Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 26, 2013

'Difficult week' at Fairview

Players rally around one another, coach; Eagles win amid KHSAA investigation

Aaron Snyder
The Independent

WESTWOOD — After finishing off a 49-14 victory over Nicholas County, Fairview’s players gathered at their usual spot around the flagpole for a postgame huddle and prayer.

As head coach Nathan McPeek made his way to the circle, the group collectively chanted, “Coach McPeek! Coach McPeek! Coach McPeek!”

It’s been a difficult few days at Fairview, according to players, as rumors and speculation have swirled around the program. The Kentucky High School Athletic Association confirmed this week that there is an investigation involving the potential eligibility of a student-athlete at the school.

School officials said they are currently awaiting a ruling by the KHSAA and, until then, can’t comment on the matter.

What is certain is that McPeek remains the head coach, at least through the end of the season. Garry McPeek has resigned as principal and athletic director and has been reassigned to Fairview Elementary, where he is now a physical education teacher. He is no longer an assistant coach. Eric Hale is the acting high school principal.

Nathan McPeek addressed his players about the situation during the school day Friday. While most specific details aren’t being divulged, McPeek did talk some about what was said during the mid-morning meeting.

“I just told that I love them, told them the truth,” McPeek said. “I told them that it’s a bad situation but the truth will eventually come out.

“We’re going to continue to fight (on the field), assuming they don’t ban us from postseason play,” he said. “And I don’t think what has occurred warrants that (penalty).”

To express unity, the majority of Eagles took the “F” decals off the sides of their helmets, leaving solid black headwear. On the back of each helmet was a piece of tape with “61 brothers” etched onto it. Originally, there were 68 players on the roster, but it has diminished by seven over the course of the season, due to a few freshmen quitting and injuries, according to McPeek. He said 61 dressed on Friday.

“We wanted to prove that we were coming out for our team,” said right tackle Anthony Roark, one of 13 seniors recognized on Senior Night. “Everybody on the team has each other’s backs.”

“We wanted to make a statement,” said sophomore quarterback Alex Roy, “that we play for our team, our community ... the name on our chest. It’s been a difficult week.”

McPeek said he didn’t condone the helmet-altering act, and he realizes it could be taken a different way than the players intended.

“It wasn’t a disrespectful thing in their eyes,” said the sixth-year head coach. “They just wanted to play for each other, wanted to band together as a family. It was a sign of unity.

“It wasn’t something I suggested,” he made clear. “After I talked to them this morning, they were angry at some of the things that have occurred. I’m ultimately the head coach, and they still know we represent the program, the school and everybody involved. But they’re also angry, and they had to have some type of release.”

McPeek said he had hoped to replenish the helmets with F’s, but they didn’t have sufficient supply to do so.

Senior kicker Zac Christensen chose to keep an F on one side. He said he felt like it was the right thing to do.

“Because I played for the future and past Eagles,” Christensen said. “And for the little ones, because they look up to us. Even past players look up to us.”

While the crowd wasn’t large, by any means, a good deal of fans showed up in support of the team. Several fans lined up with encouraging signs displayed as the team rolled into Fairview Stadium on the school bus from the elementary school.

“I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me in support,” McPeek said. “It means a lot to me, my family and this program.”

Fairview (8-1) suffered its first regular season loss since 2010 last weekend against Raceland.

McPeek said he was proud of his kids for bouncing back from that and blocking out the noise surrounding them.

“What a great job by the kids,” he said. “You can’t ask for much better than that.”

Armonde Yetts rushed for 61 yards and two touchdowns, Tanner Dolen carried six times for 109 yards and a score and Roy was 4 of 4 passing with 134 yards and three touchdowns. Blake Smith, Fred Hightower and Dolen accounted for the TD receptions.

“Our line was awesome,” Roy said.

Jalen Thomas wiggled and danced his way to the end zone on a 23-yard TD rush in the third quarter to cap the scoring.

Running back Kurtlen Brown missed the game with a high ankle sprain.

Nicholas County fell to 2-7.

Fairview will hold a school board meeting on Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the board office. More details on the current state of Fairview athletics and Eagles football are expected to surface then.

AARON SNYDER can be reached at asnyder@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664.