OLIVE HILL —
Mike Flannery doesn’t like to be singled out.
Others have equally poured their heart and soul into West Carter football throughout its 40-year history.
Flannery played on the first team, and he’s been a Comets coach for 35 seasons — he started his long-serving stint as a middle school coach in 1978. He still helped with high school that year before going to a full-time high school role shortly thereafter.
For most people at most schools, that’s epic endurance, especially considering West Carter has enjoyed just three total winning seasons.
For Flannery, the late Ralph Asher, Wendell Jones and several other lifelong Comets, there was simply no other way to live.
“If I had a chance to do it another way, go somewhere where there’s championships or whatever, I wouldn’t have changed it,” Flannery said. “I’ve always wanted every kid in this community to have a chance to play football.”
Jones, who retired in 2009, would probably echo those sentiments verbatim.
Asher likely would have too. He passed away in January 2012 at age 76. He was a West Carter football staple from the time he helped start the first JV team in 1972 until the day he died.
Flannery, Jones and Asher had more than 100 years of West Carter coaching experience between them.
“What we’ve had out here over the years I don’t think exists anywhere else,” Flannery said.
“They’re the guys that kept our program going,” said current Comets head coach Kevin Brown, who is in his 16th year.
There’s also Brian Brown, Kevin’s brother, who has been an assistant for 16 years. Both are former players.
Charlie P’Simer and Jamie Wagner, both Comets assistants, are past players.
“I’ve coached everyone on our staff,” said the 57-year-old Flannery.
Now primarily a special teams coach, Flannery has been all over the field. His experience is “invaluable” according to Kevin Brown.
“Not only is he one of my coaches, he’s one of my best friends,” Brown said. “That makes a difference.”
Flannery fell in love with the game as a junior in high school and that fire has never ceased.
Through the years, he’s acquired extensive knowledge from several head coaches with various personalities, all while remaining fairly even-keeled. Flannery began coaching when drinking water during practice was frowned upon, but he never truly had that “old school mentality.”
“His demeanor is pretty calm, always has been,” Brown said. “Not a lot of emotion.
“He’s very technical in his coaching, relates to the kids well,” Brown added. “He’s a very good football coach.”
Flannery’s turned down chances to become West Carter’s head coach multiple times.
“I never felt it was in the best interest of the program,” Flannery said. “I was looking out for the program, not for myself.”
Flannery’s coached an estimate of about 1,500 kids.
“I’ve had a chance to coach with some really good coaches,” said Flannery, referring to a group that includes Vic Marsh, Mike Jones, Randy Shepard, John Dyer and Terry Osborne. “When people say, well why didn’t you win? If you’re winning, that means you’ve got good players. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t.
“We don’t have kids moving in or any of that stuff. We look at our seventh grade team, and we know what we’re going to have in a couple years.”
Flannery was able to coach his sons, Patrick and Thomas, each of whom went on to play college football — Thomas at Kentucky and Morehead State, Patrick at Georgetown.
Total time spent in the locker room, film room, weight room and on the field is impossible to calculate for most coaches.
“I’m probably making $1 an hour coaching,” he said with a chuckle. “If somebody’s coaching for the money, they’re really a bad financial planner.”
West Carter is battling through another tough season — the Comets are 0-8 with a home meeting against Lewis County on Friday — but “when we go to practice every evening, those guys still get it on,” Flannery said.
“We’re looking at the big picture,” he said. “These kids are still practicing hard. We think that there’s some good things coming down the road.”
And while he admitted there’s not too many years left in the tank, Flannery will probably witness that success from the sideline.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664. Look here every Tuesday for another installment of “Sidekicks” throughout the high school football season.
Assistant for close-knit West Carter staff in 35th season
OLIVE HILL —
Mike Flannery doesn’t like to be singled out.
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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