There once was a boy who always sat in the classroom’s back row.
He quietly and diligently racked up good grades, one after another, year after year.
He aced the toughest of tests, turned in even the most tedious of assignments and was never late.
He challenged himself with the tallest tasks, and the most time-consuming projects.
When the teacher asked a question, he hardly ever raised his hand, never answering until called upon. He didn’t crave extra attention.
The majority of the time, his steady yet silent success went unnoticed.
One day, though, the boy snapped. He broke out of his shell like a butterfly crushing through a chrysalis.
His voice had to be heard. His personality, it had to shine.
He couldn’t sit back any longer and let life pass him by.
Johnson Central, you have our full attention.
The Golden Eagles felt like they delivered a message on Friday night. Their coach had something to get off his chest after his team gave Ironton its first loss of the season in Paintsville.
“We wanted to make a statement that we play on a big level,” said Johnson Central ninth-year coach Jim Matney.
“We keep having big wins and big wins everywhere but it’s kind of like, oh, it’s that school in the mountains,” he added. “It doesn’t seem like we ever get any respect. It’s an absolute continuing battle over the nine years I’ve been here to win respect.”
Johnson Central is 81-24 overall under Matney, and the Golden Eagles have been superb at home in his years.
It’s a beautiful stadium, by the way, for those who haven’t seen it.
Last season, J.J. Jude set the state career rushing record. Matney deemed the overall perception unaffected.
“We had the state’s all-time leading rusher, and they are still doubters,” he said. “People are like, well he’s OK, but he’s not that good because he plays at Johnson Central.
“We’re very motivated by the fact that we’re stereotyped. We’re very motivated by the fact that no matter how well we do, our kids never seem to get any credit.”
Matney jumped off his soapbox, but not before revisiting a past instance that summed up his point.
“One year (2007) we had Louisville Central 42-0 at the half, and the next year the University of Kentucky signs three of their players,” Matney said. “None of our kids were ever offered.”
Johnson Central, we see that hand raised.
Got any since?
‰Ashland hasn’t had this dominant a five-year stretch against Boyd County since ... ever. The Tomcats hold an average winning margin of 37.2 points in the last five in the series.
‰Russell’s defense has given up fewer than 10 points in three straight games. The Red Devils haven’t strung four such efforts in a row since ... 2004. Mason County is next up to try to crack into double digits on the Devils.
‰Lawrence County had not won two games by fewer than six points in the same season since ... 1991. Under Billy Goldsmith, the Bulldogs beat Russell 18-15 and Mason County 20-14 in the playoffs. This season, the Down-to-the-Wire Dawgs have emerged on the smiling side of the scoreboard twice in the final seconds of action — they edged Prestonsburg, 42-41, in Week 3 and Sheldon Clark, 39-33, on Friday.
Four stickers: Cade O’Bryan (Ashland), Jordan Young (Johnson Central), Elijah King (Fairview), Quinton Baker (Ashland), A.J. Cyrus (Lawrence County).
Every week, O’Bryan just makes plays. He gets some extra ink when scoops and scores, but he’s been steady all season long. The senior defensive end is a dynamic dimension to an already good front group without him. In other words, he makes them great.
Young didn’t have an especially stellar start on Friday, but his tough running paid off as it paved the way to a 176-yard, two-TD performance against Ironton.
King is making up for lost time. In just three games, the explosive Eagle has assembled a season’s worth of statistics. On Friday against Grove City Christian, the senior dashed for 225 yards and two TDs to go along with a 56-yard interception return for a score.
Baker is keeping the pedal to the metal. He eclipsed the 200-yard mark for the second time in his young career and found paydirt thrice.
As for Cyrus, he led the Bulldogs back to defeat Sheldon Clark with four rushing touchdowns. He tallied 175 yards on the ground.
Three: Bryant Cathey (Russell), Chris Brewer (Fairview), Aaron Stephens (Ironton), Ricky Goble (Lawrence County).
Two: Tanner Dutey (Ironton), Zach Gound (Johnson Central), Gage Stevens (Russell), Matt Hall (Johnson Central), Blake Prince (Lawrence County).
One: Josh Gound (Johnson Central), Jason Smith (Boyd County), Aaron Elam (Ashland), Mason Rutherford (Fairview), Jimmy Preston (Johnson Central), Lance Evans (Russell).
