High School Sports

Mike Fields' notebook: Football finals attendance down despite favorable conditions

Before getting on to the business of basketball, a recap of the state football finals in balmy Bowling Green last weekend:

■ The six championship games at WKU's L.T. Smith Stadium had a total attendance of 40,160, down from 47,759 last December. The drop was a surprise considering the warm weather and the close proximity of fans for finalists Bowling Green, Franklin-Simpson and Glasgow. The last time the six title games were played at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville in 2008, total attendance was 34,733.

■ In the good ol' days of fewer classes, we would have been treated to a championship showdown between unbeaten Bowling Green and unbeaten Highlands.

■ Trinity, rated No. 1 in the nation by Sports Illustrated and Rivals.com, finished its eighth undefeated season by trouncing Scott County 62-21. The Shamrocks set a finals scoring record and became the third team in title game history to gain 600 yards. (Male had 681 yards in a 59-56 loss to Trinity in the epic 2002 finals. The Rocks had 656 yards in that game.)

■ When Scott County's Dierrius Dumphord scored on the second play of the game to put the Cardinals ahead of Trinity 7-0, Coach Jim McKee should have borrowed from Lee Corso's book of pranks. When Corso was coaching at Indiana in 1976, the Hoosiers took on Ohio State, which hadn't lost to IU in 25 years. When IU took a 7-6 lead in the second quarter, Corso called a timeout and had his players pose under the scoreboard for a photo that showed them ahead of the mighty Buckeyes. Ohio State went on to win 47-7. When Scott County took its early 7-0 lead on Trinity, McKee didn't consider calling time and snapping a photo under the WKU scoreboard. He joked that he was mad his Cards didn't kill more clock on their quick scoring drive.

■ Trinity won its five playoff games by an average score of 56-7, and now has the state's longest winning streak with 25 victories in a row. Rocks junior quarterback Travis Wright has been terrific in the finals the last two years: 37 of 44 passing for 502 yards and seven TDs. In three title games, junior receiver James Quick has had 27 touches (rushing, receiving, returning kicks) for 465 yards and three TDs.

■ Trinity Coach Bob Beatty, who has a 54-3 playoff record and nine titles in the last 11 years, said the Rocks' 2012 schedule will be the same as this season's (flipping home and away sites). Trinity will play Brentwood Academy (Tenn.), Montgomery Bell (Tenn.), Cincinnati Elder, Cincinnati St. Xavier and Indianapolis Cathedral, followed by district tests against St. X, Manual and Male, and the regular-season finale at Cincinnati Moeller.

■ Highlands set single-season state records for points (849), TDs (121) and total yards (7,516), and had a state-record 13th unbeaten season. Patrick Towles, who's committed to the University of Kentucky, threw for 3,820 yards, 42 TDs and just one interception. He wasn't picked off in his last 13 games or his last 213 passes. He also ran for 589 yards and 15 TDs. In three victories in the last three state finals, Towles passed for 252 yards and a TD, and ran for 362 yards and seven TDs. Highlands receiver Austin Sheehan, who will walk on at UK, missed the last three games of the season with a shoulder injury, but still got in the national record book. The 5-foot-10 senior had 29 receptions for 1,013 yards. That's a national record 35 yards per catch.

■ Highlands will play Scott County in the second game of the season next year. The site of the Aug. 24 game has not been determined.

■ Bowling Green averaged 14.1 yards per play in its 55-3 rout of Anderson County in the 5A finals. The 52-point margin was a record, eclipsing Breathitt County's 51-0 rout of Corbin in 2002.

■ Hazard's state title reaffirmed the strength of mountain football, which doesn't get its due credit. In the last 25 years, mountain teams have claimed 12 championships: Breathitt County (1995, 1996, 2002), Belfry (2003, 2004), Bell County (1991, 2008), Hazard (2011), Middlesboro (1998) and Pikeville (1987, 1988, 1989).

■ Hazard's victory over Mayfield after it lost to the Cardinals 47-6 in last year's finals was noted by Anderson County Coach Mark Peach after his team's lopsided loss to Bowling Green. Peach hopes his program can emulate what Hazard has done under Mark Dixon. "They got to the championship game twice before and things didn't go well for them, and they got blown out (last year). But credit Coach Dixon and his kids for keep coming back, coming back. If you do that, eventually you hope to get a chance to convert on it."

■ My story on Hazard's state football title called it the biggest sports victory for the school since it won the Sweet Sixteen basketball title in 1955. I should have qualified the football championship as the most significant boys' victory in that time. Hazard's girls won the Sweet Sixteen in 1997.

