COLUMN: It's football time in Anderson County

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High hopes are warranted, but return to Bowling Green not a lock

By John Herndon

One of life's simple pleasures had to be listening to John Ward let his listeners know the Tennessee Volunteers were about to kick it off.

“It's football time in Tennessee!” became the wonderful trademark of the man Vol fans revered in the same manner that Kentucky fans idolized Cawood Ledford.

Since there is no local radio coverage, I guess what I can type will have to suffice.

“It's football time in Anderson County!”

(I hope both of the Tennessee fans in Anderson County accept my apologies!)

Enough of the smack. Let's just think for a few minutes why 2013 is one of the most anticipated seasons in Anderson history. The Bearcats should be good.

They could be very good.

They might even become great, but there are 10 games – with only a couple of pre-season patsies on the slate – and as many as five playoff games to go.

There are surprises to be experienced, injuries to overcome and even weather forecasts to consult in forumulating a game plan.

Two years ago, Anderson made it all the way to the state championship game before being thrashed by Bowling Green 55-3. The year before, Anderson won two playoff games for the first time ever before bowing to John Hardin in the regional final.

Anderson fans believe the current Bearcats can do the same thing. With 16 seniors and starters back at 18 positions along with the first-string kicker/punter, Anderson fans are giddy. I believe I have fielded more questions about the Bearcats' prospects this off-season than I have since the days Joe Smith was running the offense in 1991-1993.

Let's look at whether the excitement is warranted.

Why Anderson County fans should be giddy.

First there is talent.

A coach at one of the Bearcats' district rivals explained that the Bearcats “have talent all over the field.”

Indeed they do.

There is not a spot on the field where the Bearcats have someone who cannot make plays. That is huge in high school sports.

Second, there is experience.

Part of the charm of high school sports is its cyclical nature. Rarely does a team stay at the top very long, especially in the public schools. Part of that is because kids graduate. They can only stay around four years and the coaches can't recruit, except in the hallways of the school

Anderson, however, has veterans all over the field. That does not trump talent, but talent with experience is a premium. Anderson has it.

Thirdly, there is leadership in that experience.

At the end of camp at Eastern Kentucky University, the Bearcats took the unusual step of naming five captains, one more than normal. All are seniors. Quarterback Zachary Carmichael is only a junior, but he's also a leader and tough as they come.

A year ago, the Bearcats willed some wins when things did not look bright and that experience could bode well again.

But even though Anderson is considered one of the better Class 5A teams and has a legitimate shot at returning to Bowling Green, it would not be wise to make non-cancelable reservations for the finals weekend. Why?

The talent is good but not overwhelming. While the Bearcats have capable players all over the field, the pool of kids even getting a look from the big-time schools is very shallow. There are a lot of good kids who might end up playing college football at the NAIA or NCAA Division II or III levels. They will have to find ways to get out of a region that boasts one of the cornerstones of the University of Kentucky's recruiting Class of 2014, quarterback Drew Barker of Conner.

Remember, last year, many of the same kids who are lining up for the Bearcats this year suffered a 48-0 embarrassment to Cooper in the first round of the playoffs last year. Anderson coach Mark Peach says he has erased that game, by far the Bearcats' worst performance of the year, from his memory. How the team learned from it remains to be seen.

The schedule could be a killer. However, the power is in the non-district portion of the schedule with powers such as Collins and Boyle County looming. There is not a non-district team on the slate that can't beat the Bearcats, but the idea is to get Anderson ready, so this should not be an issue, unless the Bearcats don't take care of business and get thrown into a tie-breaker.

District 6 is very balanced. While most are picking the Bearcats to win the title, Franklin County showed it has no plans to give up the crown it has held for two years with a 54-13 pasting of North Bullitt in last week's season-opener.

Still, the high hopes are warranted. Anderson is almost universally expected to be good. Whether the Bearcats can take it to the next realm is up to them.


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