourbon County Coach Johnny Poynter said the Colonels' new home field should be ready for their Sept. 2 game against Owen County. They're also getting new lights, a new scoreboard, a new practice field and a refurbished field house. Dudley Hilton, who coached Bourbon County to a state title in 1997, will be at Friday's bowl game as an honorary captain.
■ If Bowling Green, top-ranked in 5A, beats Allen County-Scottsville in Saturday night's Rafferty Bowl, it will be the program's 600th victory. The Purples' overall record is 599-328-35.
■ Clark County is planning a reunion for its 1991 undefeated 4A state championship team. The get-together will be Sept. 16 when the Cardinals play host to Henry Clay. Team members, coaches, support personnel from 20 years ago, and their families, are invited. There will be a pre-game cookout and a ceremony at halftime. Contact Coach Paul Columbia at firstname.lastname@example.org. The '91 Cards, coached by Don Danko, beat Trinity in the semifinals and St. Xavier in the finals.
■ Madison Central will hold the inaugural Meijer Roy Kidd Bowl at EKU's Roy Kidd Stadium on Saturday. Bert Browne, in his second year as Madison Central coach, is trying to give the Indians' program a boost after back-to-back one-win seasons. Saturday's doubleheader has Southwestern vs. Boone County at 5:30 p.m., followed by Madison Central vs. Letcher County Central.
■ Coby Lewis was promoted from assistant to head coach at Trigg County two weeks ago after Shannon Burcham stepped down to become the school's principal.
■ Tony Wise is the new boys' basketball coach at Montgomery County, replacing Keith Griesser who left to take an administrative job in Scott County. Wise, 41, has coached Frankfort the last two years. Wise said he's excited about his new gig. "The first impression I get is that Montgomery County is ready to take the next step and compete on the highest level, ready to be mentioned in the same breath as Mason County and Clark County in the (10th) region. Long-term, I see this as a top-10 job in the state." Wise was a multi-sport athlete at Scott County, and went on to play football and basketball at Georgetown College. He was a high school coach in Florida for eight years before returning to Kentucky a few years ago.
■ Berea College assistant Juan Byars is the new girls' basketball coach at Bourbon County. Byars was a star at Paris in the early 1990s.
■ Kevin Bruggeman is Lexington Catholic's new athletics director. A 1993 Lexington Catholic graduate, Bruggeman is also an assistant football coach.
■ Boone County pitcher/first baseman Jackson Laumann, picked in the 31st round of the baseball draft by the Atlanta Braves, is going pro instead of going to the University of Cincinnati.
■ West Jessamine's boys won the 48th Kentucky Invitational Tournament at Nevel Meade Golf Course in Louisville last Saturday. The Colts beat perennial power St. Xavier in a one-hole playoff thanks to birdies by Travis Rose, Connor Haas and Wes Skipworth. West Jessamine was led by Rose's 71 and Fred Allen Meyer's 72. St. X won the KIT the previous four years. West Jessamine finished third in the state tournament last fall.
■ The KHSAA, looking to allow high school athletes to work more with their high school coaches instead of going to outside camps, clinics and coaches, will permit local principals to interpret the "limitation of seasons" rules. KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett said instead of "forcing kids to look to people" that don't have their best interests at heart, "we should allow ... high school coaches to have more time with the students who are looking to expand their skills."
The KHSAA Board of Control voted to increase the penalty for coaches and players who get ejected from contests. Coaches will have to sit out three games instead of two; players will have to sit out two games instead of one. Tackett said he hopes participants recognized that "at this level of sports, we cannot tolerate unsportsmanlike conduct."