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Sometimes stars simply burn out too soon. Coach David Barnes left the world far too early in the week leading up to Caldwell County’s season opener against 5A Christian County after an inspiring battle against Parkinson’s Disease. The news rocked Western Kentucky and the Princeton community, but out of the tragedy beauty prevailed in a very unpredictable manner.

The Tiger community gave an outpouring of love and Barnes’ legacy was felt from the numerous heavy hearts of his colleagues around the State. After an emotional start, the Tigers gave the ultimate tribute to Barnes. Barren Wells had the very first touch of the football for the Tigers and he immediately turned it into a 65-yard Punt Return to give the Tigers their first points and electrify the Caldwell community.

The Tigers would eventually score three times, all in improbable and almost divine fashion en route to the 19-14 victory over the 5A power. They added a second Special Teams score from Wells with a kickoff return and possibly the most special of all was a TD pass that was tipped twice by Christian County defenders before falling into the hands of Tripp Branch. Despite being out-gained by nearly double, the Tigers persevered and brought a win the community will remember for decades to come.

Though the win is what we all will cherish in the present and memorialize Barnes with, it is pertinent to also look back at his legacy. Barnes began his career as an assistant at Murray and Daviess County. Eventually, Barnes turned his position at Daviess to the Head Coaching position for thirteen seasons before moving to Caldwell County in 2006. Caldwell County was Barnes’ alma mater where he was a standout RB during his playing days and a current member of their Hall of Fame. Barnes has served as the Tigers’ Head Coach since he returned and was the active Athletic Director as well. Barnes was named the Kentucky Football Coaches Associate Coach of the Year in 2014 (2A) and 2017 (3A). He led his Tigers to the State Finals in 2012, a team led by current Purdue starting Quarterback Elijah Sindelair who developed under Barnes’ instruction.

I spoke off the record to a former player of Barnes at Daviess County who had nothing but praise for Barnes and insisted that for all the successes he had on the field, it was his charismatic personality and genuine interest in having a relationship with his kids that will always stand as the greatest legacy he will leave behind. For all the kids he helped to continue their education by earning football scholarships, there are countless more that were impacted by his guidance and compassion that bettered their life trajectory as a result.

Long-time Caldwell County Assistant Coach Waynee McGowan will take over in Barnes’ absence as the Head Coach.

On behalf of the entire Bluegrasspreps.com community, Barnes will be missed but his legacy will live on.

Somerset Goes Viral and Their Offense Goes Off
Somerset announced that turf would be coming to The Briarpatch in the Off-Season and for most outside of the program the news did little to resonate with the growing trend to switch to synthetic surfaces firmly in-tact around the State. As the project neared completion though, the inspiration images of the final product were made public and with them the Briarjumpers gained positive publicity for a very simple yet profound twist they made to their final design. Somerset added a field, yard markers and end-zone area included, to the area behind the goal posts with the intention of letting kids play on it while the game was even going on.

For many people reading this Notebook, we can all hearken back to fond memories of High School Football from our childhood centered on Friday Nights where an impromptu pickup game of football beneath the lights on nearby patches of grass or the back of the end-zone during the initial minutes of Halftime were what we lived for. Having the opportunity, even if for five minutes, to imitate the “big kids” with diving catches in the end-zone or tip toeing the sideline, was not only the height of nostalgia, but also a keystone foundation that led to players kick starting their career.

In an era where participation numbers in sports is universally as low as it has ever been, programs are finding that their biggest competition often is not just the team on the other sideline, but the controllers of video games that keep individuals at home on Friday nights. The idea to make a special place for youngsters which will encourage this right of passage will certainly bring many smiles but also potentially help instill that sense of community and program pride.

Friday, the Briarjumpers christened their new field by pummeling 3A Rockcastle County 40-0. On Somerset’s first play from scrimmage QB Kaiya Sheron hit WR Kade Grundy in stride for a Touchdown on a play that will now be cemented in the rich tradition of Somerset football.
Somerset would roll up 463 total yards from a balanced Offense that gained 243 via the pass and another 220 on the ground. Grundy would lead the way with 4 catches for 138 yards and 2 TD’s, while Sheron, Alex Miller, and Jase Bruner would each add a rushing TD.

