Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bluegrass Preps rankings ...

You might note a couple of prominent programs missing from the new BluegrassPreps.com rankings — Mayfield and Paducah Tilghman, both of which suffered rare district losses last week. Mayfield lost to Crittenden County for the first time ever and the Tornado fell to Union County in overtime, both losses coming at home.

Crittenden replaced Mayfield in Class A's top 10. The best far western Kentucky representation is in Class 4A, where Lone Oak and Calloway County are at Nos. 5 and 6 after their epic contest, won by Lone Oak 45-42 on Jack Coorts' late field goal.

Class A

1. Beechwood
2. Raceland
3. Lexington Christian
4. Hazard
5. Bellevue
6. Frankfort
7. Louisville Holy Cross
8. Fairview
9. Crittenden County
10. Campbellsville

Class 2A

1. Fort Campbell
2. Newport Catholic
3. Prestonsburg
4. Danville
5. Corbin
6. Green County
7. Owensboro Catholic
8. Monroe County
9. Middlesboro
10. Bardstown

Class 3A

1. Louisville Central
2. Belfry
3. Breathitt County
4. Mason County
5. Russell
6. Sheldon Clark
7. Estill County
8. Harlan County
9. North Oldham
10. Elizabethtown

Class 4A

1. Boyle County
2. Bell County
3. Lexington Catholic
4. North Bullitt
5. Lone Oak
6. Calloway County
7. Allen County
8. Franklin-Simpson
9. Hopkins Central
10. Knox Central

Class 5A

1. Fort Thomas Highlands
2. John Hardin
3. Bowling Green
4. Owensboro
5. Mercer County
6. Johnson Central
7. Christian County
8. Woodford County
9. Lexington Bryan Station
10. Louisville Doss

Class 6A

1. Louisville St. Xavier
1. Louisville Trinity
3. Madison Central
4. Scott County
5. Boone County
6. Louisville Manual
7. Louisville Male
8. Daviess County
9. Henderson County
10. Louisville Ballard

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Poll watching ... Reidland?

Earlier today, a sports editor from a Kentucky newspaper sent me an online message: "Did you vote for Reidland in the (Associated Press) poll?"

The answer: a quick, succinct "no" ... and then the thought hit me: Who in the world is voting for Reidland?

I'm guessing this is how it happened. The Associated Press poll, of which The Paducah Sun is a faithful voting member, uses what I call a drop-down menu to register votes in each class. There is a slot to vote for each team in the top 10, and the voter scrolls down to click on the appropriate school.

Reidland, as it turns out, is (in alphabetical order) between two teams that are ranked in the top 10 — fourth-ranked Prestonsburg, which is 4-0 and a legitimate possibility to reach the state championship game, and upstart Shelby Valley, which is 2-1 and ranked 10th.

It's a good bet that someone intended to give Shelby Valley a 9th-place vote, which earns two points, and accidentally clicked on the Greyhounds.

In any case, the AP poll regularly provokes questions of legtimacy and homerism.

How in the world is Henry County getting a first-place vote in Class 3A? This is, after all, the same club that was thumped by Paducah Tilghman in the state quarterfinals this year. Yes, Henry is 4-0 and outscored its opponents 206-0, but the Wildcats have played an incredibly weak early-season schedule. Henry is a legitimate top-10 team, but there is no way it deserves to be ranked above Louisville Central and Belfry, last year's two state finalists.

The AP poll regularly gets hit with criticism of such things, and justifiably so in many cases. With that in mind, I'm going to reprint the BluegrassPreps.com poll each week. It used to be a regular staple of our Friday football package, but has been shelved because of space concerns.

Frankly, the BGP poll is probably the most accurate human-produced rankings out there, usually the only one that rivals the numbers-generated systems (Cantrall, Massey and Litkenhous) for accuracy.

