Paintsville's 30-6 victory over Pikeville in the Class A playoffs last week represented the best turnaround of this football season.
After losing to Pikeville by 54 points (62-8) in early September, the Tigers won the rematch by 24. That's a head-spinning 78-point turnaround against an undefeated opponent.
"I don't get caught up in the numbers," Tigers Coach Joe Chirico said. "I let everybody else figure that out. It was just a big win to me."
Paintsville improved to 10-2, its most wins since it finished 10-3 in 2005. The Tigers visit Raceland on Friday, looking to match their 11 wins in 2001. The Rams beat Paintsville 32-0 four weeks ago, so the Tigers need another big turnaround to stay alive. "We've been an underdog since the day I took over last year," Chirico said. "We enjoy that role. It keeps our kids humble. We make sure they know we need to play every snap with our hair on fire."
Nobody does that better than Kash Daniel, whom Paintsville is promoting as a 2015 Mr. Football candidate. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior is a first cousin of Scott Daniel, who starred for Scott County's state title team last year. Kash plays quarterback and middle linebacker for Paintsville. He's thrown for 1,103 yards and 13 touchdowns, and run for 989 yards and nine TDs. He leads the Tigers with 92 solo tackles, and has returned two of his four interceptions for TDs.
"Kash has played lights out for us," Chirico said. "He is a very driven kid. He wants to play big-time college football, and he's doing everything he can to get there."
Daymion Belcher has been a weapon, too, rushing for 710 yards and 10 TDs. Paintsville got a boost when transfer Donte Hendricks became eligible. He's rushed for almost 500 yards and five TDs in five games.
■ Central Hardin Coach Tim Mattingly doesn't need a scouting report on Meade County, the Bruins' opponent in Friday's 6A playoffs. Mattingly was Meade County's defensive coordinator for 10 years before taking over at Central Hardin this season. "I can tell you all the (Meade County) players' names, and probably their parents' names," Mattingly said. "That makes it easy to prepare for them, but it's also tough because I know they have some really hard-nosed, physical players that believe in winning." Central Hardin beat the Green Wave 15-14 in overtime during the regular season. It was the Bruins' first win over Meade County in 15 years.
Mattingly was happy Meade County beat Scott County 27-24 last week and avenged a 21-14 loss to the Cardinals in last year's state finals. Mattingly recalled the heartbreak of that game. On Scott County's winning drive in the closing minutes, Keith Guy fumbled and a Meade County player returned it for a TD. But officials ruled Guy's knee was down before he fumbled. The Cards retained possession and went on to score. "In my eyes, Meade County should've been hoisting the championship trophy," Mattingly said.
Mattingly took the job at Central Hardin last spring when Mark Perry left the Bruins for Lexington Catholic. It was a twist on what happened in 2004, when Perry replaced Mattingly as coach at Washington County. "He and I laugh about how when he came to Washington County, I was cleaning out my office. Then when I came to Central Hardin, he was cleaning out his office," Mattingly said.
■ Demolition of Fairgrounds Stadium in Louisville was scheduled to begin this week. The facility at the Kentucky Exposition Center, which opened in 1957, was the site of the state high school football championships from 1979-2002. I covered more than 90 title games there. Here are five of the most memorable:
1. Trinity's 59-56 victory over Male in Class 4A in 2002. This epic high-scoring shootout featured a duel between two of best players in state history. Trinity's Brian Brohm was 19-for-25 passing for 552 yards and seven TDs. He ran for 52 yards and a TD. Male's Michael Bush was 33-for-47 passing for 468 yards and six TDs. He ran for 116 yards and a score.
2. Bourbon County's 39-28 victory over Owensboro Catholic in 2A in 1997. There have been better games, but never a better story line. Bourbon County hadn't won a playoff game in its history before its amazing run to the title. Coach Dudley Hilton's Colonels were the most improbable state champions ever crowned.
3. Breathitt County's 42-35 double-overtime victory over Franklin-Simpson in 2A in 1995. Mike Holcomb coached Breathitt County to its first state title in any sport. The Bobcats' winning score came on fourth-and-goal from the 16 when Waylon Chapman threw to Phillip Watts, who slid on his knees to make the catch at the edge of the end zone.
