If President-elect Barack Obama is looking for an ambassador at-large, he might want to consider Joey Meehan, who has proved to be a peacemaker since switching sides in a heated Class A football rivalry.
Last year Meehan played for Hazard, which beat Lexington Christian during the regular season but lost to the Eagles in the playoffs. Over the summer Meehan's family moved to Lexington, and he wound up at LCA where he has been a valuable tight end this fall.
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Meehan had a TD reception when LCA beat Hazard 49-7 last month, and he had eight catches in last week's playoff win at Raceland.
LCA visits Hazard in the state semifinals Friday night, and Meehan admits "it's definitely weird" being on the opposite sideline a year later.
"It was very odd to play against Hazard and all my friends this year. They definitely tried to give me a hard time, but I gave them a hard time, too. It was all in fun."
After host LCA beat Hazard 49-7 last month, a few Hazard players, including Allan Fugate, Dylan Baker and Forest Smith, went out to eat with their buddy Meehan and some other LCA players. The Hazard guys even spent the night in Lexington at the homes of their rivals.
Fugate stayed with LCA quarterback Lucas Witt, which was interesting considering that a few hours earlier, Fugate had been flagged for a late hit on Witt. "My mom (Sheriff Kathy Witt) told Allan he'd have to sleep in the garage because he had clocked me pretty good," Lucas said with a laugh. "But she was just messing around with him."
Last season Witt couldn't have imagined such a scenario. "In our rivalry with Hazard last year, we all hated each other. But it's different now. Joey introduced us to his friends, and a lot of them are cool guys that are fun to hang out with."
The LCA and Hazard players have kept in touch regularly this fall, including wishing each other good luck before every game. The two sides have been texting each other furiously this week, of course.
"We're talking as much trash as we can," Meehan said with a smile. "They're saying, 'Hope you have fun sitting up in the stands while we're playing at Papa John's (in the state finals),' and I'm saying it right back to them.
"On the field we hate each other, but we're best friends as soon as the final horn blows."
■ Corbin doesn't need a scouting report to know it better keep track of Newport Central Catholic running back Mark Kelly in Friday's 2A semifinal game. Last year Kelly had four TDs in Newport Catholic's 28-16 victory over Corbin in the quarterfinals. Last week Kelly had six TDs to lead the Thoroughbreds past DeSales 54-19. Unbeaten Corbin is trying to reach the state finals for the first time since 2002 when it lost to Breathitt County in the 2A title game.
■ Bell County Coach Dudley Hilton playfully played the role of underdog when asked about Friday's showdown with Boyle County in the 4A semifinals. Even though both teams are unbeaten and the game is rated a tossup, Hilton said Boyle County should be a 50-point favorite. When told the home-field advantage on Log Mountain might be worth as many as 30 points to his Bobcats, Hilton responded: "We still need 20 more points some way or another." On a serious note, Hilton said Bell County and Boyle County "mirror each other. We both have a little of a smash-mouth philosophy."
Bell County sidestepped an upset last week when it scored late to beat Knox Central 19-14. Matt Rains was the hero. He caught two passes for 148 yards. One went for a TD; the other set up the winning score. Rains also had an interception to kill Knox Central's final threat.
■ St. Xavier running back Deuce Finch has been named Gatorade's Player of the Year in Kentucky. Finch, who was slowed by a nagging knee injury early in the season, has looked robust in starring for the top-ranked Tigers in recent weeks. In the last five games Finch has run for 798 yards and 17 TDs. For the season he has 1,321 yards and 30 TDs.
■ Mark Brown, who coached Nelson County to the 4A title in 1996, has John Hardin in the state semifinals for the first time. After heart-breaking quarterfinal losses to St. Xavier (21-20) in 2005 and Bowling Green (27-23) last year, the Bulldogs beat Doss last week, avenging a regular-season loss to the Dragons.
■ Nelson County Coach Bart Bruner resigned after a three-year record of 12-22.
■ Simon Kenton continued its Cinderella story season by beating Boone County 14-7 last week to advance to the 6A semifinals. In their regular-season meeting, the Pioneers trailed Boone County 42-0 at halftime and lost 42-7. Simon Kenton hadn't won a playoff game since 1993 before its current run. Jeff Marksberry's Pioneers are led by 6-foot-3, 195-pound running back Miles Simpson, one of the top juniors in the state.
