High School Basketball

High school notebook: Story lines to watch this school year

LexCath quarterback Reese Ryan looks for an open receiver against Highlands in the state 4A semifinal playoff game at Lexington Catholic High School football field in Lexington, Ky., Friday, November 29, 2013. Photo by Matt Goins
LexCath quarterback Reese Ryan looks for an open receiver against Highlands in the state 4A semifinal playoff game at Lexington Catholic High School football field in Lexington, Ky., Friday, November 29, 2013. Photo by Matt Goins Herald-Leader

High school football reboots with another season Friday night, and these are some of the story lines we'll be tweeting, blogging and reporting about for the next 105 days:

■ Madison Southern's Damien Harris, rated the No. 1 running back in the nation, is the obvious early favorite for Mr. Football. That's no guarantee he'll win it. Remember last year? Drew Barker of Conner and Matt Elam of John Hardin were the most hyped candidates in the preseason. But Nacarius Fant of Bowling Green was the last guy standing after winning a third straight state title. This year Caldwell County quarterback Elijah Sindelar may have the best shot at beating Harris in the race for Mr. Football.

■ Will Trinity reclaim its position as the dominant power in Class 6A? The Shamrocks won 10 of 12 state titles before getting beaten in the playoffs by Male last year. Trinity Coach Bob Beatty shook up his staff in the offseason, so look for the Rocks to reassert themselves. Defending champ Scott County and Male have the talent and confidence to be contenders again.

■ Collins, Pulaski County, Wayne County and Williamsburg broke through into the finals for the first time last year. Who'll be the Cinderella stories this year?

■ Will Boyle County or Lexington Catholic get in a final lick at Highlands in the 4A playoffs this year? Under realignment, Boyle County and Lexington Catholic will drop to 3A next season, while Highlands moves up to 5A.

Coaching changes

■ It's been 3,548 days since Chuck Smith last coached a high school football game. That was on Dec. 4, 2004, and his Boyle County Rebels lost to the Highlands Bluebirds 22-6 in the state finals. Ten years later, Smith is back at Boyle County ready to start the season Friday night against Bullitt East in the Death Valley Bowl at Lincoln County. Smith, who spent eight years as an assistant at Kentucky, said it was an easy transition back to Boyle County. "It was pretty comfortable, kind of like riding a bike," he said. Chris Mason and Jeff Hester, his top assistants during the Rebels' run of five consecutive state titles (1999-2003), are still there. The community support of the program hasn't waned, either. "The biggest thing was getting familiar with the kids," Smith said. "But they're still Boyle County kids, with a great work ethic and a strong desire to be the best they can be. That hasn't changed."

■ Jerry Perry is back in a familiar spot as the new coach at Garrard County, but it's a different place than he knew before. His first head coaching job was with the Golden Lions in 1990. He had a 65-18 record in seven years before leaving to join Sam Harp's staff at Danville. In Perry's 17 seasons as an assistant with the Admirals, they won three state titles and were runners-up three times. After Harp left for a job in Tennessee, Perry spent last season as an assistant at Boyle County. Now he's back at Garrard County. "It's still a rural community, but it's changed quite a bit," he said. "The high school's not in the same place. The northern end of the county has exploded with population, and there are probably 200 more students in the school now. Back then most of the kids farmed; now most of them don't. There was no social media back then, either." When Perry took over Garrard County in 1990, the program had to be rebuilt. This time around the program is in solid shape, thanks to Mark Scenters, who left the Golden Lions for Madison Central. "If we learn how to play fast and aggressive, we have the athletes to be successful," Perry said.