■ An action photo of Central star Anthony Wales graced the cover of the state finals' program, but he didn't see much action in the Yellowjackets' 15-14 win over Belfry in the 3A finals. Wales suffered a separated shoulder on the second play of the day and didn't return. He ran the ball twice for minus 1 yard, leaving him with 8,213 yards in his career. That's third in the state record book behind Johnson Central's J.J. Jude (8,637) and Fort Knox's Derek Homer (8,224).

■ Bill Mike Runyon, who retired as boys' basketball coach at Paintsville in 2008 after winning 530 games (including a state title in 1996) in 26 years, is taking over the Tigers' football program. Runyon, 55, replaces Jason Kinner, who was 15-30 in four years. "My No. 1 priority is to make sure these kids understand the tradition here and the thousands of players who've come before them, and how it's their obligation to continue it," said Runyon, who was a football assistant for 25 years and head coach in 2005 when the Tigers went 10-3, their last winning record. He retired from coaching three years ago "because I was completely burned out. I'm rested now. I've got a little giddy-up in my step again."

■ Three nights after Nacarius Fant caught four passes for 93 yards in Bowling Green's victory over Anderson County, the 5-10 sophomore had 18 points in Bowling Green's basketball victory over Elizabethtown. Senior quarterback Scooter Hollis will also be one of the Purples' top hoops players. He'll join the basketball team after he plays in the Best of the Bluegrass all-star football game Sunday at St. Xavier.

■ Harrison County, led by Caleb Ford's 32 points, beat South Laurel in boys' basketball last week for the program's 1,000th victory. Jim Swinford of radio station WCYN noted that the Thorobreds' first win came against Nicholas County in November 1950.

■ Woodford County's 6-7 senior star Jay Johnson, who had knee surgery this summer, is expected to be playing again for the Yellowjackets in early January. In the meantime, Woodford County is more than holding its own. Scott Hundley's team is 3-0, with wins over Bryan Station, Frankfort and Western Hills. Picking up the slack in Johnson's absence have been Rodney Gross, who had 36 points against Frankfort and 29 against Western Hills, and David Greenwell, who's totaled 67 points and 28 rebounds in the three victories.

■ Clay County will mark the 25th anniversary of its boys' Sweet Sixteen championship a few months early. A reception will be held Saturday at the school before the Bobby Keith Classic. The 1987 team, coached by Keith and led by Richie Farmer, will be recognized between games. Perry County Central plays South Laurel in the 6 p.m. opener, followed by Clay County facing Leslie County.

■ UK football coach Joker Phillips was in Maysville Wednesday to visit with Mason County star Josh Harris, who was the first player in the class of 2012 to commit to the Cats. Mason County Coach David Buchanan said Phillips met with Josh and his dad, Larry Harris, who teaches and coaches at the school. Josh had a season-ending foot injury in early September, but Buchanan said his rehab is going well and he could be playing basketball for the Royals later this season.

■ More bad luck for North Hardin point guard Jermaine Ruttley. After shining for the Trojans as a sophomore in the Sweet Sixteen, Ruttley fractured his leg and missed his entire junior year. He returned this season and had 24 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and four steals in North Hardin's opening win over Doss. But now he has a stress fracture in his foot and will be out three to six weeks.

■ Casey County's 5-11 senior center Megan Pittman had 25 points and a career-high 19 rebounds in a win over Danville last weekend.

■ The Kentucky Bank Shootout Saturday at Bourbon County will feature a rematch from the boys' Sweet Sixteen. Dixie Heights, rated No. 5 in the pre-season, plays No. 10 Lexington Catholic at 6:30 p.m. The Knights beat Dixie Heights 69-60 in the first round of the state tournament last March. Saturday's schedule also has Lexington Christian vs. Paris, 1 p.m.; Montgomery County vs. Ashland Blazer, 2:45; Manual vs. Clark County, 4:30; and Powell County vs. Bourbon County, 8:45.

■ The "Rumble at Rupp" basketball games scheduled for Dec. 11 and Jan. 1 in Rupp Arena have been canceled. A Jan. 8 event, originally set for Rupp, may be moved to another site, possibly the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park.

■ Bryan Station hosts the Lady Defenders Classic on Saturday, with the city's five girls' basketball teams taking on out-of-town competition: Paul Laurence Dunbar vs. Ryle, 1 p.m.; Tates Creek vs. Anderson County, 2:30; Henry Clay vs. Russell County, 4; Lafayette vs. Rockcastle County, 5:30; and Bryan Station vs. Perry Central, 7.

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