The biggest game in the short history of Frederick Douglass football is Friday night in Georgetown. Thankfully for the Broncos, their head coach will be back on the sidelines for it.
Brian Landis, the former UK assistant who was named head coach of Lexington’s newest program in January, was absent from the sidelines during the Broncos’ 27-6 victory over Bryan Station last week and was not practicing with the team until yesterday afternoon. The Herald-Leader inquired about the nature of Landis’ absence from the program in the last week but requests for comment were declined by the school and not returned by the Fayette County school district.
Assistant coach Nate McPeek served as the Broncos’ interim head coach earlier this week. McPeek, the nephew of Douglass athletic director Garry McPeek, has experience. He was the head coach at Fairview from 2008 to 2013, leading the Eagles to their first Class A finals appearance in 2012 (all 15 games from that season, along with four from the 2013 season, have since been recorded by the KHSAA as forfeits due to sanctions stemming from the use of an ineligible player).
“It was just a situation where I had to step up and the kids are doing a good job,” Nate McPeek said when the Herald-Leader spoke with him on Tuesday. “I’ve been a head coach before, so have some other guys on our staff. (We’re) just trying to keep the train rolling because the games are coming every Friday. The kids are working really hard and I’m pleased with how they’re responding to some adversity.”
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Landis did not divulge specifics about his absence but said that now “everything’s back to normal” around the program.
“It’s just very unfortunate that nowadays in the game of football, I guess, you’re presumed guilty, not innocent, until they find otherwise,” Landis said. “Our kids did a great job of, when I was gone, picking up the slack and pulling through there against Station.
“Now we’re moving forward and it’s just a learning experience for everybody. We’re not gonna look in the rearview mirror, we’re just gonna keep moving forward.”
A coaching absence under any circumstances would never be welcomed, but it came at an especially-inopportune time for the Broncos as they prepared for their first date with Scott County, which hasn’t lost a district game since 2014. The Cardinals, tied with Covington Catholic for second overall in the statewide Cantrall Ratings, won with ease against Bryan Station and at Henry Clay the last two weeks and haven’t lost to an in-state opponent in 2017.
Douglass has won six straight games since its season-opener at Danville, a Class 2A favorite ranked 16th overall in the state. The Broncos are ranked 20th in the statewide Cantrall Ratings and seventh in Class 6A, both better than any other public school in Fayette County.
Scott County, like Danville, could be in the state-title mix come November. Coach Jim McKee, in his 23rd season with the program, has built a program in Georgetown where winning isn’t a desire; it’s an expectation. Landis believes the Cardinals’ offense — which boasts a Division I lineman in Bryan Hudson and Glenn Covington, whom he called one of the best receivers in the area — is one of the best the program’s had.
“When you watch ’em on film, they’re very disciplined,” Landis said. “And they’ve got a physicality to ’em that you don’t see on film much, so they’re fun to watch. They’re well-coached, tough kids. ... We’ve got our hands full, there’s no doubt about it.”
Nate McPeek said Douglass is still a “work in progress” in terms of building its own culture. On Friday the Broncos will find out how much work remains.
“I said at the beginning of this whole thing, when I took the job, that that’s the program if we can get our kids as disciplined as theirs and instill some toughness like they have and just do things the right way like Coach McKee’s done, then we’ll have a chance at the end of the day,” Landis said.