High School Football

Mike Fields: Time of possession a meaningless football stat

Hancock County opened its football game against Fort Campbell last week by putting together a 20-play drive that chewed 11 minutes off the clock.

Alas, the Hornets didn't score.

Fort Campbell, on the other hand, ran six plays in the first half, but those included touchdown runs of 73 and 71 yards, and an 86-yard TD pass. The defending Class 2A state champs went home with a 42-0 victory.

The moral of the story?

Time of possession can be the most meaningless statistic in football.

Consider two other games last week.

Defending 5A state champ Highlands beat Scott 67-13. The Bluebirds led 54-7 at halftime despite running only 10 offensive plays and having the ball for just more than three minutes. Highlands had 22 snaps on offense the entire night.

And at Bell County, the Bobcats blasted Madison Southern 65-0 to assure Dudley Hilton his 32nd consecutive winning season as a head coach. Bell County didn't have the ball much. It ran eight plays in the first half but led 51-0. The Bobcats did their best to keep from scoring 70 points, and Hilton even had his star kicker, Monte Merrick, attempt a 67-yard field goal to stall one of his team's drives. (Merrick's kick fell only a few yards shy of the crossbar).

Hilton, an old-school coach who loves ball-control football, said "it hurts when you score too easy because your kids get a false sense of how good they are. We ran a kickoff back for a touchdown, but we didn't make one good block. When the boys came off the field, I told 'em, 'You think you look good, but nobody done nothin' but the boy who caught the ball.' "

Hilton agreed that time of possession can be a misleading stat, but not in a showdown between good teams. "If we're playing somebody in a state-championship-type, even match, I want as many plays as the other guy," Hilton said.

■ When Tim Couch set state passing records for career yardage (12,167) and TD passes (133) at Leslie County in the mid-1990s, his numbers were so far off the charts, they looked untouchable. Until now. Last week Clay County senior QB Zach Lewis smashed Couch's yardage record, pushing his career total to 12,490. South Laurel QB Ricky Bowling has 121 TD passes, giving him a shot at Couch's other mark. Is Couch surprised his records are under assault? "Not really," he said. "As time goes by, every record will be broken. I'm still pretty proud of what I accomplished in high school. Those were national records, too. But I'm pleased for kids like Zach Lewis. They're setting the bar even higher, giving the next kids who come along motivation to do even better." Couch and Chris Redman of Male were trendsetters as pass-happy QBs. Redman, who was a year ahead of Couch, finished his career throwing for 7,653 yards and 102 TDs, which would've been state records if not for Couch. "We started throwing all over the place, and it caught on across the state," Couch said. "Now it seems everybody's doing it."

Lewis, meanwhile, is glad his pursuit of Couch's record is over. "It's nice to set that aside and focus on the rest of the season," he said. "Our No. 1 goal is to win the district and get that home playoff game. I can assure you that is what is on the mind of each player." Lewis ranks seventh nationally in passing yardage. Ben Mauk of Kenton, Ohio, (17,364 yards) tops the all-time list, followed by Chris Leak of Independence, N.C. (15,593), and J.R. House of Nitro, W.Va. (14,457).

■ Booming cannons celebrate Friday night TDs at several high schools across Kentucky, including Highlands and Lafayette. But the cannon won't be used at Scott County football games any longer. Not after a scary scene played out during the Cardinals' game with Madison Central at Toyota Stadium last week. After Josh Walls scored a tying TD in the fourth quarter, a cannon, loaded with gun powder and flour, was fired. Unfortunately, Jason Skinner, a Georgetown fireman, stepped into the line of fire a few feet away. The blast ruptured one of his ear drums, and gun powder speckled the left side of his face. His vision was also affected. He was taken away in an ambulance. A spokesman for the Georgetown Fire Department said Skinner will be off work for a while and will undergo surgery on his face. Scott County school administrator Joe Pat Covington said the cannon has been put away, and he doubts it will be used again.

■ Danville QB Trae Gray threw for 406 yards and three TDs in a comeback win over Bardstown. Kruz Warner rushed for 125 yards and two TDs, and had 111 receiving yards for the Admirals.

■ Warren East star Shenard Holton, who has committed to Louisville, rushed for a career-high 204 yards and three TDs, caught three passes for 85 yards and a TD, and made 13 tackles.

