While most deemed it a time to celebrate on East Carter’s home field, senior Blake Mayo couldn’t block out a sense of sadness.
As the Raiders soaked up a rare victory — just the fourth in their last 40 games — Mayo dwelled on the thought that his football career was officially over.
“Everybody was all happy,” Mayo recalled of the 41-18 defeat of Morgan County. “We finally played well and we won. But I was tore up. I thought, I’m never going to play football again.”
Into the picture comes Kentucky Christian University.
Mayo signed a letter of intent with the Grayson-based school on Friday afternoon at East Carter High School.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder will play for new KCU head coach Gene Peterson, who took over for former coach Mike Furrey during the offseason.
Now Marshall’s wide receivers coach, Furrey parted ways with the Knights after guiding the program to a remarkable turnaround in two seasons. The team went 4-7 in 2011 and 7-4 in 2012 all while ensconcing a new brand of football complete with a brand new stadium.
“They’ve really improved,” Mayo said. “They’re on the right track ... well, I guess, we’re on the right track.”
Mayo said he is one of just two East Carter graduates set to play college football. Cade Stidham is expected to walk on at Eastern Kentucky University, according to Mayo.
Being close to home was a big factor for Mayo, who also visited Hanover College in southeastern Indiana.
“My family can come watch me play,” he said.
A continuous battle with injuries proved it difficult for Mayo to get noticed much during his senior season. He missed nearly six total games.
The versatile Mayo was set to play quarterback, and he did so in the Raiders’ first game. However, during that contest against Raceland, Mayo suffered a hip pointer and a fractured growth plate in his pelvis.
Just three minutes into the third game, he broke his hand while trying to make a tackle against Boyd County.
The adversity was borderline overwhelming.
“It was rough, it gets to you at times,” he said. “It can tear you down. I had put all my time into football for the last eight years of my life. But I just had to get better and go play, not really think about it.”
Mayo still managed 25 tackles in his limited action. He played a safety/outside linebacker hybrid position.
As a junior, Mayo earned All-Eastern Kentucky Conference honors and was All-Area honorable mention. He tallied 39 tackles and two fumble recoveries, rushed for 281 yards on 41 carries, threw for two touchdowns in seven attempts and grabbed seven catches for 209 yards and three scores. That was all in eight games as a torn hamstring sidelined him at the end of the season.
Mayo partly credited East Carter coach Zack Moore, formerly KCU’s coach, for allowing him to thrive on defense.
“I remember him saying, ‘I know you’ve grown a lot since sophomore year, but you’d be better suited at outside linebacker or safety,’” Mayo said. “He put me in a spot that really made me excel at my game.”
Mayo plans to major in biology.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2664.