Off-the-field considerations prompted selection and reminder of what’s good in HS sports
By John Herndon, for GLICOD
LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. — I’m sure that many people thought I was crazy when I made my choice of high school football games to attend last Friday night.
In this role for GLICOD, I pretty much have the freedom to go wherever I believe there’s a good story to appear in this column. It’s an option I didn’t have during more than three decades working for a newspaper. Being the beat writer meant that my schedule was usually determined when the team schedule came out.
But when Chris Labar approached this retired sports editor about writing a weekly column for GLICOD, one of the things we both wanted was freedom on my part to go where I thought there was a good story to be written. So far, it’s been a blast.
And with a couple of megawatt games — think Trinity at Male and Bowling Green at Boyle County — being relatively close to my home, my pick last week was Garrard County at Anderson County.
Make that Garrard County, with an 0-4 record, visiting Anderson County, standing at 1-3.
And I’m glad I went.
Full disclosure: I am recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery and really was not sure how everything would hold up. Since I had worked literally hundreds of games at Anderson in my tenure as sports editor of The Anderson News, I knew the setup there and could quickly get away if needed.
In addition, Garrard coach Jerry Perry and I are distantly related. We aren’t close, but we have remained friends since he was an assistant coach to Sam Harp at Anderson from 1985-87. However, Perry is recovering from an illness and was not at the game. Garrard assistant Bret Baierlein ran the Lions, who came away with a 28-14 win.
Garrard’s record on the KHSAA website might have been a bit deceptive as the Lions were charged with a pair of losses due to COVID sidelining the team. Anderson was coming off its first win since 2019, but realistically, there was just not a lot of interest outside of Lawrenceburg and Lancaster.
It was to be a battle of a pair of one-time powers going through the inevitable down cycles that hit most high school teams, especially those in small-town America.
In the five seasons from 2011-2015, Garrard went 42-20 with a trip to the Class 3A semifinals in 2011. The Lions never suffered a first-round playoff loss in those years. During the same time frame, Anderson went 45-19 with a state runner-up finish in 2011 and another regional title in 2013. Garrard has not matched that performance since and Anderson has taken a real hit since finishing 10-1 in 2018.
Neither team was expected to make much of a splash in 2021, but remember the name Montavin Quisenberry, Garrard’s sophomore quarterback. An outstanding athlete, he broke a 14-14 tie early in the fourth quarter with an electrifying run from midfield, then made a big tackle for a loss as Anderson was trying to rally late. He ran for 108 yards and 3 touchdowns and completed 8-of-9 passes for 138 yards.
HIs one incomplete pass was picked off by Anderson’s Evan Peters, a defensive back who was born without a fully developed right arm. He has a stump just below his elbow but managed to snare the pass with one hand.
But something else stood out in a game that few were talking about Saturday morning: Anderson-Garrard drew a decent crowd. No, it was not packed, but it wasn’t sparse either.
Frankly, that surprised me. It should not have.
While we love the stats and big hits, the wins and losses, the championships and broken hearts, high school football is supposed to teach about life itself. And one of the lessons of life is that not everyone is blessed in the same way. Still, we have to fight to get the best result possible regardless.
And I saw every emotion possible over 48 minutes in Lawrenceburg Friday night.
Garrard’s bench exploded with joy when Quisenberry put the Lions ahead. Anderson showed a resolve that would come up short when sophomore defensive back Ethan Caldwell went down with a devastating ankle/lower leg injury that required him to be taken off the field in an ambulance.
Most of all, it was Friday Night Lights just as it is in the majority of small towns in America. The glitz and glory are occasional visitors, but most times the lights come on and the ball is snapped, it’s just 22 teenagers giving what they have to be the best they can be.
Regardless of where those kids are, they deserve our support.
It’s hard to believe, but the Kentucky high school season will reach the mid-point on the calendar this week and many teams have already hit that halfway mark with five games.
There have been a few surprises so far, but in reality, the teams expected to excel when the season kicked off are, for the most part, doing so. I have seen seven teams — my hometown Anderson County twice, all others once — and look forward to a great second half of the regular season.
BEST I HAVE SEEN — That’s easy. Oldham County. When I say the best I have seen, I’m not including the 11:20 highlights on Friday nights. I’m talking about the full 48 minute version.
And Oldham was impressive when I saw them against Shelby County. The Colonels have had some tough wins at Simon Kenton and South Oldham.
Oldham has adopted Coach TaShawn McBroom’s aggressive philosophy and, barring a catastrophic injury, should challenge for a district championship in a rugged district. In the state RPI released Monday, less than a point separates Oldham from defending district champ Bryan Station. The teams play October 15 in Lexington.
BEST PLAYER I HAVE SEEN — Also easy. Oldham’s Sam Young, who I had never seen before his monster game against Shelby County on Aug. 27, is every bit as good as advertised. The senior quarterback can beat you with his arm, his legs or his heart. He should make some college coach very happy next year.
WATCH OUT FOR Spencer County and South Oldham. Both are 2-3, but would have to be included in those “best teams with losing records” lists. Both have played rugged early season schedules that should prepare them for district play.
Spencer, a 4A team, threw a major league scare into Bardstown, ranked No. 1 in Class 3A by the Associated Press, last week. Bardstown escaped with a 42-37 win in Taylorsville.
In Class 5A, South Oldham seems to be finding itself just as district play rolls around. The Dragons’ losses have been to Oldham, Christian Academy of Louisville (ranked No. 2 in Class 3A) and Ballard (No. 3 in 6A). Based on the early season, South should be favored to regain the district championship that it had won eight consecutive seasons before 2020.
We hope to see you at Friday Night Lights in the Bluegrass this week!