High School Sports

Referee’s final game featured a memorable slip in Class 4A finals

South Warren's Ryder Litten (3) drops back to pass against Johnson Central during the KHSAA Class 4A championship high school football game in Bowling Green, Ky., Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015.
South Warren's Ryder Litten (3) drops back to pass against Johnson Central during the KHSAA Class 4A championship high school football game in Bowling Green, Ky., Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. AP

A long weekend of high school football ended with South Warren’s 36-6 win over Johnson Central for its first team state championship in any sport. Or, if you asked referee Jim Gutterman, maybe it was Warren Central who won it all?

During the first half of play, Gutterman, an official based out of Louisville, mistakenly called South Warren the name of its county rival. He realized his mistake quickly — signaled by his chuckling over the microphone — and was promptly greeted with a smattering of boos from Spartans fans.

“Sometimes you try so hard not to do something, it happens,” Gutterman said of committing in-game gaffes. “… As soon as those boos came out I realized what I had done.”

That game, Gutterman’s third championship and first since 2001, happened to be his final high school game after 45 years of officiating. He retired from college officiating two years ago.

“As it turns out I was able to work a championship game and it ended up being the last game of the championships, too, so that was really good,” Gutterman said.

Some more facts and figures from the football state finals:

▪ The cumulative attendance for the games was 44,022 — the most since 2012 (46,738) and the fourth most since football went to six classes in 2007. The attendance for each game was up except for in the Class A finals, which were played on Thursday night and drew about 600 fewer people than a year ago.

The most well-attended finals in the six-class era were in 2010, which featured a Class 4A matchup between Boyle County and Allen County-Scottsville that drew 13,167 people. It was the only championship game to crack five-figure attendance in the past seven seasons.

▪ For the first time since moving to six classes, each championship was won by a public high school. That hadn’t happened since 2000, when Male, Highlands, Boyle County and Danville all won titles. This year’s champions were Pikeville, Bowling Green, Male, Mayfield, Belfry and South Warren.

The last time four trophies were claimed by schools in two counties, as was the case with Pikeville and Belfry (Pike County) and South Warren and Bowling Green (Warren County) ,was 2012, when Newport Central Catholic and Highlands did it from Campbell County and Trinity and Central did it from Jefferson County. This year was the first time two sets of public schools pulled off that feat.

▪ You can have as much airtime as you’d like against Belfry; the boys representing Pond Creek Nation are more than happy to keep things grounded. In its three straight championship wins, Belfry has outrushed its opponents by a combined yardage of 983 to 116. Its opponents have the advantage through the air, outpacing the Pirates 378 to 9.

Belfry has never trailed during its finals win streak.

▪ Coach Brandon Smith’s two-year record as head coach at South Warren? 28-1. The one loss was by two points in the state semifinals to Central in 2014.

Tucker tabbed to lead Tates Creek

Longtime Tates Creek girls’ soccer assistant Ally Tucker has been named head coach of the program following the resignation of Bo Lankster in October.

“We are excited to have Ally Tucker as our new head coach and we know she will do an amazing job with our soccer program,” Tates Creek Athletic Director John Dixon said in an email. “Coach Tucker is a very unique and dynamic coach who has the ability to connect with all players regardless of age or skill set.”

Tucker, who was a goalkeeper at South Oldham and Transylvania, began assisting at Tates Creek in 2009. She began coaching club soccer while she was at Transy and knew she wanted to be a soccer coach from the moment she stepped on the field as a player.

“I’m just thrilled,” Tucker said. “Tates Creek means so much to me. It’s where I started my high school coaching career ... it’s a great school and great community. I’m so excited that this’ll be my first group of girls. It’s a dream come true.”

Lankster was more than happy along the way to help Tucker prepare for an opportunity like this.

“He’s been an open door as far as letting me see what the job entails,” said Tucker, whose name you might be familiar with because of her contributions to Kentucky Sports Radio. “He’s tried to show me the ropes along the way so that it’s not such a big adjustment. It’ll be a lot more responsibility obviously but it’s a really great opportunity.”

It’ll ease the pressure knowing a familiar face will be around; Lankster will rejoin the Tates Creek girls’ staff as an assistant.

“He’s got to be the best assistant coach in Kentucky,” Tucker said.

Tucker is the daughter of Cy Tucker, who retired from South Oldham at the end of 2014. Cy is the state’s all-time wins leader in girls’ soccer with 390 — more than 100 ahead of Ashland Blazer’s E.B. Lowman, who’s still active.

Said Ally: “I owe a lot of my passion for the game to him. I’ve always said if I can be half the coach he is I’ll be doing all right.”

Ex-Creeker named new Manual coach

Scott Carmony, who led Butler’s football team to the 2011 state semifinals, was named the new head coach at Manual on Tuesday. He replaced Oliver Lucas, who stepped down after six seasons.

Carmony, an assistant at Tates Creek from 2002 to 2004, was Butler’s head coach from 2008 to 2012 and guided the Bears to a 32-27 record in that period, including an 11-3 finish in 2011.

Scott’s nailbiting start

Scott’s boys’ basketball team, projected to contend in the 10th Region, has kept its fans on their toes early.

The Eagles, 3-0 entering Friday’s game at Mason County, most recently defeated Harrison County 81-70. That outing was a welcome relief to head coach Brad Carr after Scott’s first two games — at Pendleton County and at Clark County — were decided in overtime, each by two points.

