Ivan McGlone has some simple advice for Fairview High School’s football team and head coach Nathan McPeek in preparation for Friday’s Class A championship showdown with Mayfield.
Believe it can happen.
Believe it will happen.
“If you get this far, you have to believe in yourself and I think they do,” said the longtime Russell High School coach who won state championships in 1978 and 2005. “You can’t think in terms of you’re not the better team. Once you start playing, it may just be your day. It doesn’t matter how good Mayfield is supposed to be or whatever.”
McGlone has more than a casual interest in Fairview since Nathan McPeek and Garry McPeek — the school’s principal, athletic director and assistant football coach — are both former hard-working Red Devil linemen for him.
“Nate’s got a background, he was a college player and Garry is there giving him encouragement,” McGlone said. “It really doesn’t surprise me he’s had this success.”
The week leading up to the championship game can be a hectic one and makes keeping your focus difficult.
But McGlone says the Eagles have what it takes to bring the state championship to northeastern Kentucky.
“I watched their practice last week and it was nice and sharp,” he said. “He has some good football players, too. That never hurts. You hear about them but never get a chance to see them. Players like (Devon) Turner and (Elijah) King give them a chance. The fullback (Chris Brewer) is good, too. Those guys are a handful. I’m glad we didn’t play them.”
Nobody has been able to handle Fairview’s relentless running attack in a 14-0 season. The Eagles unofficially broke the state record for rushing yards in a season during last week’s 40-6 rout over Hazard. Fairview, with three backs with more than 1,300 yards, stands at 5,823 with one game remaining. Mercer County rushed for 5,780 in 2006.
Fairview (679 points, 48.5 ppg.) and Mayfield (636, 45.4) are the two highest-scoring teams among the 32 in Class A.
McGlone watched Fairview firsthand, from the front row of the Hazard stands, last week. He came away impressed enough he could leave in the middle of the third quarter.
“I was freezing to death and it was obvious who was going to win,” he said. “Fairview is very physical. They hit you. I think that’s something that’s lost on people.”
McGlone said making it to the state championship should never be taken for granted by a coach, player or fan.
“You never know if you’re going to get back or not,” he said. “What happened to me, we won that in ’78 and I thought ‘We’ll be back there in a few years.’ I wasn’t counting on 27 (years).
“Getting there is big, it’s big for the program. They know you can coach. Kids are more likely to apply themselves.”
McGlone, who was 40 when he coached in his first championship game, has taken Russell to the state finals three times. The Red Devils lost in the 2006 championship game to Mercer County.
“Nobody thought we should have even been in the game and I thought we should have won it,” he said. “You just never know.”
Russell fell 15-13 in that heartbreaking final.
Nathan McPeek, 30, played on his share of championship teams as a four-year offensive tackle at Marshall University. He was a three-time Mid-American Conference player and the Herd won the MAC three times.
McGlone remembers when he started for the first time as a sophomore left tackle against Greenup County. Garry McPeek, Nathan’s uncle, was the Musketeers’ head coach.
“Garry had his defensive tackle try to draw Nathan offsides and he jumped twice,” McGlone said. “I told one of the coaches I can’t believe a guy’s uncle would do that. I put a guy in for Nathan and told him to look at the ground and don’t move, we’re running right.”
McGlone is impressed with how Nathan has come along in his coaching career. He appreciated an invitation to speak with the team last week.
“Nathan brings people out to speak all the time. I guess he ran out of people and asked me.”
Nathan McPeek will take all the sage advice he can get from people like Ivan McGlone.
After all, McGlone has already been there and done that.
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2648.