Here is this week's BGP poll:

Class A

1. Beechwood
2. Lexington Christian
3. Hazard
4. Raceland
5. Bellevue
6. Frankfort
7. Louisville
8. Mayfield
9. Campbellsville
10. Fairview

Class 2A

1. Fort Campbell
2. Newport Catholic
3. Prestonsburg
4. Danville
5. Corbin
6. Green County
7. Owensboro Catholic
8. Monroe County
9. Middlesboro
10. Washington County

Class 3A

1. Central
2. Belfry
3. Breathitt County
4. Mason County
5. Harlan County
6. Russell
7. Sheldon Clark
8. Paducah Tilghman
9. Henry County
10. Estill County

Class 4A

1. Bell County
2. Boyle County
3. Lexington Catholic
4. North Bullitt
5. Lone Oak
6. Allen County
7. Calloway County
8. Warren East
9. Franklin-Simpson
10. Hopkins Central

Class 5A

1. Fort Thomas Highlands
2. Bowling Green
3. John Hardin
4. Owensboro
5. Mercer County
6. Johnson Central
7. Covington Catholic
8. Woodford County
9. Hopkinsville
10. Christian County

Class 6A

1. Louisville St. Xavier
1. Louisville Trinity
3. Louisville Manual
4. Madison Central
5. Scott County
6. Boone County
7. Louisville Male
8. Louisville Seneca
9. Daviess County
10. Henderson County

Football leftovers ... Week 4

Old friends, they aren't, and the hype might not be quite at the fever pitch that characterized last year's playoff game, but there is little doubt that this week's get-together between Lone Oak and Calloway County is the marquee matchup on this week's schedule.

Some things to watch for, based on three observations of Calloway and a little tape review of Lone Oak's three blowout wins:

Calloway has a couple of issues right now, the offensive line and the secondary. Casey Brockman was sacked six times in last week's loss to Marshall County, and two weeks prior to that, Trigg County's pass rush was a contributing factor in Brockman completing just eight passes in 28 attempts.

It was easy to dismiss some of the early-season problems because of injuries to tackle Grant Williams and guard Logan Burks, but both were back on the field last week — perhaps not 100 percent, but they were in the lineup. Still, the protection of Brockman left a lot to be desired.

The secondary showed a tendency to bite a little too often on the quarterback rolling out of the pocket, leaving itself vulnerable against the pass. That will be something Calloway defensive coordinator Tracy Cleaver addresses this week as the Lakers prepare for Lone Oak's spread offense and dual threat quarterback Jamarielle Brown.

Lone Oak's biggest question is the defense, which remains largely untested. The Purple Flash has been moving people in and out of the lineup and in and out of various positions to find a combination that works. For all the talk about Lone Oak's high-powered offense last year, it was the defense that was as much of a factor in Lone Oak's rise as anything else. And the losses on that side of the ball were heavier than those on the offensive end.

• McKenty at Marshal: Scott McKenty, one of the region's better basketball players, will join the Marshall County football team this week.

McKenty, a starting guard for the Marshals' regional semifinalists last season, played football through his freshman year but only recently decided to rejoin the program. His quickness and athleticism figures to help the depth-strapped Marshals at receiver and in the secondary. Two of his basketball teammates, Josh Madding and Denver Seay, are critical two-way starters for Marshall, who visits Apollo in a Class 6A district game.

• Games to watch: Daviess County was the preseason favorite in the 6A district race, but the Panthers' high-powered offense has been hurt by some injuries. Daviess committed five turnovers against Henderson County, but managed to rally from a 19-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Colonels 36-33 in overtime two weeks ago. And Daviess was thumped 40-20 by crosstown rival Owensboro last week.

Crittenden County visits Mayfield in what could be a matchup of the top two teams in the Class A district race. Ballard Memorial, which rebounded nicely from its disappointing loss to Mayfield by thumping Fulton County, takes on Fulton City. A win for the Bombers keeps alive their chances of hosting a first-round playoff game.

In southern Illinois, Massac County hosts Benton, with the winner maintaining a share of the lead in the River-to-River Conference race. Benton was 3-15 over the last two seasons but adapted a spread offense similar to that used by Massac and is off to a 3-1 start, including a come-from-behind 20-17 win over archrival West Frankfort.

• 4A shuffle: Lone Oak and Calloway fans should keep an eye on the District 2 race, where Allen County is in line to become the surprise district champion. The Patriots have already knocked off co-district favorites Warren East and Franklin-Simpson, putting them squarely in the driver's seat with remaining district games against Logan County and Russell County.

