It’s not often that East meets West in Kentucky high school football.
It’s no wonder.
Geography class, take your seats.
Kentucky is 379 miles in length and 140 miles in width. That length makes for impossible regular-season scenarios because it takes longer to get from here to there than it took Gilligan to make his historic journey.
Fairview and Mayfield — the counterparts in today’s Class A state championship at noon — are 384 miles apart, according to Google maps. By those calculations, those schools are five miles further than the state is long!
Needless to say, these schools are about as far apart as schools could be (maybe even farther?) and still play for the same state championship.
Naturally, they have never met. In fact, only three other area schools has ever played Mayfield.
Russell defeated Mayfield 33-20 in the 1979 Recreation Bowl in Mt. Sterling. Lawrence County fell 21-18 in the Class AA semifinals in 1991 and Mayfield defeated Prestonsburg 13-12 in the 1993 Class AA championship game.
Western Kentucky high school football has a superior attitude about its side of the state.
“They don’t think we play as good a brand of football in eastern Kentucky,” said Billy Goldsmith, now a Boyle County assistant but the former head coach at Lawrence County.
“They feel like they have more athletes and, to be honest, they do,” Goldsmith said. “In eastern Kentucky, our kids have to work harder. They play harder, too.”
Fairview and Belfry will be carrying the eastern Kentucky football banner at the Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl in Bowling Green today (Belfry plays Central at 4 p.m. for the Class 3A title).
Goldsmith, who as an assistant coach helped Boyle County to state titles in 2009 and 2010, advices Fairview to play with a sense of urgency.
“Don’t be satisfied just getting there, even though it’s a big accomplishment,” he said. “You don’t get this kind of chance very many times.”
Goldsmith said he’s still smiling over Boyle County’s 2009 title because his son, Boone, was the quarterback and played a key role in the victory.
“You have to believe in yourself,” he said. “When you’re on a run like they are, you have a lot of confidence. They’re already going to be legends in Fairview history. They’re going to talk about this game with anything they do for a lifetime.”
As for being an underdog to Mayfield — Dave Cantrall’s Power Ratings have the Cardinals as a 21-point favorite — Goldsmith says don’t believe it.
“We were also really big underdogs (in 1991), I want to say it was something like 30 points,” he said. “They knew they were in a game when it was over.”
Lawrence County made the eight-hour drive to Mayfield on Thanksgiving Day. They stopped halfway there for a practice.
“There’s nothing I like better than to practice on Thanksgiving Day,” he said. “It’s the coolest of all time. Our guys were like me, we hadn’t been to many places. It was like a vacation for us.”
Those Bulldogs included Travis Phelps, Webb Roberts, Eric Cantrell, Morgan Cyrus, Chris Hamilton, Shawn Hill and Donnie Reed.
“Good, good football players,” Goldsmith said.
The Bulldogs shocked Russell 18-15 in the second round of the playoffs on the road. They defeated Mason County 20-14 in a heart-pounding regional final.
“Two great playoff wins,” he said. “The win over Russell did a lot for our program. They were the Big Dogs.”
The Bulldogs matched Mayfield touchdown for touchdown but failed on all three two-point conversions.
“It’s a tough one to relive,” he said. “People were like ‘Why didn’t you kick?’ We made way more points going for two than one that year. The conversion plays we ran all the time successfully but they stopped them.”
A long scoring run and a punt return had Mayfield ahead early but the Bulldogs rallied to within 14-12. Mayfield scored again to make it 21-12 and again the Bulldogs answered.
Down 21-18, Lawrence County had a successful onside kick and were driving when a quarterback sack thwarted the drive.
“I kept thinking, ‘We’re going to score and win!’” he said. “We really thought we were going to win.”
It turned out to be a landmark game. The Kentucky High School Athletic Association had been experimenting with the idea of having a blind draw when the four semifinalists were decided. But Lawrence County having to make so long a trip ended that experiment.
“They called it the Lawrence County rule for years,” Goldsmith said.
Goldsmith said he’s never watched the video replay of the semifinal loss.
Danville defeated Mayfield 17-14 in the championship game the following week.
Mayfield is no stranger to playing for titles. Today is the 18th time the Cardinals have made it to a state championship.
Fairview will have a fan today in Goldsmith, although he won’t be at the game personally because he is having a pre-op prior to knee surgery next week.
Goldsmith still follows area football closely.
“That’s a little hotbed for single-A football,” he said. “Raceland has always been good and with Bill Mike (Runyon) back at Paintsville, I look for them to get better and better.”
Today though belongs to Fairview.
Count Billy Goldsmith as another one who “Believes in The Wood.”
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2648.