It has even started screwing up middle school football…
 
Back when I was coaching William Long, when he was a junior-pro athlete living in Clarksville, Tennessee, I never thought his senior year in high school would look anything even remotely like it has. I am quite sure the same can be said by every other parent in the county, commonwealth, or country.
 
I thought about the realities concerning where we find ourselves in our own little corner of the world while watching the Breathitt County Middle School Bobcat football team play Greenup County, Saturday afternoon, on the KYMSFA Facebook LiveStream. There were literally no fans allowed. 
 
It was similar to watching a scrimmage. There was much more riding on the outcome.
 
I paid $14.95 to watch the game which was played on a running clock. That means the entire game was over in an hour, including half time. The opening drive for Greenup County lasted the entire first quarter, and some of the second. 
 
We had one offensive possession in the entire first half. The kickoff was at 1:00 p.m. We were at the half by 1:18 p.m. 
 
Now I know the KYMSFA will say the pandemic necessitated the clock to run. I know the Greenup fans will say their power run game is the reason the first half went by so quickly. 
 
I have coached football. My teams have played power run teams. You don’t play an entire half of football in 18-minutes. A semi-state championship game should last more than an hour.
 
I haven’t asked, but I wonder if the Breathitt coaches were informed the clock would run from the opening kick before the game. The reason I wonder is Breathitt won the toss and elected to defer to the start of the third quarter. 
 
I coached in a game, preseason, which had a running clock. We played a wishbone team (Henderson South) in that game and we won the toss and deferred. 
 
Just as Greenup County did, Henderson South’s opening possession took the entire first quarter and much of the second. It was a 17-play, 80-yard, 3-yards and a cloud of dust, clock-bleed. I always told myself if ever faced with that situation again, I would take the first possession. 
 
Better to get an offense like that in an early hole. Who knows, you just might make them play a style of football they dislike. If you can get them down, they might have to put it in the air over diving the fullback through the A-gap every play.
 
I feel like our kids were shorted. I know their parents feel short-changed. 
 
I wasn’t the only one cheated Saturday. To those parents who came away feeling the same as I, all I can say is…at the very least it wasn’t your kid’s senior season.
 
I have talked at length to Breathitt’s varsity head football coach, Kyle Moore, about the ’20 season many times. On most of these occasions his observation has been simply, “Crazy times, huh?” Succinctly said; but entirely accurate.
 
This pandemic has affected us on many levels and many, many ways. Football is the least dire of its impact.
 
I have noticed the pandemic has an effect which will be lost on many of you. I noticed this because I work so frequently with kids around Kentucky who are college football prospects and are being actively recruited by college programs. 
 
One of the impacts I have noticed has been in the area of college football recruiting. More and more, prospects are making decisions concerning colleges for which they intend to play based on criteria different from years past. There are elite academic schools really benefiting from this.
 
We don’t really know what the future holds for college football. There are FBS-level football programs who haven’t played a single game this fall. 
 
These programs claim they will play in the spring. As the pandemic continues to ravage the country, the chances some of these schools will play football anytime this coming spring seems less and less likely.
 
Kids are making decisions about which schools they will attend, and for which programs they will play, for reasons other than a school's sports program. I don’t know how many of you have noticed, but Centre College is absolutely putting together an amazing class of ’21’s to come play football in the future for the Colonels.
 
Centre has already gotten a commitment from our own, William Long who we believe to be both the first ’21 Centre prospect offered and the first to pledge to play there. Centre secured another commitment this past weekend from 6-5, 320-pound, Johnathan Blackburn from Paintsville High School. 
 
Blackburn, like Long, sported both interest and offers from Division-I programs. Blackburn is regarded among the very finest offensive linemen in Kentucky’s senior class. 
 
Centre also just offered Kentucky’s top LB in the ’21 class in Austin Gough from Owensboro Senior High School. Gough has offers from half the Ohio Valley Conference. Centre not only offered Gough but hosted him on campus this past weekend.  
 
So why are all these top-ranked, Kentucky kids flocking to Danville, Kentucky’s Centre College? I believe it has a lot to do with this pandemic. 
 
Centre is what is called an “Ivy-league Index” school. It is routinely listed among the top liberal arts colleges in the country and is Kentucky’s elite academic institution. 
 
Her graduates are well sought after in the job market. Her graduates are sought after by graduate programs and professional courses of study.
 
We have talked with quite a few prospects looking at Centre and schools of the sort. To a man, we have been told the uncertainty concerning what college football will even “look like” in the future has led to prospects closely scrutinizing other facets of the college experience. 
 
Centre is an elite academic institution which offers graduates an unparalleled opportunity for future success. Top-flight football talent from across Kentucky is taking notice.
 
Schools which boast an ability to “set up” its graduates with careers and post-graduate development opportunities are the in-thing now-a-days. It’s a forty (40), not four (4)-year decision, after all.
 
I suppose there are a few positives which have spawned from this pandemic. While it has undoubtedly had a devastating effect on the football seasons of both Breathitt High School and its middle school counterpart, it has steered some lucky kids to an elite opportunity at Centre College. These kids may have not been as open to its possibilities in years prior as they have been this particular, pandemic-infused year.  
 
I suppose, ultimately, it is a fact. You win some. You lose some.
 
This if Fletcher Long and you can take this for whatever you find it worth but THAT’S THE LONG VERSION!
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