“We’re very lucky and very fortunate. ... We had to fight back in both games,” Carr said.

Against Clark County, it was 88-88 and the Eagles had the final possession in regulation. “I just told our guys, trust the system and ... when in doubt just get to the front of the rim and try to create something.”

Scott turned it over. Luckily, Carr said, the Cardinal who came up with the ball must’ve thought they were ahead because “he had a straight line to the basket and wheeled it back around with about seven seconds left and (they) didn’t get a score.”

Jake Ohmer was key in both rallies. He scored 35 points and had five steals against Pendleton County, then followed that with a school-record 54 points on 21-for-31 shooting with six rebounds and three steals at Clark County.

“He scored 19 points in the fourth quarter (against Clark County) and I think he may have scored all of our points in overtime,” Carr said.

Ohmer is averaging nearly 40 points a game after scoring 30 in the Harrison County win.

The Grind Session

Paul Laurence Dunbar this weekend will host The Grind Session, a high school basketball series that showcases top teams from across the nation. This is the fifth event of 20 in the series.

Victory Prep (Texas) will take on Hillcrest Academy (Ariz.) at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by Athlete Institute (Canada) vs. Wilbraham and Monson Academy (Mass.) at 8 p.m. The Sunday slate features Word of God Academy (N.C). vs. Victory Prep at 1:30 p.m., then Athlete Institute vs. Hillcrest Academy.

University of Kentucky signee Wenyen Gabriel (W&M) will play in the event. DeAndre Ayton (Hillcrest), who sports offers from UK, Arizona, Kansas and San Diego State, will also be in town this weekend, as will Thon Maker (Athlete Institute), Rawle Alkins (Word of God) and Jarred Vanderbilt (Victory Prep), a major UK target for 2017.

The Herald-Leader’s Ben Roberts will have live coverage from the event.

High-performing Louisville ladies

▪ St. Francis sophomore Alexis Nelson scored 58 points — the most ever by a girls’ player from a Louisville school — in the Wyverns’ 61-45 win over Piarist in the St. Patrick Catholic Classic on Saturday. She finished with 78 on the day, scoring 20 in their loss to host St. Patrick later Saturday.

▪ Caroline Mefford of Fern Creek has nearly recorded triple-doubles twice in five games this season. She had 10 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in Fern Creek’s season opener against Oldham County and finished with 25 points, eight assists and eight rebounds in its win over Doss last Friday. The Tigers are off to a 4-1 start for the second straight season.

▪ Sacred Heart defeated Seneca 101-21 last Thursday, the third time the Valkyries have scored 100 or more points against an opponent under Coach Donna Moir. Sacred Heart scored 107 in a win over Kentucky Country Day in January 1993 and 101 against Fern Creek in December 2001.

Gatorade’s top volleyball player

Notre Dame senior Morgan Hentz was named the Gatorade Kentucky Volleyball Player of the Year this week, the program’s first player to be recognized with that honor and the first individual to win the award who wasn’t from a Louisville school.

Hentz, who is committed to Stanford as a libero, finished the season with 465 kills, 476 digs and 41 blocks. Notre Dame reached the semifinals of the state tournament for the third straight year this season.

Bowling Green soccer coach resigns

After 11 seasons at the helm of Bowling Green’s boys’ soccer program, Craig Widener announced his resignation from the position because he wants to spend more time with his family.

Widener led Bowling Green to the 2006 and 2014 state titles and seven region titles. This year, he guided the Purples to the state semifinals, where they fell to state runner-up Henry Clay. His 206-32-20 record makes for an 83.7 percent winning percentage, the best mark by any boys’ or girls’ soccer coach in state history.

In a lengthy, heartfelt post on Twitter, Widener wrote that this decision is one he’s “lost sleep, vacillated, and meditated on what to do more than any decision” he’s ever made in his life, but it was one a few years in the making.

“I grew up for most of my life without my father around. Because of that, I made myself a promise a long time ago that I would try to be the best father and husband I could possibly be. … I can no longer choose between spending my time and energy helping other people’s children at the expense of my own.”

He thanked Bowling Green, where he’ll continue to teach, for the opportunity to lead the program.

“I sincerely hope I have left more positive footprints than negative and given back a small part of what the game has given to me. I’ll always be invested in Purples’ Soccer and look forward to following along as a fan.”

Cheerleading championships

The KHSAA competitive cheer state championships begin 9 a.m. Saturday at Alltech Arena. Here are the approximate times during which area teams that reached the finals will take the floor for their routines:

Small division (6-12 girls) — Scott County, 9:20 a.m.

Medium (13-16 girls) — Lexington Christian, 11:15 a.m.

Large (17-20 girls) — Paul Laurence Dunbar, 12:30 p.m.; Montgomery County, 2:50 p.m.

Super large (21-24 girls) — Lafayette, 1:45 p.m.

Coed A (No more than 24 participants with at least 1-3 boys) — East Jessamine, 4:10 p.m.

Coed B (No more than 24 participants with at least 4 boys) — Tates Creek, 4:45 p.m.

A full schedule of routine times, which were drawn at random ahead of the finals, can be found at bit.ly/1XTTFGL.

Josh Moore: 859-231-1307, @HLpreps