Throughout the history of Somerset High School School athletics, there have been many talented multi-sports superstar athletes. Four of the most heralded multi-sports Briar Jumper athletes will be inducted into the Somerset High School Athletics 2021 Hall of Fame class. Max Messamore (1975), John Cole (2008), Shawn Sandusky (1990) and Mike Griffis (1974) will be inducted into the Briar Jumpers' Athletics Hall of Fame later this year.
It is hard to imagine a more qualified contributor to Somerset High School athletics than Max Messamore, both as an athlete during his years at SHS and in his 46 years of coaching other Briar Jumpers.
A 1975 graduate, Max was a stellar three-sport athlete at Somerset. As a two-year starter at quarterback, Messamore threw for 3,600 yards and 34 touchdowns. He led the Briar Jumpers to an undefeated regular gridiron season in his senior year, and lost only seven games throughout his four years at Somerset High School. All of those losses were to either 5A or 6A schools. With Messamore at the helm, SHS football teams won district championships in 1973 and 1974, and were regional champs in 1974. He was named honorable mention All-State by the Louisville Courier-Journal, First Team All-CKC, and First team All-State by the Lexington Herald-Leader.
On the baseball diamond, Max started at catcher both his junior and senior years as part of a program that was regional champions all four years. Some of Messamore’s fondest memories with Somerset baseball were where he played a pivotal role on both the 1974 State Championship and 1975 State Runner-Up teams.
As a forward on the basketball team, Messamore played for three years and started at that position his senior year.
He attended Morehead State University upon graduation.
For Max, his contributions as a Briar Jumper coach picked up right where his playing days left off. He coached for Somerset Youth Midget League football from 1976 through 1998. In 1998, he began a football coaching tenure at Meece Middle School – that continues still today. During that time, he has built a very successful program and won three state championships. Messamore has also served as an assistant coach for the SHS varsity football program.
Max was also instrumental in starting the Meece Middle School baseball program, coaching in its inaugural 2001 season and also again from 2004 through 2006. As head coach on the middle school diamond, his record was 80-6.
During his years at Somerset High School from 2004 – 2008, John Cole took the opportunity to participate in four sports as a Briar Jumper. In doing so, he earned twelve varsity letters throughout his career.
John started at second base for the SHS baseball team all four years. A highlight was a regional championship in 2007, as Cole was named to the 12h Region All-Tournament Team. Known for his speed, Cole holds the SHS career record for stolen bases at 118.
On the hardcourt, John played for three seasons and started at point guard for two of those years. During that time, he was fortunate to play on three All "A" 12th Region championship teams and enjoy the magic of the All "A" State Tournament at McBrayer Arena, where the Briar Jumper crowds were legendary.
His senior year, Cole decided to try and run track alongside baseball. This culminated in a state championship performance in the 100-meter dash, and a third-place finish in the 200-meter dash.
John was the beneficiary of a highly successful football program with a strong coaching staff led by Jay Cobb, earning a regional championship in 2006. A two-time District Player of the Year award winner, he holds the SHS single season record with 86 receptions (2006) and the #2 position as well with 78 (2007). His single season scoring for SHS ranks second overall with 35 touchdowns and 212 points in 2006, and 4th with 27 touchdowns and 167 points in 2007. Cole’s career SHS records include his 237 receptions and 482 points scored.
Cole holds the KHSAA record at 69 for career touchdowns, and is tied for the record of touchdown receptions in a season at 28. His single season receiving of 1,896 yards in 2006 ranks second in the KHSAA, as does his career total of 4,981 yards. His 237 career receptions ranks him at sixth all-time.
In 2007, Cole was the Kentucky Gatorade Football Player of the Year, and was also a state finalist for the Wendy’s High School Heisman Award. He was named to the Courier-Journal First team All-State team as a wide receiver in 2006 and 2007.
After graduating in 2008, Cole attended Vanderbilt University on a football scholarship. He was named most valuable receiver in 2009, was elected to the 2010 football leadership council, and was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll all five years.
When looking to describe the epitome of excellence in small school athletics, the Somerset High School career of Shawn Sandusky comes to mind. His versatility and athletic prowess allowed him to excel not only in football on both sides of the line, but in track and field as well.
It is always a great accomplishment to be named All State in a sport, and hailing from a small school can sometimes make that more challenging. So it is indeed impressive that Shawn was not only named to the Associated Press First Team as a defensive linebacker in 1989, but to the Courier-Journal Second Team as an offensive lineman that same year as well.
For over twenty years, Sandusky was the all-time leading tackler for the Briar Jumpers, with 393 tackles over the span of his playing career. Though that record was surpassed in 2011, he remains second in all-time tackles at Somerset High School.
Adding to his SHS athletic legacy, in his senior year, Sandusky was the 1990 State Runner-Up in the shot put.
Sandusky attended Eastern Kentucky University upon graduation.
Shawn has continued to contribute to football in the Somerset community, as he became involved as a coach with Somerset Youth Football over twenty years ago. He eventually joined the coaching staff at Meece Middle School, where he continues to be a part of a very successful program. That success includes three middle school state championships.
It is fair to say that Mike Griffis made the most of a challenging situation when his family moved from Clarksburg, West Virginia to Somerset, Kentucky in the middle of his high school years. After staying behind to finish his junior football season, he enrolled at Somerset High School and began what was a short but very accomplished career as a Briar Jumper.
That first spring, Griffis joined the SHS track team. He garnered first place regional and CKC honors in the shot put both his junior and senior years, and helped his team to a regional championship in 1974. Mike placed fourth in the state in 1973, and followed that with a state championship his senior season. His put of 56’ 41/2” still stands as an SHS record after 47 years. Adding to his accolades in the field events, Griffis won the region in the discus and was CKC runner-up both seasons he competed.
On the gridiron, 1973 stands as the only year Mike donned the purple and gold. As one of many talented players that benefitted from a strong coaching staff, he helped lead the Briar Jumpers to a district championship. In recognition of his outstanding play, Griffis was named to the Kentucky AP All-State second team as an offensive tackle. He was also recognized by the Louisville Courier-Journal as a Class AA 1st team All-State and 2nd team overall All-State defensive tackle.
Mike received interest from several SEC schools – including the University of Kentucky – but decided to follow his heart instead. After graduation in 1974, Mike married the next year and has been blessed with three sons. He served as a pastor in Barbourville for twenty years, and then joined his brother to work in youth ministry, which he continues today.