4. Clark County's 28-21 victory over St. Xavier in 4A in 1991. Don Danko's Cardinals capped a perfect season with a goal-line stand with less than two minutes left. Tim Hampton ran for 158 yards and three TDs to lead Clark County.
5. Nelson County's 35-34 overtime victory against Paul Laurence Dunbar in 4A in 1996. It was the ultimate agony/ecstasy story. The Cardinals celebrated the championship after Dunbar missed an extra point in overtime. Both coaches had sons make big plays. Nelson County Coach Mark Brown's son Cody had a kickoff return for a TD. Dunbar Coach Mike Meighan's son Ben threw four TD passes to Dougie Allen.
■ The starting times for this year's state football finals at Western Kentucky University's L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green have been adjusted. The new schedule: Dec. 5: Class 3A, noon (Eastern time); Class 2A, 3:30 p.m.; Class 5A, 7 p.m. Dec. 6: Class A, noon (Eastern time); Class 4A, 3:30 p.m.; Class 6A, 7 p.m.
■ Three-time defending 5A champ Bowling Green has won 53 consecutive games against Kentucky opponents. Kevin Wallace's Purples have won 17 playoff games in a row by an average score of 44-12. They host Graves County on Friday.
■ Highlands quarterback Beau Hoge has committed to play at Brigham Young. Hoge, son of former NFL player and current ESPN analyst Merril Hoge, has thrown for 2,871 yards and 30 TDs this year. He's run for 463 yards and 17 TDs. Highlands plays Covington Catholic on Friday night. The Bluebirds have beaten their archrivals 12 times in a row.
■ Ashland Blazer junior running back Quinton Baker, who has committed to UK, rushed for 233 yards and two TDs in last week's 30-15 loss to Highlands. Baker has run for 4,258 yards and 53 TDs over the past three seasons.
■ Caldwell County quarterback Elijah Sindelar set a state record last week by throwing a TD pass for the 40th consecutive game. Jacob Doss of Lexington Catholic set the record of 39 in 2002. Sindelar, who has committed to Purdue, has a state-record 143 career TD passes. His 12,494 passing yards are third-most in state history. He needs 82 yards against Murray on Friday night to move into second place all-time. Murray upset Caldwell County in the playoffs last year.
■ Twenty-four hours after Jacob Doss lost that record, he celebrated a Florida high school championship. The former Lexington Catholic standout quarterback coached Windermere Prep (10-0) to the Sunshine State Athletic Conference title. The Lakers beat Orlando Christian Prep 48-19 Saturday.
■ Bourbon County avenged a 32-12 regular-season loss to Garrard County by beating the Golden Lions 22-16 last week. Brent Holman rushed for 142 yards and Clay Bolin passed for 120 yards and ran for two scores. Bolin has thrown for 1,588 yards and 15 TDs this year. Holman has rushed for 1,813 yards and 25 TDs. Bourbon County visits Russell on Friday.
■ Simon Kenton's win over Lafayette last week was the 100th victory for Coach Jeff Marksberry. He's in his 15th season with the Pioneers, who play at Dixie Heights on Friday night.
■ Condolences to the family of Marion County football coach Jeff Robbins, who died Sunday after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 48. Mr. Robbins taught math at Marion County, and was the football coach for 11 years.
■ Paul Laurence Dunbar is hosting six boys' basketball scrimmages Saturday: Lafayette vs. Franklin County, 10:30 a.m.; Henry Clay vs. Fleming County, 12:15 p.m.; Ashland Blazer vs. Owensboro, 2; Tates Creek vs. Breathitt County, 3:45; Dunbar vs. Louisville Central, 5:30; Bryan Station vs. North Laurel, 7:15. Admission is $5.
■ To correct an item in last week's notebook: Bourbon County senior Asia Sims, who has signed to play basketball at Tennessee State, isn't the first girls' player in school history to go to a Division I school. Susan Johnston, class of 1979, signed with Morehead State. Shanda Pulliam, also in the class of '79, played at Eastern Kentucky University, although not on full scholarship.