The forecast for this weekend's state football championship games in Bowling Green: Temperatures in the 50s during the day, dipping into the 30s at night, with an 80 percent chance of gloomy mismatches and mercy-rule running clocks.
■ St. Xavier Coach Mike Glaser got an early-season look at three teams favored to win state titles. Back in September, St. X lost to Class 5A Bowling Green 28-20, beat 3A Central 31-30 and lost to 6A rival Trinity 41-6. (St. X also lost to the Shamrocks 42-6 in the playoffs.)
Glaser's scouting report:
Bowling Green: "They've got a combination of outstanding linemen and speed. Their quarterback (Scooter Hollis) is an outstanding operator. He can run it and throw it. Top to bottom, they're very sound."
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Central: "Great speed and great skill guys. I think (Anthony) Wales is a Division I running back. Two young linebackers (sophomores Donald Styles and Phillip Francis) are outstanding. Look at every team that dominates on every level and it's about speed. Central's got speed."
Trinity: "The key to them isn't their passing game. It's their ability to run the football behind a big, all-senior offensive line. The other thing is they're very sound defensively. They use their speed and athletes to run to the football. They out-man everybody they play."
■ Central Coach Ty Scroggins said he'll be "preaching all weekend" that Anthony Wales should be Mr. Football "not just for what he's done this year, but what he's done the last four years." Wales, who has scholarship offers from UK and Louisville, is a four-year starter looking for his third state title. He's rushed for 8,209 yards (third most in state history) and scored 123 TDs in his career. He got a good chunk of those yards and TDs against top-notch 6A competition.
■ Central had no real football tradition before emerging as a championship force the last few years. "Everybody's pulling out those old (Central) jackets and taking a little pride in it now," Scroggins said. "It's really taken off. We have a place where kids want to play football and love to play football. The potential was always here. I'm just the one who's reaping all the benefits from the work of others." Scroggins credited Steve Serotte, his predecessor, for getting things going, and his own assistants for helping to build the Yellowjackets into a perennial power.
■ Highlands Coach Dale Mueller touts his senior star, Patrick Towles, as Mr. Football. Towles, who has committed to UK, has already been named Gatorade's player of the year in Kentucky. He became the Bluebirds' starting QB midway through his sophomore season and has guided them to two state titles. They're favored to get a third Saturday. Towles has thrown for 3,637 yards and 41 TDs this year, and been picked off just once. "That just doesn't happen, to have that many touchdown passes and one interception," Mueller said. In his career Towles has thrown for 7,246 yards and 72 TDs, and run for 1,596 yards and 37 TDs.
■ Three juniors in the finals who figure to be in the Mr. Football conversation next year: Trinity receiver James Quick and running back Dalyn Dawkins, and Mayfield running back/linebacker Jonathan Jackson.
■ Belfry Coach Philip Haywood said it's been an "interesting" year, with his Pirates going undefeated until a loss to Johnson Central in the regular-season finale, then improving through the playoffs to earn a return trip to the 3A finals. "The kids have worked well together. This is the kind of team you like being around." Haywood said. He never mentioned that he became the state's all-time winningest coach in October. (He now has 350 career wins.) "That other stuff was nice," he said in reference to the record, "but getting back to the championship game is what's important. The kids wanted to get back there and maybe redeem themselves (for last year's lopsided loss to Central)."
■ Hazard had undefeated football teams in 1928, '30 and '36, long before KHSAA-sponsored playoffs began in 1959. It wasn't until 49 years later that the Bulldogs finally reached the state finals. Now they're in the title game for the third time since 2008. Coach Mark Dixon deflects credit for Hazard's rise as a mountain power. "We've had some awfully good kids who've worked really hard the last few years," he said. "We're just kind of riding their coattails." He singled out senior linemen Patrick Patula, Zack Miller, Jordan Hampton, Daniel Jones, Jacob Fields, Dylan Logan and B.J. Combs for being the leaders this year.
■ If Mayfield beats Hazard, it could mark a first in playoff history. Luke Guhy quarterbacked the Cards to an unbeaten title last year. His brother Jake, a sophomore, is Mayfield's QB this year. I can't remember a team winning back-to-back titles with brothers at QB. Gino and Tony Guidugli quarterbacked Highlands to championships, but not in consecutive years. The same for Jeff and Brian Brohm at Trinity.
