The Corbin-Mayfield series has emerged as one of the state’s most-anticipated football games, and is one of the few annual contests staged between eastern and western Kentucky juggernauts.
They’re taking the show on the road; the two will travel across state lines to Clarksville, Tenn., to battle in the newly renovated Fortera Stadium at Austin Peay University this year and next season. The game is set for a 7 p.m. (CDT) kickoff on Friday.
Each of the last two games were played at Lindsey Wilson College. The Raiders were unable to host this season, and the schools couldn’t find another in-state solution within their budgets and that was agreeable with their schedules.
Playing at another high school stadium was raised as a possibility, Mayfield Coach Joe Morris said, but most schools would either be using that stadium themselves or that school’s administrators would be out of town traveling with the football team.
“They’ve been great to us,” Morris said of Austin Peay, whose athletic director, Ryan Ivey, happens to be a Mayfield graduate who was a kicker under Morris during his first season in 1999.
Mayfield will travel about an hour and 45 minutes as opposed to the three-and-a-half hour trek it made to Lindsey Wilson the last two years. Corbin, which had a 90-minute drive to Columbia, will face a drive of about four hours to Clarksville (which is still about an hour shorter than the five hours between the two high schools).
“It’s not great financially, there’s no question about it, because both of us have to pay travel and for the use of the stadium and things like that, but I like it,” Morris said of the series. “It’s definitely good to go play someone else away from your area. We’re stacking up against a really good team there in eastern Kentucky and we’ll see where we rank. Fortunately we’ve been on the winning side of both our games with Corbin so far but I’m sure they’re gonna be ready to turn the tables there.”
Mayfield edged Corbin, 35-34, in 2016, and took down the Redhounds, 28-14, in 2015. Both teams are considered favorites to challenge for titles in their respective classes — 2A for Mayfield, 3A for Corbin.
“You’ve gotta play ’em out,” Morris said. “I think last year we were ranked No. 1 at this time but we didn’t go on and win it, you know. Polls are fun to look at and I think they’re good to get the fan interest up and get good crowds going down there.”
“We’ve not peaked yet, I don’t feel like, as a team, offensively or defensively, the whole group,” Corbin Coach Justin Haddix said. “Hopefully we peak at the right time.”
Cameron Maguet, a junior who played defensive back the previous two seasons, is now going both ways and is Corbin’s leading rusher with 203 yards on 28 carries, and leading receiver with 167 yards and three TDs. Chase Estep, another junior who’s committed to play baseball for the University of Kentucky, has emerged as a strong playmaker for the balanced Redhounds; he’s second to Maguet with 183 rushing yards and is among four Corbin players with at least 100 receiving yards (Christian Gosselin and Caleb Mitchell are the other two).
Matchups like the visit to Beechwood and the neutral-site matchup with Mayfield make competitive sense for teams with major postseason aspirations, Haddix said.
“You look at the atmospheres we’ve played in, and doing those things, that makes it to where when you’re in that playoff game in the region finals or you’re in the state semifinals or finals, it’s not ‘This is the first time I’ve been here,’” Haddix said.
Last week Ivey, the Austin Peay athletic director, got to see the Governors snap a 29-game losing streak with a 69-13 mauling of Morehead State in front of a record crowd at Fortera Stadium. This week he’ll be able to take a peak at what his high school alma mater has to offer this year on the gridiron while also splitting time between Austin Peay’s home volleyball and women’s soccer games, both against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.
“All within walking distance of each other!” Ivey wrote in an email.
The university wants to get more high school football games on its campus, which will help build its profile as well as that of Clarksville proper. Ivey is particularly thrilled about sharing what the school has to offer with his hometown community.
“Obviously I have a soft spot for Mayfield High, so to be able to help them out and show that community, those student-athletes and the students what APSU has to offer is pretty special for me,” Ivey wrote.
Mayfield didn’t win a championship in its first year under Morris — he’d have to wait until 2002 for that landmark — but Ivey looked back fondly on his lone season playing for the now-veteran leader.
“At the time when he took over as head coach in 1999, Coach Morris was a relatively young head coach, which provided him the ability to relate better to us as players,” Ivey wrote. “We were able to joke and cut loose a little more, which was a good thing for us.
“... It was a fun year for me and us as a team, even though we didn’t make it back to the state championship game.”