Warren East, which fell to Lone Oak 38-35 in the state semifinals last fall, has been wracked by injuries but should be a big factor in the postseason.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Football Friday ... Week 4

Calloway County's spread offense hasn't been as productive as it could be in the early stages of the season. Some of it can be attributed to some rust and timing issues caused by the pre-season injury to quarterback Casey Brockman and an ankle injury to primary receiver George Garner. Some can also be laid at the feet (or is it hands) of the Lakers' corps of receivers.

Dropped balls have been a big problem in the last two weeks in wins over Trigg County and Crittenden County. A pair of potential touchdown passes were dropped against Crittenden and Brockman was victimized by three straight drops before hitting Tyrrell Willis with a last-minute touchdown pass against Trigg.

"The last couple of weeks, we've been making them complete 30 straight passes before we leave practice," Calloway coach Josh McKeel said. "Some days, it's taken a while. We've just got to get things back in synch.

"We were so good this summer, and we've got to get back to that. There is a big difference between passing league and real football, but we've got to start making the plays we're not making yet."

Marshall County coach Scott Shelton, whose team faces the Lakers tonight, thinks Brockman is almost back to his regular level of effectiveness.

"He's looked gradually better each week," said Shelton, whose secondary has had some problems this fall. "We've got to give our corners some help when they get isolated one-on-one on the outside."

McKeel said Grant Williams, who returned to action last week after missing two games with a cracked collarbone, could see time on both sides of the ball this week. Williams, an offensive tackle and defensive end, played offense only last week. The Lakers would like to utilize him on defense for next week's district showdown with Lone Oak.

"Marshall's offense is a lot more like we'll see from Lone Oak," McKeel said. "Trigg's spread is a run spread, mainly, and Crittenden's is a little more sprint-out short-passing game. Of course, Lone Oak has a new wrinkle with Jamarielle Brown at quarterback and his ability to run. From what I've seen, their offense looks as good as ever."

• Joe Morris, whose Mayfield team was ripped by Fort Campbell in the season opener, has some empathy for Randy Wyatt, his counterpart at longtime rival Paducah Tilghman. The Tornado hosts Fort Campbell tonight.

"They're the best team I've seen around here the last few years — maybe not as strong as the Tilghman team in (2003) when they had (Hunter) Cantwell and (Joe) Casey," Morris said. "They're so physical and fast.

"With their style and speed, they remind me a lot of the real good Danville teams we've played over the years. Defensively, they don't do a lot. They don't blitz a lot. They just do what they do and they do it right. Their defense reminds me a little of our 2002 (state championship) team.

Wyatt is especially worried about stopping quarterback Antonio Andrews, who has amassed almost 800 yards (rushing and passing) in three games and has run for six touchdowns and thrown six touchdown passes. He also has a stable of good athletes in the backfield and at wideout.

"He's the biggest reason they've been so good offensively," Wyatt said. "He makes smart decisions with the ball, running and throwing."

• There aren't as many district match ups on tap this week, but Murray-Trigg County could decide the Class 2A district title. In Class A, Crittenden County hosts Fulton City and Ballard Memorial hosts Fulton County, all critical games in determining playoff seeding and positioning. A top-two seed is necessary to avoid a first-round playoff game in the Louisville area.

Next week gets us back to some big district games, with Lone Oak hosting Calloway County in Class 4A. Mayfield hosts Crittenden County in a potential championship game in Class A. Murray will play its third district games in as many weeks with a visit to Heath.

Graves County hosts Class 6A district favorite Daviess County, with Marshall County heading to Apollo for its first of three visits to Owensboro in a four-week stretch. The Marshals meet Apollo, Owensboro and Daviess — all on the road — between Sept. 26 and Oct. 19.

• All of the Louisville and Jefferson County public schools canceled school and all athletic activities for the rest of the week because of power outages caused by last weekend's windstorm, forcing some teams to scramble to land replacement games. Henderson County's game with powerful Louisville Manual was canceled, but the Colonels were able to nail down a game with Bullitt East, which was scheduled to meet defending Class 3A state champion Louisville Central.

Henderson showed it will be a force to be reckoned with in the district after losing 36-33 in overtime to Daviess County last week. Henderson took advantage of five turnovers and held a 33-14 lead in the third quarter.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Extra studs and duds

Willie Randolph was fired in the middle of the night. Ned Yost was canned in the middle of a pennant race.