■ Nobody's had a busier week than Tim Schlosser, who's Franklin-Simpson's football coach, assistant principal and athletic director. Schlosser's Wildcats play Highlands on Saturday. "I've dealt with every facet of the finals," he said. "My personal life is kind of busy, too." Early Sunday morning, Schlosser and his wife will fly with their 4-year-old daughter to Dallas where she'll have surgery on her hip and knee. The Schlossers, who have three other daughters, traveled to China last April to adopt Maggie.
This is Franklin-Simpson's first trip to the finals under Schlosser, but he has lots of title game experience. He played on Mayfield's title teams in 1985 and '86, and its runner-up team in '87. He was an assistant coach on Mayfield's state runners-up in 1990 and '91, and title team in '93. He was also an assistant on Franklin-Simpson's 1995 runner-up team.
■ UK Coach Joker Phillips played on Franklin-Simpson's 3A title teams in 1979 and '80. He was listed in the game program and referred to in newspaper stories as "Joe Phillips." He ran for two TDs in the Wildcats' 33-0 win over Belfry in the 1979 finals.
■ Nobody will be more familiar with WKU's L.T. Stadium this weekend than Franklin-Simpson defensive coordinator Dave Elson. He was WKU's head coach for seven years, and was a Hilltopper assistant before that.
■ Trinity has gotten a lot of attention by rolling through a challenging schedule undefeated and earning a No. 1 national ranking from Sports Illustrated and Rivals.com. But Coach Bob Beatty said his team hasn't been affected by all the buzz. "It's not something we treat like the plague. It's just not something that enters into our vocabulary," he said. "All that national stuff is just gossip, somebody's opinion. These kids understand the real thing is Friday night. That's when you can walk away with something in hand."
After Trinity's semifinal win over Butler, Beatty had a message for his players: "We talked about how hard they had worked, how many things they had done right to be 13-0. Then I said, 'Guess what? (Scott County) is 14-0. Think about how hard they've worked, how many things they've done right.' That put it in great perspective for the kids to what we're going to face Friday night."
■ After Bowling Green blew by John Hardin 62-20 in a shockingly lopsided semifinal, Purples Coach Kevin Wallace is trying to keep his players from being overconfident against Anderson County. "The way the John Hardin game ended up, there's a feeling among a lot of people around our players that the state finals is just a coronation," Wallace said. "We've got to fight the feeling that we're all just going five minutes across town to have a big party."
■ When Anderson County Coach Mark Peach watches video of Bowling Green, he said he feels like he's "jumped in a hot-tub time machine." Peach was an assistant at Franklin-Simpson in the mid-1990s when the Wildcats regularly played Bowling Green, including the Purples' 1995 state champs. This team measures up to them. "They're big, fast and savvy," he said. Franklin-Simpson's '95 team lost to Bowling Green 13-12 in the regular season, then went on to reach the 2A finals before losing to Breathitt County in double-overtime. Peach made the 1999 finals as the head coach at Hancock County, which lost to Beechwood.
Peach played at Anderson County under Sam Harp, who coached the Bearcats before going to Danville where he's won seven state titles. Harp has served as a mentor to Peach over the years. "If you're ever fortunate to have success in life, you look back on the people who had an instrumental impact on you." Besides his parents and wife, Peach said "Sam's at the top of the list."
■ This isn't the first finals for Glasgow Coach Rick Wood. He was an assistant under Joe Hood at Warren Central when the Dragons lost to Trinity in the 1989 and '90 finals. Wood later became head coach at Edmonson County and Warren Central before leaving coaching for five years so he could watch his son play high school basketball. Wood returned to the sidelines as Glasgow's coach in 2009. He's guided the Scotties to a school-record 14 wins this year. Besides having a talented senior class led by Parker Cash, Jalen Sublett and Hunter Bowles, Wood said a big key has been "staying healthy. That's so much of it at a smaller school. When I was at a big school like Warren Central, you could overcome an injury here and there. At a 2A school, one injury can really cost you."