■ Calloway County won its first-ever region title by beating Allen County-Scottsville last week. The Lakers' 11-2 record matches the school record, set in 1996. Current coach Josh McKeel played on that team.
■ Johnson Central's Chase Richardson is a true student-athlete. A Governor's Scholar, he has a 4.0 GPA, is ranked No. 1 in his class and plans to go pre-med in college. Army, Brown, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia and Penn are among the schools showing interest. In Johnson Central's loss to Highlands last week, Richardson ran for 162 yards and a TD, and had 12 tackles. He rushed for 2,039 yards and 21 TDs this season and finished his career with more than 3,500 yards and 300 tackles.
■ Franklin-Simpson QB/DB Courtney Dalcourt, who has a scholarship offer from Kentucky, finished his career with 4,252 passing yards and 40 TDs, and 3,180 rushing yards and 34 TDs.
■ The votes are in, and Middlesboro's Hunter Adams has won Army Iron Man of the Year honors as Kentucky's best two-way high school football player. The U.S. Army Nashville Recruiting Battalion conducted the contest, which drew more than 20,000 votes across Kentucky. Adams received 4,926 votes. Nathaniel Gilliam of Harlan County was runner-up with 3,847 votes.
■ Letcher Central QB Charlie Banks threw for 2,006 yards and 20 TDs and ran for 1,100 yards and 20 TDs this season. In the last two years he totaled 5,900 yards and 80 TDs passing and rushing and led Letcher Central to 21 wins in 26 games.
■ Defending 2A champ Fort Campbell, led by QB Antonio Andrews' 140 yards rushing and 103 passing, held on to beat Owensboro Catholic 48-35. Aces' QB Evan Walker hit on 32 of 50 passes for 306 yards and five TDs, three to Bryan McGraw.
■ Former Hopkinsville Coach Craig Clayton has guided a team to Tennessee's state high school finals. Clayton's Franklin Rebels (13-1) will play Murfreesboro Oakland's Patriots (13-1) in the Class 5A title game Saturday at Middle Tennessee State's Floyd Stadium.
■ Crittenden County beat Mayfield to win its first region title since its state championship season of 1985. Crittenden County's reward is a four-hour bus trip to face defending Class A champ Beechwood.
■ UK basketball signee Jon Hood opened the season with a career-high 42 points to lead Madisonville past Ohio County 67-51. The 6-7 senior also had 13 rebounds.
■ Defending boys' state basketball champ Mason County lost its season opener to Highlands 54-51 in double overtime. Stephen Kowolonek led the winners with 24 points. Sophomore Treg Setty led Mason County with 16 points and senior Russ Middleton had 15.
■ Scott County's top-ranked boys' basketball team will play Clark County in UK's Memorial Coliseum at 7 p.m. on Dec. 18. Each team has a future UK player — Scott County junior Dakotah Euton and Clark County sophomore Vinny Zollo. Reserved tickets ($10) are available by mail: Scott County High School, P.O. Box 68, Georgetown, Ky. 40324. Include name, address and phone number. General admission tickets ($8) are available at Whitaker Bank locations and at Scott County High School between noon and 1:30 p.m.
Scott County plays Duncanville, Texas, in the Marshall County Hoopfest Saturday night. Duncanville was rated No. 1 nationally in some polls before it lost to San Antonio Madison 83-81 in overtime two weeks ago. Duncanville is led by 6-6 University of Texas signee Shawn Williams.
■ Never know what you'll come across when scanning microfilm of old Lexington Herald and Lexington Leader newspapers. Such as: 44 years ago this month Tommy Starns made his debut as Lexington Catholic boys' basketball coach with a win over University High. That was the good news. The bad news was that after the game Starns discovered that vandals had spray-painted his car in the school parking lot. Starns borrowed his wife's car to go downtown, but that car died in the middle of Market Street and Starns had to call a mechanic.
■ Tates Creek hosts a 10-team wrestling event on Saturday. Defending state champ Union County, Campbell County, Conner, Lawrence County and Madison Central will go against Dunbar, Henry Clay, Lafayette, Montgomery County and Tates Creek. Wrestling starts at 9 a.m. and finishes at 3 p.m.