COLUMN: Bears provided a season to remember

-A A +A
By John Shindlebower

Probably nobody who walked through the gates of Friday night’s playoff game between Spencer County and Nelson County expected a 56-14 blowout win by the visitors. I know I didn’t, the fans didn’t and I’m quite certain the players in blue didn’t.
But the route happened and was a shocking end to an otherwise wonderful season for the Bears. It’s the kind of loss that hurts for a while, but hopefully with the passing of time, players will look back and be able to shake their heads, smile and chalk it up as “just one of those nights.”
That’s not to take anything away from Nelson County. They played great. In fact, if they play that way the rest of the postseason, they could even find themselves in Bowling Green on the final weekend. Of course, the Bears had moments this season that could have generated similar dreams. Friday night was just a perfect storm that worked against the Bears. Line both teams up again this Friday night and things would probably be different. Unfortunately, that won’t happen.
What should happen however, is for the guys on this football team to savor the good from 2012, not the bad. There are plenty of great things to remember, things that will mean more in 20 years than they do now.
Remember that 27-0 shutout against rival Bullitt East. Remember how you could demoralize teams with great defense and a powerful running game. Remember a seven win season, just two years removed from a season that saw none. Remember the practices, the road trips, the friendships and the lessons learned. Remember that you have now made opponents pay attention when they see “Spencer County” on the schedule.

Coach Mike Marksbury’s best call of Friday night came late in the game. Frustration set in for his team, leading to some uncharacteristically unsportsmanlike behavior by a few of his players. He called timeout, huddled the entire team together, and reminded them of the importance of finishing with class and dignity. It’s one thing to teach the game of football – and no doubt he’s done a great job of that in two seasons. It’s another to teach young kids to act like men. It looks like he’s trying to do that as well.
It’s a lesson that needs to start at home. In my 10 years covering sports in Spencer County, I’ve seen and heard too much coming from the stands and sidelines from parents and fans. I’m not talking about the rooting and encouragement of the fans. That’s all good. And even the occasional mild criticism of refs is tolerable and maybe even warranted. But if we want our student-athletes to model good behavior on the court and field, the adults must model that in the stands. There’s a line, and parents and fans must respect that.

I remember hearing Cawood Ledford call out the name of Joker Phillips back in the early ‘80s when he was a receiver for Kentucky. He’s a Kentucky guy through and through and it was easy to root for him when he joined the UK staff as an assistant coach under Rich Brooks, and when he took over as head coach three years ago.
What wasn’t easy was seeing how UK struggled under his watch. His job was in peril before the season started because of two lackluster seasons before. An uninspiring loss to Louisville, an unforgivable loss to WKU at home, and two straight convincing losses to two other low-rung SEC schools made Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart’s decision unavoidable, but not easy.
I’m glad he’s going to finish out the season’s final two games. Football teams are a family, and the players deserve to have their coach complete what they all started together. After the final horn sounds at Tennessee, all eyes will be on Barnhart to see who will be named the next coach.
There are probably no less than 10 or 15 names being floated around right now, including former NFL coaches, current college head coaches and up and coming assistants. Whoever is named will likely have supporters and detractors among the Big Blue fans, but he most likely will be able to provide what this program needs more than anything right now – a fresh start.

My apologies for few mistakes I’ve been guilty of in recent weeks. I’ve misidentified a couple of players in photos and stories and that’s certainly never intentional. Obviously the staff at the Magnet relies on the information I give them, and I in turn rely on rosters, my notes and my hearing. The latter two are sometimes not up to par. I am getting hearing aids this week, so I’ll be able to hear comments (and complaints) even better. As for my notes – is 46 too old to master penmanship? Seriously, the miscues are regrettable and hopefully, future mistakes will be rare.