Wednesday, March 9, 2022

KHSFB98 Update

I love driving, and I love AM radio:

Nov. 20, 1998

Enjoyed a good bit of success following various high-school football playoffs on the car radio Friday night.

At 870 AM, I picked up a terrific show out of Louisiana. The format was similar to the NFL Gameday show One-on-One Sports puts together. This station had reporters at 12 games around Louisiana, and the studio hosts went rapid-fire game to game to game with updates.

The most interesting reports were coming in from a lopsided game that was being played, I believe, in Baton Rouge: Jolanga at West St. John’s. (Of course, all of these spellings are my best guesses based on my interpretation of the pronunciations; in fact, there are probably any number of errors here, but, Kornheiserstyle, the gist is on the mark.) The final update, at about 11:30 p.m. Eastern, had West St. John’s up, 22-9, in the third quarter. It was running so late because of multiple play stoppages: twice for passing trains, the noise of which apparently drowned out any play-calling the coaches or players were doing; twice for fights, and four times in the third quarter alone because of power outages which darkened the stadium. According to the last report, the opposing coaches had agreed that if the lights shut down again, both teams would load up on school buses and resume the game that night at East St. John’s High School “across the river.” Imagine that scene.

During breaks in this show, I picked up a similar program out of Raleigh, N.C., as well as Iowa City North vs. Des Moines Dowling out of Iowa.

About 30 miles from the state line, at about 9:30 p.m., I picked up the fuzzy call of the only Kentucky game I’d hear all evening: Sheldon Clark at Belfry, for a Class 3A regional championship.

According to the visiting radio crew from Inez, Sheldon Clark came into the game with a short football history of little note. This team had gone deeper into the 3A playoffs than any Sheldon Clark team ever had, but even that—with a 6-4 regular-season record—had been something of a disappointment until the postseason. One of the losses had come in the second-to-last week, decisively, against Belfry.

And yet Sheldon Clark held an 8-0 lead when, with 1:42 to play Friday, Belfry’s junior quarterback Wright, who completed 19 of 30 passes for about 250 yards, threw a touchdown pass (and then a two-point pass) to tie the game. Sheldon Clark’s coach, Jim Matney, elected to run out the clock when his team took over at its own 30 or so.

Sheldon Clark won the coin toss and elected to play defense in the opening possession of overtime. Wright completed a touchdown pass on first down, and Belfry kicked the extra point for a 15-8 advantage. As the Belfry fans’ cheered, it was announced in the stadium that Fort Thomas Highlands, the state’s top-ranked 3A team, had won its regional and would visit this winner in next week’s state semifinal.

On Sheldon Clark’s first down, a back named Moe Stradlin ran nine yards. On second, he plunged in for a touchdown to make it 15-14. Here roughly is the call of the two-point attempt by Jack Ward, a graduate of the old Inez High School, one of two Martin County high schools consolidated to form Sheldon Clark:

“The handoff is to Stradlin. … He’s in trouble. He’s not going to … YES! HE STRETCHES! YES! YES! YES!”

In the post-game show, Sheldon Clark’s coach, Matney, explained that “almost 22 years ago to the day” his high-school team had lost to Belfry, on this same field, for a chance to play in the state championship. Back then, Matney said, the high schools in Martin County were too small to field football teams, and he had moved in with a family in the next county so he would have an opportunity to play. (“They were poor and black, and I was poor and white. So we were the same.”)

“This win tonight is for all of the Sheldon Clark boys who built the foundation for this team and for all of the Martin County boys who never had a chance to play football,” said Matney, hoarse from the game and the on-field celebration immediately following it. “We’ve got so many people out of work, so many people having hard times in Martin County. Well, tonight, back home in Martin County, you hold your heads up high. Tonight, we’re the regional champions.”


  1. This is great. Here were the State Champs in 1998:

    A: Middlesboro 27, Mayfield 6
    AA: Caldwell Co. 38, Danville 28 (I actually saw Caldwell that year.)
    AAA: Ft. Thomas Highlands 56, Lou. Waggener 7
    AAAA: Lou. Male 31, Lex. Tates Creek 7

  2. Thanks. That Highlands announcement was foreboding as all get-out.