■ Seneca sophomore QB DaMarcus Smith is making a name for himself. He has thrown for 1,945 yards and 20 TDs. He threw for 362 yards and four TDs, and ran for 105 yards and a TD in a loss to Eastern last week.

■ Ashland Blazer rallied from 10 points down midway through the fourth quarter to beat Woodford County 54-44. Tomcats RB Rashard Carter carried 33 times for 235 yards and two TDs. The Ashland Daily Independent said it was the second-highest scoring game in school history, surpassed only by Ashland's 67-33 loss to Johnson Central last year.

■ Jordan Yeast ran 39 times for 298 yards, including a 44-yard TD that gave Mercer County a 41-34 lead over Hopkinsville with less than two minutes left. But the late score didn't hold up. The Tigers rallied to tie it on a 48-yard TD pass from Marshall Stewart to Victor Moulden, then won 47-44 in overtime.

■ Ian Welch of Johnson Central began the season with 26 career interceptions, putting him within reach of the state record of 34 set by Steve Shaw of Iroquois in 1979-81. Welch has only two picks in six games this year. "I believe most (teams) are throwing away from him," Johnson Central Coach Jim Matney said.

■ Pulaski County players set three school records the last couple games. Sophomore Alex Abner returned four kickoffs for 278 yards and two TDs against Southwestern last week. Maroons junior Tyler Stone had 25 tackles, and junior Tyler Lester kicked a 42-yard field goal against North Laurel two weeks ago.

■ Taylor County's Leonard Macon returned an interception 102 yards for a TD, rushed for 277 yards and a TD, and caught a TD pass. But district rival Wayne County pulled out a 41-35 win on Zach Stephenson's TD pass to Chris Burks with 34 seconds left. Taylor County was without star RB Chris Thomas, who has a bad ankle.

■ Williamsburg beat district rival Campbellsville 44-30, avenging a pair of losses to the Eagles last year. QB Ryan Moses threw for 259 yards and five touchdowns and ran for 90 yards. RB Ed Lawson rushed for 153 yards and a TD, and WR Dusty Brown had seven catches for 109 yards and three TDs.

■ Boyle County's Rees MacShara had 210 yards and four TDs rushing and receiving against West Jessamine.

■ Pre-season basketball practice began Wednesday across Kentucky, and nowhere are expectations greater than at Scott County. Billy Hicks' Cardinals will probably be an overwhelming No. 1 pick in the pre-season ratings. Returnees Richie Phares, Ge-lawn Guyn, Aaron Ford and Tamron Manning will be joined by transfers Dakotah Euton, Chad Jackson and Austin Flannery. Hicks knows his team will be cheered at home and jeered on the road. "I've learned not to pay attention to the pats on the back, or the criticism," he said. "This isn't our first rodeo. The year before last, we were ranked first in the state from start to finish." Hicks guided Scott County to state titles in 1998 and 2006.

■ The Courier-Journal reported that sophomore basketball star Tony Kimbro Jr., son of 1985 Mr. Basketball Tony Kimbro, has left Manual. Kimbro's mother said her son will enroll at an out-of-state prep school, although she wouldn't say which one.

■ Jeffersontown boys' basketball coach Jeff Morrow has been suspended for the first half of the season for twice violating KHSAA rules this year. J-town is expected to be one of the best teams in Kentucky this season. Morrow led the Chargers to the state title in 2006.

■ Caldwell County freshman Emma Talley is on track to be one of the best high school golfers in state history. She won the state title at Bowling Green last week, shooting 10-under (65-69). In three previous state tournament appearances, starting when she was a sixth-grader, Talley never shot higher than 77, and twice shot even-par. The best brother-sister combination in the state was Kyle and Megan Wilshire of Scott County. Kyle, a junior, tied for fifth (69-75) in the boys' tournament. Megan, a sophomore, tied for third (76-72) among the girls.

Eighth-grader Lydia Gumm of North Hardin won Miss Golf honors, based on points earned throughout the season. Gumm won eight of 11 tournaments, and was runner-up to Talley in the state tournament. St. Xavier junior David Payne won Mr. Golf. He took the state title by beating Travis Thompson of Marshall County in a playoff.