All told, Somerset could not have scripted a better week to kick off their 2019 Class 2A Title march.

Northern Kentucky Re-Alignment
Two teams from the Northern Kentucky delegation of Class 2A went a long way in making sure they needed to command an increase in respect with the Week 1 performances.
Walton-Verona , a Semi-Finalist in 2018 and the last Northern Kentucky team left standing in Class 2A, opened the 2019 season with the highest ranking. Lloyd Memorial made short work of that, as the Juggernauts left little doubt who the better team was in their 30-6 victory on the road.

Lloyd Memorial entered the year as a team with big question marks that could not be ignored. The Juggs lost over 80% of their Offensive output and did not exactly finish 2018 on the highest of notes. With that said, those question marks quickly turned to exclamation marks behind a Defense that limited Walton-Verona’s rush heavy Offense to a meager 65 yards and an Offense that out-gained the Bearcats 398-168 in total yards.

Dakota Thiel embraced his new role as feature back by exploding for 247 yards rushing. Thiel was the primary Quarterback in 2018 and accounted for the majority if the slim amount of returning production they did bring back. In the Bluegrasspreps.com's Pre-Season Preview you may remember mention of Treshawn Cody who was making his football debut after making his name known on the hardwood. Cody dropped jaws by debuting with 92 yards receiving and a TD.

As Lloyd exposed a weakness in the Bearcat armor, Carroll County was doing their best to establish on their own accord that District 5 will not be a single team race. The Panthers knocked off the Pre-Season #10 ranked Ludlow Panthers. Carroll County dropped their season opener to Ludlow and plodded along to a very mundane 7-5 record. Carroll improved throughout the season and gave Walton-Verona a scare, but with a strong core returning including the dynamic Andre Mumphrey, the Panthers may just have something up their sleeve for a Walton-Verona team that has been unbeatable in District play in recent years.

Eastern Teams Lead a Class 2A vs. Large School Statement
The teams from the Mountains have not exactly carried the banner as the representative of Class 2A in recent years. Between difficult playoff match-ups and self-inflicted wounds brought forth from injuries or scheduling, some of these teams have been striving for respect and are hoping that 2019 is the year they flip the script.

Shelby Valley looked super impressive by steamrolling 4A Letcher Central 44-22. Dalton Meade was sensational stepping out of Seth Johnson’s shadow for 373 rushing yards and 4 TD’s as Valley amassed 538 yards in total on the ground. Not to be outdone, former District running mate Leslie County proved all the pre-season buzz was founded by taking care of business against 5A Perry Central 32-20. Last season the Commodores only taste defeat once in the first 8 weeks of the season.

The trend of Class 2A taking care of business against the larger class was not exclusive to the 606 area code. As previously mentioned, Caldwell County bit 5A Christian County for an emotional win and Owensboro Catholic lit the scoreboard up 68-27 over 5A Ohio County. Danville made a big statement to their doubters by routing 4A John Hardin 48-14. Lexington Christian Academy, Todd County Central, and Newport also took care of their foes from Class 4A.

The one notable exception was Murray who fell to a ranked 5A Graves County 38-35. The Tigers came as close to winning this one as possible. Murray was on the 1-yard line of Graves in the final stretch of the game but lost a fumble on a tackle in the backfield and with it lost their chance at the win.

Quick Snaps:
- Mayfield did Kentucky and Class 2A proud by sending Lausanne Collegiate (TN) back to the Volunteer State sporting a 45-22 loss. Lausanne was an 11-win team last season in Tennessee’s second largest Private School Classification.

- Everyone who saw a ranked Breathitt County playing 1A Jenkins knew this was a game that should not have been scheduled, and apparently so did both Head Coaches. Jenkins fielded only 13 total players and was prepared to forfeit. Knowing this would cost the Cavaliers their share of the gate and concessions, Breathitt instead agreed to leave the game on and play 8 vs. 8 football instead in a very fitting show of sportsmanship.

- Beechwood was off to open the initial week of action, the Tigers will make their debut at Georgetown College against a ranked 1A Paintsville team.

- Middlesboro won a single game in 2018 and after one week of the season have already reached that high-water mark. Coach French will have to coach his team up to knock off 1A Williamsburg.