1. Johnson Central (5-1)
2. Ashland (5-1)
3. Raceland (5-1)
4. Fairview (6-0)
5. Russell (4-2)
6. Lawrence County (3-4)
7. Rowan County (3-4)
NOTE: The battle for the No. 1 and No. 3 spots are extremely close to call. Too close for comfort, really. Remember, don’t take these too seriously. It’s just my opinion. It’ll be settled on the field soon enough (Raceland-Fairview, Oct. 12; Ashland-Johnson Central, Oct. 19).
Class failed! Hardly anybody turned in an assignment and Mr. QB is giving you a week’s detention.
Study hard, and maybe you’ll get next week’s question right.
Tweet the QB
Follow the Quarterback on Twitter, @DindependentQB, for scores on Friday nights and news throughout the week.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2664.
There once was a boy who always sat in the classroom’s back row.
- Local Sports
VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights
Fleming County defeated Lewis County, 66-58, and Ashland beat Greenup County, 81-61, on Monday night at Morehead State University to set up tonight's championship matchup. Tipoff is set for 7.
Ashland cruises past Greenup to 16th Region championship game
Tyler Stewart is known for his unrelenting hustle as one of Ashland’s glue guys.
When the senior guard can pitch in some offense too, as he did Monday in the 16th Region Tournament semifinals, that’s just one more problem for Tomcats opponents.
Stewart scored 20 points, senior Steven Friley posted a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Ashland outscored Greenup County 21-9 in the third quarter to break open what was a seven-point game at halftime and cruise past the Musketeers, 81-61.
Fleming battles back to 16th Region final
A healthy Wilder Williams this season has given Fleming County a whole new dimension.
Prior to his sophomore year, Williams sustained a football injury that resulted in three ankle surgeries and limited him to bench duty last season while the Panthers made their run to the 16th Region championship.
A physical 6-foot-3 player, Williams is making his presence felt around the basket as Fleming County looks to return to the Sweet Sixteen.
AARON SNYDER: Will the next hero be unmasked?
Who will the bat signal shine for tonight?
Or, should I say, the Cat signal?
In the third installment of a trilogy that might rival the Batman three-pack of “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” Fleming County and Ashland will battle in a matchup that has produced a classic clash in each of the last two 16th Region Tournaments.
If the first two collectively served as a gradual progressions to tonight’s scene, the climax could be off the charts.
Corey Gregg was Ashland’s superhero in 2012, when the senior confidently fired a perfect 3-point shot from the right corner. The triple thrust the Tomcats and Panthers into overtime, from which Ashland emerged 79-73 in a first-round game.
Central wins, Lawrence falls in 15th
The biggest concern for Lawrence County coach Josh Cook was staying out of foul trouble.
His team stayed in it all night, and it cost them a spot in the 15th Region title game.
Shelby Valley senior Tyler Carr led four players in double figures with 19 points as the Wildcats knocked off Lawrence County, 72-60, in the semifinals of the 15th Region Tournament at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
“This one hurts,” said Cook. “We’ll learn from this, and I have no doubt that our kids will get back here and finish the job.”
- Fleming hangs tough to beat Lewis Fleming County locked into another fight against Lewis County, which beat the Panthers earlier this season, before winning 66-58 on Monday in Morehead. Wilder Williams posted a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Panthers, who face Ashland on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
- GALLERY: Ashland gets by Greenup County, will meet Fleming in region final Ashland's Steven Friley scored 21 points Monday to lead the Tomcats to an 81-61 win over Greenup County in the 16th Region semifinal in Morehead.
Kittens clamoring for more at state
Ashland girls basketball coaches went the extra mile, and a whole bunch more, to get a first-hand scouting report on the Kittens’ opponent for the State Tournament.
Head coach Bill Bradley and assistant Phil Wittich drove all the way to Henderson — 5 hours, 20 minutes one way Bradley said on the way home — to take in Sunday’s Second Region championship game.
Henderson County, playing on its home floor, defeated University Heights 67-54. The Lady Colonels went unbeaten in their region this season and are 24-5 overall.
EKC hands out hardware
The Eastern Kentucky Conference handed out its 2014 awards on Monday afternoon at a luncheon at Carter Caves.
Barracudas earn kudos from coach
Ashland Area YMCA swimmers impressed coach Ryan Ferguson from start to finish in the three-day Kentucky Y Competitive Swim League State Meet.
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- VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights