Peach 'pleased but not satisfied'

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By John Herndon

There are certain steps a football team - make that any athletic program - has to take if it wants to bring home state championships.

The words "state championship" and "Anderson County football" had not been intertwined in even the wildest of dreams for nearly a decade when Mark Peach officially took the challenge of restoring Bearcat football glory on Dec. 2, 2004.

But on that Thursday, after Peach met with some of what would be his first Bearcat team and took time for the obligatory photo ops, he sat down with me for what turned out to be a 90-minute interview.

Toward the end of the meeting, I asked Peach if it was realistic to believe Anderson County could be playing for a state championship some day.

Relating a program that had not won more than three games in a season in five years to the words "state championship" might have seemed weird, wacky or even uttered by a delusional person in need of serious help.

But Peach, a positive sort who could motivate a weekend hacker into challenging Tiger Woods, saw no reason to doubt.

"Sure, why not?" he said less than two hours after being officially introduced as Bearcat football coach.

He was serious.

Trips to the state finals at Hancock County and Franklin-Simpson, a regional championship at Paul Dunbar and a Top 25 ranking at Campbellsville University gave Peach the credibility to make the statements.

This Friday night, we might see how much credibility Peach's team has when the Bearcats host Lincoln County in the final tune-up for the regular season.

Granted, it will be a scrimmage game. No matter what happens, it will not show up in the standings.

But it won't be meaningless.

"I told the kids we have a heck of a challenge for us this week," Peach said a few moments after his team put on an impressive performance at Atherton in the season's first scrimmage Friday night.

While score is not kept, Anderson scored eight times and probably would have had more if not for the scrimmage rules that kept possessions at 10 plays. Atherton garnered just one first down against the Bearcats' first-string defense, a long touchdown pass that an Anderson defender deflected but took a strange bounce into a receiver's arm for a score.

Jacob Russell looked like a big time quarterback, throwing for a pair of touchdowns and winging one throw about 50 yards downfield. It hit the receiver in stride.

Running backs Kendrick Harvey and Ben Walker ran with authority and defensive back B.J. Robinson picked off a pass.

And that young line that people have been wondering about? Simply put, it dominated the Louisville team.

"I was pleased," Peach said. "We did a lot of good things. We made mistakes, but that is expected the first time out. The mistakes we made are correctible.

"I'm pleased, but I'm not satisfied."

That is the championship attitude Peach has been trying to instill in his program -enjoy the moment, but get better. Peach probably will never be satisfied until the Bearcats are 15-0 and bring home the school's first big football trophy.

Granted, Friday was against Atherton, a program long removed from athletic glory.

The key was that Anderson looked like a competent football team intent on showing that last year's 11-1 finish was no fluke.

It will be much tougher Friday against Lincoln, a program that was a district foe for a short time a decade ago.

The Patriots won a regional championship last year and have been to the state finals twice since 2000. To compete with a program like that is the next step.

Anderson has not taken on a program of that caliber since losing to Lexington Catholic in the final game of the 2006 season. Anderson lost that one 36-0, but realistically, no one thought the Bearcats had a chance that night.

They were only in the second step of the Peach plan.

In 2005, Anderson learned to compete, even though the Bearcats finished just 1-9. The following year, Anderson learned to win, going 6-4. A year ago, they were unbeaten before losing in the playoffs.

But last year, many questioned how good the Bearcats really were because of what many called a weak schedule. That criticism was probably a bit harsh, but was understandable.

While the regular season schedule is very similar to last year's, and the Lincoln scrimmage won't count in the standings, we'll find out a lot about the 2008 edition of Anderson County football Friday night.

And we might see if Anderson is still on the course Peach has set forth from day one.