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Just hold the mushrooms

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Saturday pizza parties underscore why Bearcats have turned season around

By John Herndon

We only thought Anderson County's football turnaround came about when Blake Curtsinger and Matt Sprague blocked a Bullitt Central extra point, in overtime, back on Oct. 8.
Makes sense, you know. The Bearcats were 3-3, teetering on the brink of .500 or less. Since then, they are riding a six-game win streak, managed to win only the third district title in school history and have rolled to a pair of playoff wins for the first time since Kentucky started determining state football champions with a tournament in 1959.
“That gave us momentum,” Anderson quarterback Seth Carmichael said Friday. A personable sort, Carmichael had just led the Bearcats to a 42-7 pasting of that same Bullitt Central team that had seen an extra point blocked in the seventh game of the season.
However, the junior signal caller went on to say the real turn around came the following week. Down 27 points, Anderson County somehow scored the final 28.
Take your pick. Bullitt Central? South Oldham?
“They’re all wrong,” says Carmichael's father, Steve. “It comes from a 'pizza cook off' held at Chris Fitzpatrick’s house every Saturday. Back when the team was 3 – 3, a bunch of the guys met at Chris’ house and started a pizza cook off.”
Steve Carmichael retired as principal of Anderson County Middle School several years ago. His day-job now is that of headmaster at Christian Academy of Lawrenceburg but his passion for the gridiron has never changed.
“Mostly they were just watching Saturday football, hanging out and fixing pizzas,” Steve Carmichael continued in an e-mail. “It became a friendly pizza challenge to see who can make the best pizza. After the streak started, they decided, to be 'consistent,' they should have it each Saturday.  So for the last six Saturdays, they’ve all met at the Fitzpatrick’s to have the pizza cook-off.”
Hey, if it works, no one is complaining as long as they hold the mushrooms.
“Going into the season this about what we thought would happen,” said Anderson coach Mark Peach. “We had inexperience at the skill positions. Then in the sixth to seventh game of the season, we started to jell.”
In other sports, especially basketball, you constantly hear about a team “peaking at the right time.” It involves teams improving as the tournaments approach. Certainly, a team wants to be playing its best when the championships are being decided.
But football only seems to talk about “improving” or “getting better.”
Maybe it is because football is a sport that is played once a week. Who knows?
What I do know is that the Bearcats have had some of the most impressive outings in several years since the blocked extra point led to a pizza party.
Peach will agree.
“They believe in each other and play well together,” he says. “I feel good about what is going on right now. It is a group that genuinely likes each other.”
It's called chemistry. That chemistry has probably more to do with big wins than the 40-yard dash or the bench press. It is elusive, sometimes difficult to measure.
And it is undoubtedly what Anderson developed through off-season conditioning, pre-season practice and a 3-3 start. And it is why the Bearcats have won more playoff games in one season than any Anderson team in history.
Quite a statement from a team that suffered heavy graduation losses, including the star.
“In sports, you just never know,” Peach said. “You never know.”
Just hold the mushrooms please.

Follow John Herndon at www.twitter.com/ANewsJPHerndon.