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On August 17, 1984 I went to my first ever high school football game. At least I think so - my mother says me and my sister (we're twins) were three when we first went, so I'm guessing that date and game is close to correct. I obviously don't recall any details from that night but I've been told and have seen pictures that I wore a plastic football helmet and wouldn't take it off while my sister was in a cheerleading uniform.

That night started a family tradition that in some ways continues to this very day. On Friday nights, our family went to watch football. At nearly every Garrard County home game and many road games you could find us four in the crowd. We saw some wins and some losses. We watched friends from church and friends from our neighborhood and friends from school play. And while I never played football, and mom and my sister quit going once we were out of high school, I always enjoyed going to games with my dad.

A few years ago, after some conversations on Bluegrasspreps and with other friends, I became curious as to how many different stadiums there were in which I'd seen games. It was mostly locations in counties near Lancaster where we'd seen Garrard County play road games. But the more I looked the more places I'd been to. Around 2010, we began making a conscious effort to see games in new places every time Garrard had a bye week, or was on the road at a place we'd been too many times to count, or playoff games once the Lions had been eliminated. Suddenly the number was getting large.

Everywhere we went there was a story. There was the time we stopped to watch Clinton County play Jenkins on the way home from vacation and met the superintendent from Jenkins who grew up just down the road from my dad. Or the time I nearly broke my shin on a trailer hitch walking back to my truck at Johnson Central.

The big stadiums - Harlan County behind the creek, the immensity of McCracken County and St. Xavier - we're all gorgeous. The small places, like Bellevue and Frankfort and Fulton City, were unique in that football has been played there back as far as anyone can remember. And there are unique features like the fire-breathing dragon on the scoreboard at Warren Central and the security clearance checkpoint at Fort Knox.

The students and players were all great. I remember well the young man from Male who did a running flip onto the field at St. X, the incredible dance team at Louisville Central, and the starting quarterback who then played in the marching band at Pineville - and he was really good at both!

The people have all been wonderful, too. I remember distinctly the two old men in the rain at Madisonville-North Hopkins. I remember standing in the concession line with @mcpapa at Mason County. And I met one of the best friends anyone could ever have in @Watusi at the top of the bleachers at Belfry.

This past Thursday night, September 27, 2018, for the one hundredth time I saw a football game at a different high school. It was a rather nondescript affair, with Warren East beating Warren Central, 28-0, on the blue turf. There was rain and a touch of cool in the air as me, my father, and my seven year old son watched the game. We ate hot dogs and pretzels and suckers and drank pops. We cheered impressive runs, chuckled at poor passes, and quietly questioned a couple of calls made by the referees. It was just a regular night at the ball field!

Somewhere during the course of these ball games, however, I've come to realize that the result doesn't matter. In many cases we're watching teams that will be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs and watching players who'll never play another down. What really matters is the time we've spent getting to be with each other. The road trips have provided opportunities to talk careers and retirement, politics and church, family and futures.

Time is what matters most. Both of my grandfathers are dead, and I never really got to know either of them. My grandmother was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's - who knows what will happen next. My father has had heart issues for years. My son is seven and in a minute will be seventeen and a minute later twenty-seven. It goes so fast.

None of us know how much time we'll have on earth. So I encourage everyone who reads this to make the most of it. If you're a player: make every practice and game the best ever. If you're a coach: teach these kids the importance of working hard and enjoying themselves - the winning will come later. If you're a parent: don't neglect the opportunities to spend with your children. It doesn't have to be ballgames but find something you can enjoy together.

And if you're in the stands on Friday night keep your eyes open. My father, my son, and I still have about 120 more stadiums to visit!

Around the Rankings

#2 Corbin (5-1) had no trouble in their district opener beating McCreary Central, 50-0. Quarterback Chase Estep threw for seven touchdowns in the win.

#4 Belfry (5-1) got a first quarter touchdown run and reception from Isaac Dixon on their way to a 40-8 victory over Floyd Central.

#8 Bell County dominated #6 Casey County from start to finish, jumping out to a three score halftime lead en route to a 44-13 win over the Rebels (5-1). Colby Frazier rushed for three touchdowns for Bell County (6-0).

#7 Caldwell County cemented their status as district favorite with a 40-14 victory over Union County. Joby Jaggers threw for 225 yards and six scores, three each to Oliver Parker and Travis Newsome, as the Tigers improved to 5-2.

#9 Paducah Tilghman (5-2) was without starting quarterback Cam Marshall and running back Mikal Askew due to injuries on Friday night, but was still able to rush for 542 yards in a 51-27 win at Trigg County.

#10 Elizabethtown rode Joe Becherer's 156 rushing yards and a touchdown to a 34-7 victory over Hart County, the third straight win for the Panthers (3-3) after a 0-3 start.

Extra Points

Waggener's offense got three rushing touchdowns from Alijah Sickles while the defense had a pick-six and a safety as the Wildcats (4-2) beat Bardstown, 29-13, in a key district matchup.

West Carter surprised many by topping Bath County, 40-28. The Comets (3-3) had less than 250 yards of total offense but forced five Bath County turnovers on the night.

Edmonson County (4-3) scored an overtime touchdown and converted the extra point, something Adair County failed to do, as the Wildcats won 21-20.

Three to See
(Each week the 3A Notebook will preview the three best games featuring Class 3A teams for the coming week)

1. Lexington Catholic at Western Hills. Two teams looking to get a leg up in District 4 meet in Frankfort. Catholic has lost two straight but can boast quarterback Beau Allen, who has passed for 2,127 yards and 22 touchdowns on the year. For Western Hills, winners of five straight, Wandale Robinson has already surpassed 1,000 yards rushing on the season and has scored 26 touchdowns.

2. Waggener at Central. District 3 could be decided as the winner will take control at the top of the standings. Waggener has been a pleasant surprise, compiling a 4-2 record to this point, with all but one game played on the road. Central had last week off after a sub-par showing in a win over Henry County.

3. Cabell Midland (WV) at Belfry. This isn't quite the matchup it's been in recent years but it's still exciting when two of the premier programs in each state get together. Cabell Midland won last week, snapping a three game losing streak. Belfry has won five in a row after a season opening loss to Huntington, another West Virginia power.

Just One More
(Tired of the same teams every week? Want to go off the beaten path for a 3A game this Friday night? Each week we'll look at an under-the-radar matchup to watch in Class 3A)

Pike County Central at Lawrence County. Both schools enter Friday's game 1-0 in the district, with the winner set to take a huge step toward a home playoff game. Lawrence won in a squeaker, 38-36, last season. Look for more of the same this year as both teams love to pound the ball with the running game.