Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

November 28, 2012

MARK MAYNARD: Is Fairview best Class A team ever in area?

ASHLAND — Fairview High School brings some gaudy statistics and a perfect 14-0 record into Friday afternoon’s Class A state football championship game with Mayfield.

So, are the Eagles the best Class A team in northeastern Kentucky history?

Some would say yes while others would beg to differ.

If Fairview makes it to 15-0, there’s almost no other argument to be made that the Eagles are, indeed, the best in the small class.

But unless or until that happens, several other schools could make a claim.

Let’s discuss.

Some of Fairview’s own teams, like the 2003 Eagles that included future NFL player Chris Jennings and hard-hitting Stephen Crisp, could easily make a top 10 list of all-time Class A teams in the area.

Ditto for Fairview’s 2004 version.

Even last year’s Eagles, which went 12-1, would be in the discussion.

Raceland can chime in with some great teams as well. The Rams’ best may have been 2008 when Lexington Christian Academy came from behind in the regional championship to spoil Raceland’s perfect ride. The Rams were 10-0 in 1996 until being steamrolled in the opening round of the playoffs by Newport Catholic.

The Rams were also awfully good in 1987 and 1988 with James Boggs leading the way but fell victim to state champion Beechwood.

Raceland and those Fairview teams had the misfortune of being in an alignment that included northern Kentucky powerhouses like Beechwood, Newport Catholic and Bellevue. It was hard to escape that murderer’s row.

The two words Raceland and Fairview can agree to hate the most: northern Kentucky.

Paintsville can put in a claim, too, as having some of the best teams in northeastern Kentucky history. The Tigers were state runners-up in 1978 and 1985 with some great teams. Paintsville also had an 11-1 team in 1960 with Mike “The Missile” Minix but fell to Ludlow in the playoffs. Paintsville went 19-1-1 in 1962 and 1963, but didn’t qualify for the playoffs either of those seasons. It was a lot tougher then than it is today to reach the postseason.

One of the best of Class A may well be McKell’s 1967 team. The Bulldogs, featuring a backfield of Butch Timberlake and Don Gullett, went 10-3. The losses were to eventual Class AA champion Ashland (21-20) and Class AA top-ranked Harrison County (20-6) in the regular season. Mount Sterling eliminated McKell 21-13 in the state semifinals. Don McReynolds, a former Ashland Tomcat assistant coach and a freelance photographer for the newspaper, played on that Mount Sterling team that upset the Bulldogs.

McKell also had a 10-0 team in 1962 that didn’t qualify for the playoffs. The Kentucky High School Athletic Association instituted the playoff format in 1959.

And if you want to turn the clock back even further, Catlettsburg High School played a hard-nosed brand of football like few others. The Wildcats’ best team was arguably in 1953 when coach Charlie Snyder’s team went 10-0-1, including a victory over Ashland.

But at the end of the day, it’s going to be hard to top Fairview’s 15-0 record, if that happens on Friday. Even if the Eagles lose to Mayfield — and Dave Cantrall’s Rating the State has them as a 21-point underdog — it’s hard to imagine a much better Class A team in area history. They have nearly 6,000 yards rushing, with a trio of 1,000-yard rushers, a hard-hitting defense and an unblemished record after 14 games.

But, as you can see, small school football has always been alive and well in northeastern Kentucky. This Fairview team is just the latest in a string of Class A powerhouses.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.

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