Enjoying chapters of one’s sports writing career near each end of the Appalachian Mountains helps a person acquire countless friends, real and social media varieties included.
The ones in my camp who are least familiar with Kentucky eventually arrive at the same, perhaps obvious question: Does Scott County High School ever lose? In anything?
You laugh, because you know the answer is pretty much no. That success story was true years before I arrived, and it probably will continue for the foreseeable future, even though that winning will be divided between two schools.
All that said, hopefully you enjoyed the 2018 calendar year, because I can’t imagine this community has ever seen one quite like it. Nor would any rational person expect to see another one in which every (for lack of a better word) “major” program performs at a championship or near-championship level.
Maybe you’re familiar with those director’s cup-type awards that the NCAA and NAIA present each year, using a point system to determine which program celebrated the most across-the-board success.
If the KHSAA cobbled one together, it’s safe to say SCHS gave the other public schools in the state a sound thrashing this year, no matter what rubric or measuring stick is involved.
Being the eyes, ears and tweeting index fingers of record in this county gave me the privilege of covering a state championship game in all three sports seasons.
That’s crazy, in case you’re sufficiently spoiled, or if you simply wondered. Once upon a time in New England, my ultimate daydream each year was to sit at the press table for at least one state final in winter, spring and autumn.
It didn’t always happen, and that was with 19 “local” high schools occupying a tri-county coverage area. Mathematically, at least, that should have furnished better odds than following one school.
Of course, we all know sheer math, logic and normal boundaries don’t apply to Scott County athletics. The best and brightest begin here, buy into the beliefs and tradition early, and evolve into champions.
Boys’ basketball got the party started by reaching the title tilt of the Sweet 16 for the sixth time in Billy Hicks’ incomparable career.
The Cardinals lost to Covington Catholic in that final, making it three consecutive years that an ever-maturing and improving group has lost to the eventual state champion. That, of course, means only one thing: As we turn the corner into 2019, it is probably senior-dominated SC’s turn. Michael Moreno, Diablo Stewart, Lorenzo Williams, Bryce Long, Cam Fluker, Glenn Covington and company have a hungry look in their eyes that is hard to explain. I only know it when I see it, so stay tuned.
Then came softball season. Words fail when trying to encapsulate the excellence of Scott County’s fast pitch program in a paragraph or two.
We live in a sports world now that loves to spoil our fun by telling us such-and-such franchise has “76.9 percent chance” of winning this-or-that game. They have it down to such a science that they can recalculate the number and show the change graphically at every point in a game.
Well, put this in your computer and spit it back to me: What are the chances in any high school sport, where a varsity team turns over almost its entire roster every two years, of one program winning three state titles in five years? When there are no classifications, so only one championship exists? Where a double-elimination format forces that school to squeeze five or six wins into a three-day span each time?
I’m guessing the number to the left of the decimal is in single digits. But of course that’s why I decided as a teenager to embrace sports and use math only when necessary.
Probability can’t measure the speed of Kennedy Sullivan’s fastball, the velocity with which the ball leaves Hannah Davis’ bat, the size of Princess Valencia or Meryn Livingston’s hearts, or the wit and wisdom of Jeff Portwood and his fellow coaches. It can’t quantify the single-minded determination that pervades a dugout jammed with young women when the heat index spikes and causes everyone else to melt.
The Lady Cards and their absurd season — 38-2, with only one loss by a single run in Kentucky, 377 runs scored to only 58 allowed — was special on its own merits. At the end of a five-year dynasty, as a centerpiece to the success an extended community enjoyed while playing or watching kids’ games this past year, it was pure magic.
Oh, and let’s not forget football, if for no other reason than Jim McKee would never let us live it down.
But seriously, this past fall was a unique run for the Cardinals, even for a program in which 10-win seasons and regional championships ridiculously have become the norm.
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Scott County endured lousy weather on almost every Friday night. It persisted through injuries and illness. It didn’t let potential season-altering sideline turmoil fester.
The Cards started 4-0, including a Cincinnati road win at Archbishop Moeller that McKee correctly claims most of us thought was out of their reach.
Then SC lost three times in a four-week span for the first time in eight years. It swallowed pride, and what it perceived as disrespect, both from the media and from triumphant opponents who hadn’t beaten the Cards in a long time, or in one notable case, ever.
Championship teams respond to such indignity, and the Cardinals did. They rattled off six consecutive wins in the fog of late October and the frost and flakes of November, including a reversal of that frustrating loss to Frederick Douglass.
SC reached the state final for the fourth time under McKee and the fifth ever, falling 37-20 to Male. Given the Louisville troika’s stranglehold on Class 6A (County’s 2013 title still makes it the only champion not named Male, Trinity or St. Xavier), being there was an accomplishment for the ages.
If there’s any unfortunate fallout from the success of those three teams, it’s that they dwarfed what would have been some seriously praiseworthy achievements in any other trip around the sun.
Girls’ basketball won regions and paid its first Sweet 16 visit since 2010. Boys’ track, buoyed by Bryan Hudson’s throwing dominance, hoisted the regional team trophy. Girls’ golf was fifth in the state, led by Rylea Marcum, who took third. Girls’ tennis had doubles state semifinalists (Grace Gardner and Lauren Moore) and a singles quarterfinalist (Olivia Gallagher) for the second straight year, Baseball fell two runs shy of its third consecutive regional title.
On and on it goes. Where it stops, we really don’t know. And people from far and wide marvel, hoping you truly enjoy the show.
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at email@example.com.