Yost, like Randolph, seems to be taking the brunt of the blame for a late-season collapse. Now Milwaukee’s former manager, Yost gets to watch the team he helped steer into contention chase a wild-card berth from the outside.

It’s a panic move, plain and simple, by an owner that doesn’t really know a whole lot about running a baseball team.

Don’t get me wrong. Yost is far from being one of the game’s premier managers, but he isn’t working with a perfect hand, either. Thanks to Yovani Gallardo’s early-season knee injury, the Brewers’ starting rotation is rather thin after C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets — Jeff Suppan, David Bush and Manny Parra are a combined 0-5 with a 6.70 ERA in September.

And now Sheets’ health is in question, too, after he left Wednesday’s game with tightness in his forearm.

Outside of closer Salomon Torres and lefty specialist Brian Shouse, the bullpen is a mess, although Torres blew a huge game against the Cubs on Thursday. Defense is still an issue, and the Brewers are still a young team with a lot of upside — five of their eight regulars are 26 or younger.

Yost gets some credit for being innovative. During the off-season, he asked the Brewers’ statistical-analysis people how he could maximize the offense. Their answer was hit the pitcher eighth, and Yost tried it for a while. And he’s never wavered in his commitment to developing the Brewers’ young talent.

His handling of the pitching staff has sparked some complaints, particularly some questionable moves in the weekend-series sweep at Philadelphia. Yost declined to pitch Sabathia on short rest against its closest competitor in the wild-card race, and he made a questionable bullpen move or two.

Then again, doesn’t every manager?


Manny Ramirez, Dodgers: Let’s quell the talk for Manny for MVP ... Albert Pujols is the hands-down MVP in the National League, although Manny has been magnificent for the Dodgers (.400, 14 HR and 44 RBI in 44 games). The biggest question is this ... would he be doing this in Boston, with a secure contract for next year, or is this just a hyper-motivated Manny on another contract drive?

Russell Martin, Dodgers: The NL crop of catchers is an impressive lot ... Martin, Geovany Soto, Yadier Molina, Brian McCann, Chris Iannetta and Ryan Doumit head a young and talented group.

It will be interesting to see what Joe Torre’s long-term plans are for Martin, who like Torre was a good-hitting catcher able to play several positions. Martin has played some third base for the Dodgers this summer, an effort to save some wear and tear on his legs and bat, and that might become a regular staple of his game for the next few years.

Torre, who moved full-time to third at the peak of his career, was in on Todd Zeile’s conversion to third base with the Cardinals, too. Martin’s defense is too good to take him completely away from the plate, but the option might be considered down the road.


Drayton McClane, Astros: McClane, the Astros’ owner, did his team no favors with his reaction to Hurricane Ike. McClane insisted that Houston would be able to play its big series with the Cubs at home on Sunday and Monday, then griped when Major League Baseball moved the series to Milwaukee when it became obvious the games couldn’t be played in Houston.

McClane maintained, and rightfully so, that the Cubs had essentially a home-game atmosphere for its two games in Milwaukee, but McClane had only himself to blame. Had he relented earlier, the series could have been moved to a more neutral site, perhaps Atlanta.

So what happened? The Astros hopped on a plane on Monday, landed just hours before game time and were promptly no-hit by Carlos Zambrano and one-hit by Ted Lilly and company.

Nice call, Drayton. And bye-bye to your team.

Carlos Silva, Mariners: This is a long-overdue dud. The Mariners signed Silva to a four-year, $48 million contract in the offseason and have been awarded with horrible results — a 4-15 record with a 6.42 ERA and 209 hits allowed in 150 innings. Even worse, Seattle owes Silva at least $36 million over the next three seasons.


Elijah Dukes, Nationals: To call Dukes “talented but troubled” and an “attitude problem” is massive understatement, given his history and a couple of run-ins this year with fans and manager Manny Acta, but Dukes has showed that he can be a very productive hitter.

Even while battling a couple of injuries, Dukes is hitting .272-13-44 in less than a half season. Given the Nats’ popgun offense, he could be a fixture in the lineup for years to come — if he stays out of trouble. What are the odds on that? Even at best.

Ryan Howard, Phillies: Howard was a big-time disappointment in the first half, but he’s been MVP-esque since July 1 — .288 with 25 homers and 69 RBI in 69 games. The guy still has some problems with left-handed pitching, despite his recent hot streak, but there aren’t many more feared hitters than Howard when he is in a groove.

