High School Football

Mike Fields notebook: Dec. 18

Decade ends much like it started

This decade of high school football began with Highlands winning a third consecutive state title, Boyle County rolling through an unbeaten championship season, and Trinity taking a rare beat-down in the state finals.

As this decade comes to an end, Highlands is celebrating another three-peat, Boyle County is ordering rings following another unbeaten championship season, and Trinity is licking its wounds after another rare whipping in the state finals.

The first decade of the 21st century had twin bookends, but a lot of other things happened in high school football in that 10-year span, most notably an expansion to six classes (bah humbug).

And even though Trinity was pummeled by Male 34-14 in the 2000 finals, and by St. Xavier 34-10 in this year's finals, the Shamrocks were the most dominant program of the decade. They won seven state titles under Bob Beatty and, in my opinion, had the best quarterback of the decade in Brian Brohm. (Talk about family ties: Brian's brother Jeff was my pick as the best quarterback of the 1980s).

As you'll see in the accompanying chart, my choices for the team of this decade did not include any players from the 2009 season. That might be unfair, but I couldn't find any positions to make a lineup change.

■ Best wishes to Newport Central Catholic football coach Bob Schneider, who had open-heart surgery on Monday to remove an aneurysm. Dave Schneider, the coach's son, said his dad will probably stay in the hospital through the weekend. "Things are going pretty well," Dave said. The state's all-time winningest coach missed the playoffs because of the aneurysm and blood clots in his legs. Will Bob Schneider, 71, return for a 44th season as coach of the Thoroughbreds? "I think he'd like to, but that's pretty much on the back burner right now," Dave said.

■ Highlands Coach Dale Mueller said it can be argued that this year's Bluebirds were "maybe the best team ever in the state of Kentucky." Mueller referred to this week's USA Today's national rankings, which had Highlands at No. 2, the highest finish ever for a Kentucky team. The Bluebirds jumped from their No. 4 rating after two teams above them — Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) and Oaks Christian (Calif.) — lost last week. Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) is No. 1 and finished its season 12-0. Mueller said Highlands will be well-stocked next season to make a run at a fourth consecutive state title and 20th overall. The Birds will return starters at quarterback, inside linebacker and offensive line, "and we'll have the most quality depth at running back that we've ever had. I'm already fired up about 2010."

■ Ben Howard has resigned after one season as Pikeville football coach. The Panthers went 6-6 and lost to Harlan in the second round of the playoffs. This means Pikeville is looking for a new coach for the third time in three years. Ben is the son of Hillard Howard, who coached Pikeville to three consecutive state titles in the late 1980s.

■ In his first three weeks as Fort Campbell's boys' basketball coach, Shawn Berner has lost more games than he did in the last three years as football coach. The Falcons lost four of their first five games in hoops this season under first-year coach Berner. Fort Campbell's football team went 42-3 over the last three years and won three state titles. Berner, who has several football players making the transition to basketball, said he is "very excited about the potential we have."

■ Trent Steelman, who helped Bowling Green to three consecutive state runner-up finishes, was the first true freshman in Army history to start every game at quarterback this season. Steelman led the Cadets in rushing (706 yards, five TDs) and passing (637 yards, three TDs). As a plebe (freshman) at Army, Steelman is required to take 22 hours of classes and handle other non-football responsibilities.

■ Connor Hempel of Ryle, Christian Wallace of South Oldham and Zach West of Lexington Christian, all juniors, have been invited to take part in the U.S. Army national combine on Jan. 7-9 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

■ Western Hills' J.T. Riddell, who has signed to play college baseball at Kentucky, has opened the basketball season red-hot. The 6-foot-3 senior is averaging 29.5 points after four games. He had a career-high 36 against Woodford County. Riddle averaged 17 points last season, sometimes deferring to seniors on the team. But Wolverines Coach Enoch Welch said Riddle is "much more aggressive looking for his shot" this year. Riddle said he has shouldered more of a leadership role and, so far this season, he's been in a groove on the court, kind of like when he's in a groove on the mound as a star pitcher. "I'm scoring from every part of the floor right now — threes, 15-footers, layups, free throws — it feels like (in baseball) when I'm throwing the ball exactly where I want every time." Riddle, a pitcher and shortstop, hit .470 and had a school-record 47 hits as a sophomore. Last spring, he batted .478 and, as a pitcher, rang up 67 strikeouts in 47 innings and had a 1.64 earned run average.

■ High-scoring Glasgow junior guard Cameron Hall has committed to play college hoops at Campbellsville. Hall is the son of Glasgow Coach Jeff Hall, who played on Louisville's 1986 NCAA title team. Cameron began his high school career at Fairview, where his dad played, before the family moved to Glasgow when Jeff took that coaching job. Cameron averaged 24 points for the Scotties last season and is averaging 24 so far this year.

■ Elliott County's 6-foot-7 junior, Timmy Knipp, had a career-high 48 points in a victory over Jackson County in the Berea Invitational.

■ Hancock County's Hilary Jones poured in 44 points, including the 1,000th of her career, in a win over Breckinridge County.

■ Shelby Valley star Elisha Justice has committed to walk on at Louisville, but that hasn't kept other colleges from recruiting him. Shelby Valley Coach Jason Booher said Army called this week to offer Justice its point guard position. U of L Coach Rick Pitino and assistant Walter McCarty were in Pikeville Saturday to see Justice get 33 points (including 5-for-5 on three-pointers in the second half), eight assists, five steals and four rebounds in a win over Miller Grove, Ga., in the Farm Bureau Classic.

■ Before Warren Central's boys hosted Memphis White Station on Saturday, Coach Tim Riley speculated that White Station star Joe Jackson would be one of the best players ever to set foot on the Dragons' court. Riley put the 5-11 senior point guard in the same company as Apollo's Rex Chapman, who played at Warren Central in the mid-1980s. Jackson, who will play college hoops at Memphis, lived up to the hype by scoring 22 of his 31 points in the first half of White Station's 86-71 win over the Dragons.

■ Lexington Catholic graduate Vee Sanford is averaging six minutes a game as a freshman for unbeaten and 11th-ranked Georgetown University. In a feature in the Washington Times (D.C.) this week, Hoyas Coach John Thompson III noted that in a win over Butler, "Vee steps on the floor at Madison Square Garden for the first time late in the first half of a tight game and immediately gets a steal and makes two free throws."

■ Former University Heights star Scotty Hopson, a sophomore at Tennessee, got spotlight treatment on ESPN after scoring 14 points and throwing down a few dunks in a win over Wyoming. ESPN noted that Hopson's nickname is Scotty Hops, and that his hometown of Hopkinsville is known as Hoptown, and that he played high school hoops at University HEIGHTS.

■ Tickets are on sale for the Central Bank Classic at Lexington Christian on Jan. 8-9. Games on Jan. 9 include Scott County vs. Male, and Clark County vs. LCA. National powers Findlay Prep (Nev.), Mountain State Academy (W.Va.) and Quality Education Academy (N.C.) are also playing. Call (859) 422-5781, or (859) 422-5743, or email bcarter@lexingtonchristian.org.