Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 22, 2012

McPeeks still in game mode for holidays

Mark Maynard
The Independent

WESTWOOD — Sarah McPeek’s husband gets his wish today: An extra helping of football.

Sarah’s husband is Nathan McPeek, the head football coach at Fairview High School, which plays host to Hazard in Friday’s Class A semifinals in Westwood. It has been Nate’s goal to be preparing a team for battle on Thanksgiving Day, she said.

“That has always been his dream, apparently,” Sarah said. “The last couple of years, where we’ve been in the regional (finals) games, he’d say ‘I really want to have practice on Thanksgiving. I don’t get to, but it’s OK.’’’

That changes today. McPeek will be guiding the Eagles through preparation for the biggest game in Fairview’s history.

His mind isn’t on drumsticks and stuffing. It’s on dive plays and linebacker stunts.

“I know what time my mom is eating, that’s all I know,” Sarah said.

The life of a wife of a high school football coach can be interesting, perplexing and exhilarating. The husband is absorbed with X’s and O’s, seemingly endless views of game video, late night phone calls from players and anguish leading up to Friday nights and then second-guessing on Saturday mornings. It’s an endless and sometimes vicious cycle that has brought down the best of men.

“He’s constantly watching film,” she said. “He bought me an iPad for Christmas and I’m pretty sure it’s his now since he discovered the Huddle App where he can download all the films. He’s constantly working on plays; I find them all over the house. But it’s fun.  He’s always focused on football. On Thursday nights he has a hard time sleeping but he doesn’t complain about it. He loves the drive to work on Fridays during the season.”

Sarah didn’t grow up that much of a football fan while attending Boyd County High School, where she graduated in 2000. Sarah, who is an English teacher at Boyd County Middle School, wasn’t working in the school system when she was introduced to Nathan, who was an assistant coach for the Boyd County Lions. He graduated from Russell High School in 2000 but Sarah and Nate never knew each other until after college.

A friend of Sarah’s set them up and it was magic even though football really had nothing to do with it.

“We met and that was it,” Sarah said. “I’d never heard of him. I didn’t know he played at Marshall. He had just gotten back from (Green Bay) Packers camp.”

So it wasn’t McPeek’s considerable football knowledge and skills that won over Sarah.

“He’s just such a good guy,” she said.

When Sarah was in high school, she went to Boyd County games more for the social aspect than the fan aspect. “I’d go to games until it got cold,” she said. “I really don’t handle the cold weather well at all. I’m thinking August is football weather. I’m the girl in the sleeping bag at the game (when it gets cold).”

Sarah’s attitude about football though has changed dramatically, especially when it comes to Fairview football.

“Now I’m a big-time fan,” she said. “I understood it (before) but not nearly as well as I do now. I have learned so much over the years.”

She can also get defensive when she hears the noise from those not happy with Fairview’s success.

“Lately, with the recruiting accusations, I’m tired of hearing it,” she said. “It’s always around people who don’t know he’s my wife. Everybody at Fairview knows who I am.”

Not because she’s a loudmouth or anything. Sarah says she’ll cheer for all she’s worth but never criticizes officials or opponents. Her husband is always complimentary of the opponent before and after games, too.

“He does try to be classy,” she said. “I’ve heard him yelling on our sidelines ‘Act like you’ve got some class!’ I’m so proud of him when he does that. He understands how important that is to a program.”

Nathan does bring losses home with him though, she said, but he only beats up himself with the what if questions.

“He was really sick over that one,” she said, when asked about the 20-18 loss to Pikeville in last year’s regional final. “He’s not himself that Saturday (after a loss). He’s kind of quiet, thinking. He’ll say ‘It just kills me. If we’d just done this or done that.’’’

But Sarah said she and Nate get along famously. They never fight and seldom have a harsh word for each other. “The only time we get on each other’s nerves is the dead period (when coaches can have no contact with players). That time kind of drives him crazy.”

Which, in turns, drives her crazy, she said.

The McPeeks don’t have any children yet so it’s easy to stay out of his way during the season when game preparation has most of his attention. He’ll have to do a little more juggling when children come into the picture. But, for now, Sarah gives him all the space and support he needs.

Sarah likes the close games the most although she admits the butterflies in her stomach flutter practically non-stop. She expects plenty of those butterflies on Friday when the Eagles take the field against Hazard with the winner earning a berth in the Class A finals next week.

“When it comes to the close ones, I feel like I’m going to die,” she said. I think it’s going to be a good game (Friday) regardless of what happens. He told me: ‘I’d tell if you I thought we didn’t have a chance. We got a chance. We’re going to have to play well and play hard, but we have a shot.’’’

That’s enough to fire up Sarah McPeek, who will make sure her sleeping bag is packed and ready.

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