Kosuke Fukudome, Cubs: Fukudome was on fire in April and May, but he’s been a drag on the offense for the last four months. Now he’s in danger of losing his job to second baseman Mike Fontenot, with Mark DeRosa shifting to the outfield. At the moment, it looks as if Lou Piniella isn’t sure which way to go in October.

Ivan Rodriguez, Yankees: He’s a free agent at the end of the year, and his aging bat figures to cut into his earning power. This is a big test for the Yankees, who might not be able to but Jorge Posada and his shoulder problems behind the plate next summer.

Behind the scenes ...

Part of a phone conversation last week with Graves County coach Mike Rogers, before his game with Marshall County, produced this friendly exchange:

Rogers: "You are wrong a lot of times on our games. It doesn't matter if you pick us to win or lose."

Fosko: "Well, I'm picking you this week."

Rogers: "Don't tell me that. I like it when you pick against us."

The Eagles made me look smart last week, beating Marshall. I'm taking the Eagles this week against Mayfield, too, although the only predictable thing about the Mayfield-Graves rivalry is its unpredictability.

Not that Rogers is the only area coach that doesn't mind using my picks as motivation. Al Starnes at Crittenden County has been kidding me about it for years, and there have been weeks he's all but begged me to pick against the Rockets.

Back to Rogers ... I told him on Thursday that I may just ride his surprise team for the rest of the year. His response: "We're playing Daviess County next week. You're not picking us."

Well, he might be right about that ...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Football leftovers ... Week 3

The buzz of the weekend was about the wild and crazy contest between Mayfield and Ballard Memorial. The Bombers, who had only come within three touchdowns of Mayfield once in 17 meetings over the previous 13 seasons, led 18-0 in the first half, held a 31-14 lead at halftime and was up 38-21 going into the fourth quarter before succumbing to a furious comeback.

"I didn't sleep very well this weekend," admitted Ballard coach Chris Cooper, who is still looking for his first win as a head coach. "It was a new situation for our guys. Emotions were so high for three quarters, then we hit a wall. We had some medical issues and some cramping. We lost four players late in the third quarter and in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter."

Mayfield coach Joe Morris credited a heroic effort from two-way starter Tyrese Murrell, who scored four touchdowns — two each rushing and receiving. A friend of mine who was at the game called Murrell's performance "a Kellen Winslow-type game," referring to the San Diego Chargers' tight end who had to be helped off the field after the Chargers outlasted Miami in overtime in a memorable NFL playoff game in 1981.

"Tyrese is in there every single play," Morris said. "He's the difference-maker on this team."

Mayfield turned the ball over on three of its first four possessions, with two of them turning directly into scores. Cooper said linebacker Stephen Pullen's hit on Mayfield quarterback Luke Guhy forced a ball that ended up in the hands of end Will Mallory, who took it in for Ballard's first touchdown. Noseguard Shane Davis' hit on Murrell created a fumble that Jimmy Hoskins ran back for a score.

"We had four turnovers — two of them were run back for touchdowns and another set up one," Morris said. "We just gave them 18 points.

"And really, we weren't ready to play. You could sense it in pre-game. We cut it to 24-14 late in the half, then they're just trying to run out the clock and break a 79-yard run with a minute left. We've beaten Ballard pretty bad a few times, and we couldn't make our guys believe that they were improved. They're a little bigger and a lot more physical than they've been.

"Usually, you get out in front of them and you're in pretty good shape, but they took it to us, got the lead and got some confidence."

Cooper admits the loss could have some lingering effects — physical, if not emotional. Nathan Bledsoe, a speedy running back and cornerback, left the game with a concussion and could be out for a few weeks. Steven Mix, a tight end and defensive end, has been battling some knee problems. Mix is also the Bombers' punter and placekicker, and he could be relegated to strictly kicking duties for the next week or two.

Taylor Edging, Cody Hoskins and Pullen — all two-way players — left the game with cramps, taking with them a big chunk of the Bombers' skill-position talent for the fourth quarter.

