On the virtual eve of the 2012-13 high school basketball season and all of the excitement that is expected this year in Harrison County in both the girls’ and boys’ programs, I want to report on my Friday night experience in Harlan County.
I think sometimes some Kentuckians look down their noses at our brothers and sisters in the southeastern part of the state.
“Barefoot Hillbillies” they are called by some of the liberal blue bloods in some cases. Well let me tell you this about the folks in Harlan County: They know how to build a high school football stadium. Sitting near the western edge of Harlan County near Baxter and nine miles from Evarts is a first class high school stadium that was built to play football in with an eight lane track and the areas for field events which also makes it a first class track venue.
I was there on Friday as two members of my old officiating crew, referee Joseph Ammerman and umpire Brandon Shields, were in the crew that called this game. Joseph’s dad, Bob, and I accompanied the crew giving some guidance (whether we were asked or not) and watching because we like to watch the officials. Randall Cooper High School played Harlan County in the semi-final round of the Class 5 playoffs hosted in the Black Bear’s stadium. We got a special charge out of the public address person saying “Who turns the lights on at the stadium” and the crowd responding “Coal,” which was followed by the announcer saying “Harlan County Coal.” The field was built with funds donated by some coal money people so the school and the fans are justifiably proud of coal and what it has done for them.
The field had some similarities to the Harrison County Athletic Complex with some definite advantages. The stands were closer to the field though they had an eight lane track made of what appeared to be the same material as the track on the Hilltop. There was no sidewalk next to the stands only entries on the sides and in the middle from behind the stadium. It did have stands on both sides and 25 second clocks in each end zone. The concession stands were beneath the stands not in one corner of the stadium. No one was allowed on the track just like here and still the stands were full. Granted it was the semi finals, but they still came out to support the teams despite not being allowed on the track. The field was artificial and was of a material that led the officials to each comment that it was the best field that they had ever worked on and Bob and I also agreed. The building project was still ongoing so the dressing facilities were not complete, but the playing surface and the stands were superb. It was well lit and of course, the electricity was paid for by coal. By the way, Cooper won the game 17-7, but the Harlan County people were still proud of their boys and coal.
(This commentary appeared in the Cynthiana Democrat on Thursday, November 29, 2012.)