FOOTBALL: Old rival awaits on homecoming

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Big game takes on added weight in district race

By John Herndon

Anderson County vs. Woodford County.

Or as they call it east of the Kentucky River, Woodford County vs. Anderson County.

For years, there was little that could get the juices flowing than when the Bearcats and Yellow Jackets – or should that be Yellow Jackets and Bearcats – hooked up any time, any sport.

That passion has dwindled somewhat, but certainly not entirely, in most sports as the schools are no longer regional rivals despite being located less than 15 minutes apart.

The notable exception is football. Friday marks the 40th meeting of the schools, but ironically, only the fourth as district rivals.

“It's always been a rivalry with Woodford County,” Anderson senior Granville Hayes says. “Football, basketball, baseball. You always want to win that one.”

For Anderson, the Yellow Jackets represent the next step in a road that has been almost free of the bumps that come along the way. At 4-1, the Bearcats' record could only be called a mild surprise. Most observers saw Anderson being in that ballpark before the season began, but few foresaw the Bearcats being as impressive as they have been in wins over Mercer and Montgomery counties the last two weeks.

Now, Anderson has its sights on a strong district seeding and its third straight post-season run.

Woodford, on the other hand, is simply looking to get back to the state playoffs, which it has missed the last two years. “This is a big game for us because it is a district game,” Woodford coach Steve Stonebraker says. “We are just learning how to play better football and compete for four quarters at a consistently high level. That is the step we have to take next.”

Woodford figured to be a favorite for one of the four Class 5A playoff spots out of District 6 before the year but the inconsistency showed up last week when the Jackets dropped a 28-19 decision to district foe East Jessamine.

That setback dropped Woodford to 3-2 and 0-1 in district play.

“We are continuing to play hard,” Stonebraker says. “We are still in the process of learning how to win big games but we are playing very hard.”

Anderson will be a strong favorite Friday, yet Bearcat coach Mark Peach believes his team will have to show up for its annual homecoming game. It is also Anderson's first home game since the season opener against Bryan Station on Aug. 17. Since then, Anderson has won four straight away from Warford Stadium.

“There are a lot of festivities going on this week with homecoming,” he said. “But there is a football game to be played Friday night.”

Peach expects Woodford to run plenty of option – the Yellow Jackets averaged fewer than 10 passes a game during the first three contests after last year's quarterback, Matt Couch, graduated.

Lineman Elijah Jones might not have his name called as much as the backs, but he might be one of the better players in central Kentucky. “He is a wonderful defensive lineman,” Peach says. “Wonderful.”

Linebacker Conrad Smart was in on 17 tackles in last year's contest, won by Anderson, 31-13.

In that one, Woodford scored quickly on a 63-yard pass from Couch to Michael Rusher, but Anderson soon took control.

A similar outcome Friday night would not be a surprise.


Scoreboard woes over?

Anderson is expected to have a functioning new scoreboard installed in time for Friday's game.

The old unit, which had been malfunctioning off and on since 2007, has been taken down.

“I have never seen a bunch of players so excited about just seeing some empty posts,” Peach quipped.

The key word, however, is expected.

As of Monday, the new scoreboard had not been installed.

The Bearcats do have a portable scoreboard available. It is much smaller and only gives the score and time, while most football scoreboards post downs, yards to go and timeouts remaining.

Peach said the Bearcats are prepared to go with either scoreboard.

District, regional races quickly taking shape

Anderson's win over Montgomery County last Friday was one that, in all likelihood, played a major role in the District 6 seeding race. The teams were expected to battle it out for the No. 2 and 3 seeds behind district favorite Franklin County.

Anderson is in the enviable position of simply taking care of business the rest of the way in order to have a first-round home game in the playoffs. According to the computer rankings, the Bearcats could have a shot at their third district title in six seasons later this year. Franklin is still ranked at the top of the district but the margin in the rankings is not as great as it was expected to be.

But there is much football to be played before then. Anderson cannot slip up against Woodford or West Jessamine in the next two weeks.

In District 5, which is paired against District 6 in the playoffs, everything is already a mess thanks to South Oldham's 63-57 win at Conner last week and Cooper's better-than-expected start.

Most knew South Oldham would be good, but during the pre-season, many virtually conceded the District 5 race to Conner and big-time quarterback prospect Drew Barker. Cooper also not expected to be undefeated at this point of the season.

Those three teams now figure to have a major battle for the top three positions in the district.

But just as in District 6, there is plenty of football to be played.


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