If Ballard had held on, it would have gone down as one of the biggest upsets in western Kentucky history. Ballard was 0-2 coming into the game after losses to South Fulton (Tenn.) and Todd Central. Six turnovers cost Ballard against South Fulton and the Bombers led Todd going into the fourth quarter.

"You know what? We're still 0-3," Cooper said. "But in our minds we're a heck of an 0-3 team. We had South Fulton beat and had Todd beat and we had Mayfield beat. We've got to finish these games. If we do, we're 3-0 and looking really pretty.

"There are no excuses. Sunday, when the kids came in to watch the film, they were excited. They realize what we've been talking about and realize how good they can be. They're also upset — they wish they had another chance to play that fourth quarter."

• Crittenden County coach Al Starnes was a little reluctant to discuss in detail what could be the best district race in far western Kentucky — the Class 4A chase involving Calloway County, Lone Oak and Hopkins Central. His Rockets scrimmaged Hopkins Central in the pre-season and have lost to Lone Oak (54-13) and Calloway (28-6) in the last two weeks.

"Hopkins Central has the speed and skill players," Starnes said. "Lone Oak has the speed at quarterback (Jamarielle Brown) and I think they're a little better up front. Calloway's good, too. We did a good job of stopping Tyrrell Willis in the running game and we wanted to make the quarterback (Casey Brockman) scramble. He showed us he can run and throw.

"His numbers would have been better, but they had some drops. They had several, five or six off the top of my head."

Pressed to name a favorite, Starnes laughed and begged off the question.

"They're all pretty good teams," Starnes said. "They could all win it and they could all finish third. That's all I'm going to say about it."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Football Friday ... Week 3

It's only Week 3, but already we have several pivotal match ups for playoff positioning on tap tonight.

In Class 2A, Murray travels to Caldwell County in a battle of two teams expected to contend for the district title. Fulton City and Fulton County don't always share a great deal of love for each other, and they will clash in a key Class A contest. And there are all sorts of intriguing match ups in Class 6A, where Graves County hosts Marshall County and Daviess County takes on Henderson County in a meeting of what many feel are the best two teams in the district.

Doesn't it seem a bit early for these kinds of match ups, which in the past were usually reserved for the latter half of the 11-week regular-season?

"I don't like them this early," Caldwell coach David Barnes said. "I liked it better when we played them later in the season. Depending on the team and how you do, you're going to have teams whose (playoff fate) could be determined by week 5 or week 6."

When it went to a six-class format last season, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association mandated certain weeks for district contests. Five- and six-team districts begin play this week.

Murray's schedule is an extreme example of how early — perhaps too early — some of these match ups occur. The Tigers are expected to fight for the district title with Caldwell County and Trigg County, and they play those two ball clubs in their next two games. Their postseason fate — home game or road game in the first round of the playoffs — will likely be settled in the next two weeks, when they still have half a season or more to play.

"It just seems it would be more exciting for everybody if the top teams were playing their big district games at the end," Murray coach Steve Duncan said. "The state must have seen that, because they've moved everything back next year, when we're starting them later."

Marshall County coach Scott Shelton said he would like "maybe one more week, at least" to get ready for district games. "The way it works for us isn't that bad, because we play a district game and a week in between the next one. Then we get the little break at the end of the season, right before the playoffs. I can't gripe about that part.":

Fulton City's Wayne Lohaus doesn't like the fact that his team played crosstown rival South Fulton (Tenn.) last week, then has to turn around and play another emotional rivalry with Fulton County.

"We didn't have any choice in that," Lohaus said. "South Fulton is the biggest (rivalry) game of the year for us and Fulton County is our biggest (rivalry) district game. It would be nice for us to be able to spread out the district games and give us, as a border school, a chance to play some of (the Tennessee) teams early in the season before they get into their regions."

• Caldwell County's offense may have to regroup if quarterback Will Barnes can't play with the separated right (throwing) shoulder he sustained last week. Receiver Eric Faughn is back after getting stitches taken out of the webbing between the thumb and index finger on his hand, an injury that caused him to miss last week's 20-14 win over Glasgow.

Murray coach Steve Duncan is impressed with the Tigers' running game and defense. "They're not real big on defense, but they're quicker and faster across the board.

"And after seeing how well they did with it last week, maybe they're planning on running the ball more anyway. They've got some real good backs, and Barnes is good at escaping the rush and getting some big gains when everybody is covered."

