by Jeff Neal
When I arrived in Kentucky from Dayton, Ohio, in 1979, I immediately noticed that football was anything but a glamour sport in most of the Bluegrass.
Oh, there were pockets of great interest. I marveled at Clark Field and the Somerset High program. It was definitely the area’s No. 1 football machine.
At that time, the only fall sport at Pulaski County High was cross country.
And during that era, I could honestly say that high school football in Kentucky was light years behind my home state of Ohio.
Fast forward a few decades and that certainly is not the case anymore.
Just look at the results from Friday night, and one can see that area football teams are no longer taking a back seat to Buckeyes. Or to basketball.
The Pulaski County Maroons defeated Madison Southern to remain undefeated and win a second regional championship for that school.
The Somerset Briar Jumpers knocked off Prestonsburg to garner that school’s 16th regional title, and the fifth consecutive regional crown since coach Robbie Lucas took the helm.
And down south a bit, the Wayne County Cardinals defeated Louisville Central to add a football regional championship trophy to go along with all that school’s basketball hardware.
Even though Wayne County was anything but a football school back in the 70s and 80s, they produced some great players.
My personal favorite was a hard-nosed running back named Dormus Smith.
His son, Aaron, is now one of the area’s top players at Pulaski County.
At Pulaski County, the program got off the ground in 1982 under the guidance of local grid icon Jerry Johns.
Those early Pulaski teams took their lumps, but coach Johns and his players laid the groundwork for the program that exists today. At first, there was a passing curiosity about football at PC. That has grown into a fan base that is every bit as rabid for football as it is for basketball.
Back in 1986 if you had told me that would one day be the case, I would not have believed you.
Meanwhile, Somerset High School has maintained its level of excellence — even with two county schools that has built exceptional football programs as well.
Back in the day, if you wanted to play football, you went to SHS.
Now, of course, that isn’t the case. It’s a testimony to Somerset’s tradition that it is still rolling up championships after adjusting to not being the only game in town.
This success is the culmination of a lot of hard work from a lot of football greats who have toiled for local schools.
Coaches like William Clark, Jim Williams, Jerry Johns and John Cain.
Ron Cain, John Brown, Jeff Perkins and Dale Anderson.
And all of the players they guided who helped spark an interest in local football.
They called Danville “Title Town” after the Admirals and Boyle County Rebels dominated football teams from around the state for well over a decade.
Maybe those days are here for Somerset.