There are plenty of high school football rivalries you could take in Friday night.
Cooper versus Simon Kenton in a Class 6A power clash. Small-school juggernaut Mayfield’s visit to big-school underdog Graves County. Belfry’s trip to Pikeville, this season’s only meeting of two reigning champions.
Those big-ticket games are worth celebrating, but none is likely to leave as lasting an impression as this year’s tilt between Allen Central and South Floyd.
The two schools have played every year since the former opened in 1993; they’ll play each other for the last time Friday night. Allen Central (3-0) and South Floyd (0-3) will soon consolidate into Floyd Central, scheduled to open in fall 2017.
Coach Jeremy Hall — not the same Jeremy Hall who led Allen Central to its only Sweet Sixteen in 1994 — played for the Rebels when they came away with a 51-20 win in the rivalry’s inaugural matchup. He’ll be on the sideline leading them for the last.
“We’ve just tried to play football and keep all the emotions out of it,” said Hall, who’s in his 14th season as Allen Central’s head coach. “I know there’s gonna be quite a bit of pomp and circumstance going on Friday night before the game and stuff like that, so we’re just trying to stay real grounded.”
South Floyd Coach Chad Hall (no relation) has seen the rivalry from both sides. He was an assistant under Jeremy for eight years at Allen Central before taking the reins at South Floyd when longtime coach Donald Daniels II retired after the 2014 season.
Chad said community reaction to consolidation of the schools, separated by 16 miles on opposing branches of Beaver Creek, has been mixed. The new school is being built in Eastern, Ky. That’s closer to Allen Central and leaves the area around Beaver Creek’s left branch without a nearby high school for the first time.
“Some people are a little bit upset over that,” Chad said. “But then other people are embracing it because it’s gonna be a really nice school with some really nice facilities and some new opportunities for our kids.”
South Floyd owns a 13-10 advantage in the all-time series but enters Friday as a big underdog. The Raiders — who start six underclassmen on offense — have scored only 18 points this season and were shut out last week against Knott County Central. There are only four seniors on the team’s 25-player roster.
Allen Central is off to its best start since 2009, when it started 4-0 and reached the second round of the playoffs. The Rebels were among the leaders in several Class 2A statistical categories entering the week.
Upsets happen in rivalry games, so imagine what could happen in the final game that’ll ever be played.
“Getting either team pumped up for this game isn’t hard,” Chad said. “ ... They’re friends on and off the field, so it’s got a little special meaning for both sides. I think it brings out just a little bit more from each player.”
▪ One need look no further than Floyd County to see the effect population change has had on schools in Eastern Kentucky. Allen Central, which opened in 1972, was formed by the closing of Garrett, Martin, Maytown and Wayland (where basketball’s “King” Kelly Coleman forged his legendary reputation). South Floyd opened in 1993 after the consolidation of McDowell and Wheelwright, where Chad Hall played football.
“I’m a diehard Rebel and I’ll always be a diehard Rebel, but we need progress, especially in our area,” Jeremy Hall said. “This new school can change the lives of all kinds of students over the next 20, 30 years possibly. ... It can be a positive for a lot of people if they’ll allow it to be.”
▪ The KHSAA has already placed Floyd Central into Class 3A as part of its mid-cycle alignment review. South Floyd and Allen Central will go from being the smallest schools in Floyd County to the largest by enrollment, overtaking both Prestonsburg and Betsy Layne.
“We’ve been selling that, for years you’ve seen the Johnson Centrals, the Pike Centrals, the Shelby Valleys, the Belfrys and all these schools that are bigger than you make it hard to compete in any sport,” Chad Hall said. “Now you’re gonna have the numbers and have the facilities and have everything in place to where you’re gonna have the same type of stuff they do. You’ll be on a more level playing ground and see what you can do with it.”
▪ Chad Hall played football at Wheelwright under Dewey Jamerson, whose father Wilbur “Shorty” Jamerson scored the University of Kentucky’s only touchdowns in its 13-7 victory over Oklahoma in the 1951 Sugar Bowl. Nick Jamerson, Wilbur’s grandson, was a four-year starter at Prestonsburg who excelled in the return game.
Nick — best known today as one-half of the country-music duo Sundy Best — will perform before Friday’s game, which will serve as this season’s annual Shorty Jamerson Bowl.
▪ Both Chad Hall and Jeremy Hall are interested in coaching at the new school, whether it means one of them taking an assistant role under the other or both of them helping out a third party. “We’ve dedicated a lot of time in this area and want to see our kids do well,” Chad said, “so we would like to stay involved somehow or another.”
▪ Floyd Central’s mascot will be the Jaguars, with the school colors also inspired by Jacksonville’s NFL team. Am I the only one wishing the committee of students and school administrators who selected the regalia had adopted a Beavers mascot in honor of the creek affiliated with both schools?
▪ Donald Daniels II, who was South Floyd’s first head coach and twice came back to lead the program after other coaches left, also helped start Allen Central’s football program in 1985 with his father Donald Daniels, after whom the Rebels’ field is named.
Football: Allen Central vs. South Floyd
1993: Allen Central 51, South Floyd 20
1994: Allen Central 34, South Floyd 14
1995: Allen Central 28, South Floyd 0
1996: South Floyd 51, Allen Central 14
1997: South Floyd 40, Allen Central 12
1998: South Floyd 58, Allen Central 36
1999: South Floyd 40, Allen Central 21
2000: South Floyd 42, Allen Central 0
2001: South Floyd 30, Allen Central 22
2002: South Floyd 30, Allen Central 0
2003: South Floyd 57, Allen Central 20
2004: South Floyd 60, Allen Central 22
2005: South Floyd 48, Allen Central 42
2006: Allen Central 20, South Floyd 18
2007: South Floyd 34, Allen Central 30
2008: Allen Central 48, South Floyd 14
2009: Allen Central 52, South Floyd 6
2010: Allen Central 50, South Floyd 44
2011: Allen Central 36, South Floyd 34
2012: South Floyd 59, Allen Central 26
2013: Allen Central 42, South Floyd 32
2014: South Floyd 40, Allen Central 0
2015: Allen Central 38, South Floyd 12