• Marshall County quarterback Denver Seay threw for four touchdowns and ran for one in last week's 48-37 loss to Hopkinsville, but his five interceptions also put the Marshals' defense in some rocky situations.

"We're just telling him not to predetermine what receiver he's throwing to," Marshall coach Scott Shelton said. "Josh Madding is our big-play guy, but we've got to spread the ball around a little more."

• At Graves County, coach Mike Rogers isn't totally shocked at his team's 2-0 start. Many thought the Eagles would lose to Massac County and Paducah Tilghman, teams they beat by two touchdowns-plus.

"These kids expected to win," Rogers said. "They're more conscious of what people say about them, almost to where they have a chip on their shoulder. That's why I'm worried now after two wins. Their talent level isn't the best we've had, but their effort has been extraordinary. These guys have taken the underdog role to heart."

Rogers feels the defense, led by safeties Dustin Collins and Dillon Pirtle and linebacker Cass McAlpin, has been much better than anticipated, as has the special teams play.

"We've laid some nice shots on people," Rogers said. "This is the hardest-hitting team I've coached here."

Monday, September 8, 2008

Football leftovers ... Week 2

Calloway County showed off a new offensive wrinkle in its fourth-quarter comeback win over Trigg County — Tyrrell Willis lined up as an outside receiver.

Willis, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound junior running back and linebacker, caught two touchdown passes from Casey Brockman in the final four minutes and change to give the Lakers a 35-28 win in the second game of Trigg's Wildcat Chevrolet Bowl. One was on a fly pattern down the sideline, the other on a crossing route in which the super-strong Willis broke a tackle in the middle of the field and was able to turn the corner and tightrope the sideline on a 32-yard play with just under a minute remaining.

"It's something we just put in this week," Calloway coach Josh McKeel said. "George (Garner) was gimpy and we needed another deep threat. Tyrrell can do that, too. The play he made for the (go-ahead touchdown), I don't know that I've seen a player in western Kentucky that could've done it."

The Lakers' offense is far from a finished product. Trigg, taking advantage of an offensive line that is missing two starters, was able to blitz effectively and put pressure on Brockman, who completed only eight of 28 passes. Some of the throws were rushed because of the pressure, and several were dropped by his receivers, but it appears that Brockman still has some rust from the forced layoff for most of preseason practice because of a broken bone in his left (non-throwing) hand.

• Two teams with aspirations of hosting first-round playoff games suffered critical offensive injuries in the Trice Hughes Chevrolet Bowl in Princeton. Caldwell County quarterback Will Barnes separated his right (throwing) shoulder in the host team's 20-14 win over Glasgow and Crittenden County running back Rodney Robertson broke the metacarpal bone in his left hand during the first half of the Rockets' 54-13 loss to Lone Oak.

Both are questionable at best for this week's games. Caldwell hosts Murray in a big Class 2A district matchup, while Crittenden takes on Calloway County.

"Rodney is probably out," Crittenden coach Al Starnes said. "He was making a block and fell and broke it when he landed on it. I'm sure he's going to have to wear a cast and it will affect him and our running game, but we have to go on and see what else happens."

Caldwell coach David Barnes' loss is made more critical by his son's experience. Barnes brought the spread offense with him when he came to Caldwell in 2006 and Will Barnes has been the Tigers' regular quarterback in all three seasons.

Sophomore Blake Hodges took over the offense after Barnes went down in the second quarter. Caldwell's running game was effective (314 yards on 52 carries) so Hodges wasn't asked to carry the offense.

"He threw a couple of good balls that were incomplete, but they hit the receiver's hands," David Barnes said. "Will is questionable. It will probably be a gametime (decision). We'll practice him this week and see how it goes Thursday and Friday in the pregame. Blake has things he can do, but he lacks the experience."

• You might have noticed a different look with Paducah Tilghman's football team. The Indianapolis Colts-style uniforms look sharp, but new coach Randy Wyatt went with blue helmets for his first season. That's quite a departure from the traditional white helmet with the clean "PT" logo.

"It was just a change," Wyatt said. "Something to give us a new look."

Wyatt said the traditonal two stripes in the middle of the helmet and the "PT" logo will adorn the helmet, but those haven't arrived yet.