■ Mike Whitaker, who has hop-scotched around the state coaching football, has landed at Webster County. He was hired as the Trojans' coach a few weeks ago. Whitaker's previous stops have included Leslie County (where he had Tim Couch as his quarterback), Corbin, Christian County, Powell County and Letcher County Central. He was an assistant at Montgomery County last year. Why Webster County? Whitaker said family considerations were a major factor. He'll be only 30 minutes away from his daughter Felicia and 4-year-old grandson Michael. Whitaker faces a challenge in rebuilding Webster County, which was 6-47 over the last five years, and hasn't had a winning season since 2002. Whitaker thinks it'll take at least two years to get the program on the road to respectability. But he said he has the support of the administration, and "I love coaching, so I'll enjoy it. Kids are kids no matter where you are."

■ Bourbon County will try for its 24th consecutive regular-season victory when it plays host Montgomery County in the nightcap of the 67th Recreation Bowl on Saturday. Clark County faces Rowan County in the Rec Bowl opener at 5 p.m. Mike Riddle will make his debut as Clark County coach, and Ray Graham will make another debut as Rowan County coach. Graham's first head coaching job was at Rowan County in 1980.

■ Lafayette junior Landon Young is best known as one of the top football prospects in the state. The 6-foot-7, 260-pound lineman committed to play for UK before his sophomore season. But he's also one of the top heavyweight wrestlers in the state, and he was recently named the boys' track and field athlete of the 2013-14 school year in Kentucky by Gatorade. Young won state titles in the discus and shot put last spring. "Being able to excel in other sports besides track and field, and doing well in the classroom, helped me win the award," said Young, who's had a 4.0 GPA the last two years. Even though he committed to UK more than a year ago, Young said the Cats' coaches "still make me feel like I'm a No. 1 priority. They still talk to me like they just offered me."

Kathy Broadnax, who led Bryan Station's girls to the Class 3A track championship last spring, was named girls' coach of the year in Kentucky by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. James Webb of North Hardin was boys' coach of the year after winning a second straight state title.

■ Alexis Brewer, one of the top girls' basketball players in the state, has transferred from LaRue County to Bardstown for her senior year. Bardstown boys' coach James "Boo" Brewer said his daughter's move wasn't for basketball. "It was for family. My wife and I remarried, so we're all together again." Brewer said he only got to see Alexis play eight times last year. Alexis, 5-foot-11, averaged 22 points and six rebounds a game for LaRue County last season. She had a 5th Region Tournament-record 44 points against North Hardin. Boo Brewer said Alexis has more than 20 college offers, including one from Michigan State.

■ Bob Eades, who hasn't coached basketball since he headed up a post-graduate program at Millersburg Military Academy in 2000, is the new boys' coach at Bourbon County. Matthew Martin stepped down as Colonels coach a few weeks ago to become golf coach at Morehead State. Eades, who lives in Paris, will be Bourbon County's fourth coach in four years. "They need some stability, and they need somebody with experience to organize things from top to bottom," he said. Eades won almost 400 games in 21 years at Walton-Verona, Paris and Grant County. Eades, 66, said he could relate to former UK football coach Guy Morriss's decision to join Warren Central's staff as an assistant this season. "I'm not teaching, just coaching," Eades said. "As long as I'm healthy and enjoy it, I'll stay."

■ Former Lexington Christian shooting star Tyler Harville will be a preferred walk-on at St. Mary's, a California school that plays in the same conference as Gonzaga. He attended Vermont Academy last season.

■ Fred Hester, a Mason County success story as an athlete, coach and administrator, has retired after 24 years as athletic director. Hester was a star athlete at Mason County. He was on the Royals' state championship golf team in 1967, and he was a standout in basketball. He scored the first basket in the Mason County Fieldhouse, and averaged 21 points his senior year. Hester was an assistant coach to Allen Feldhaus before taking over as head coach in 1992. He led the Royals to three region titles in five years and had a record of 127-32.

■ Paul Laurence Dunbar catcher Wes Walker signed to play baseball at Asbury.

■ Former Lafayette baseball player Joe Lynch is headed to St. Catharine College.

■ Trinity hired Rick Arnold as its baseball coach. He succeeds Steve Tompkins, who had the job for 12 years. Arnold is a Trinity graduate (1986) who played college baseball at Louisville.