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Peach's post-game comments echo '68 Cats' attitudes

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By John Herndon

Watching Anderson County slosh through the first half of Friday's football game at West Jessamine, it was almost eerie to think of those words of wisdom that greeted people who drove down Broadway last week.

I hear and I forget.

I was not privy to what Bearcat coach Mark Peach said to his team last week, but I would have bet money that he talked repeatedly about West Jessamine being better than the team Anderson drubbed 58-0 a year ago. I would bet he tried to keep his team from looking ahead to this week's district game.

But getting up 14-0 on your first two possessions can make it easy to forget what got you there. It happened Friday night.

I do and I understand.

After a nice halftime, ah, discussion, with Peach and defensive coordinator Duane Hammons, the Bearcats had a much stronger resemblance to a team that has now won 13 of its last 14 games. They plugged holes and hit hard, seeming to understand what Peach told them in his post-game speech.

"You have got to put your heart, mind, body and spirit into it," Peach told his troops moments after a 35-12 win.

The kind of tradition that Peach is trying to rebuild is one that never worries if a team will show up. It's an attitude that sees an overmatched opponent as an opportunity for those who are well down the depth chart to get a lot of playing time.

As Anderson proved Friday, the Bearcats aren't there yet. They are getting there, no question, but Peach wants to instill his mantra, "We are pleased but not satisfied."

And it is ironic that the honored guests at this week's game put an exclamation point on a five-year run that saw Anderson win 41 games and lose just 10.

At the time Anderson had less than 400 students, yet routinely beat larger schools and 40 years ago next week, pulled off one of the greatest wins in Anderson history when the Bearcats whipped mighty Tates Creek.

As I have talked with several members of that team over the last month or two, I asked what they learned from one of the great periods of Anderson sports.

"You have got to be intense," Bob Ware said in July. "We had 14 seniors, which was a lot for a school our size then, but you didn't have to motivate any of them."

Ware, a guard-linebacker who is still the only Anderson football player to receive any kind of All-American honor, was the epitome of intensity.

"The most intense football player I have ever seen," remembers Dutch Ishmael, an assistant coach in 1968. "He was such a nice kid, always respectful and almost mild-mannered off the field."

Mike Crask, who was a 150-pound guard and defensive end, agreed. "Everybody talked about how good Bobby Ware was. He was the man. If Bobby bumped you or said, 'Good hit,' to you, you knew it was."

"We got along so well," remembers Arthur McKee, one of the greatest running backs ever at Anderson County. "We knew each other so well and it was like one big family. One thing about that team was that we were always ready to play."

"You have to play as a team," says Crask. Now a supervisor for Norfolk Southern railroad, Crask says he tells his employees, "This is our team. We are only as good as our team here. I tell them that nearly every day."

The current Bearcats are learning what it takes to be a champion. As the '68 team can tell them, it might not happen on the football field but eventually in life, the same lessons will pop up.

"This was a great lesson in life," Peach said Friday. "If you do things half-heartedly, chances are you won't get good results, whether in football or in life."

Chances are that Friday's guests of honor would agree whole-heartedly.