Darren Doyle, story and photos:
Edmonson County High School head football coach Nathan Smith has officially stepped down from the role as of today.
Coach Smith made the announcement first with players and school administration this afternoon. Smith said it was a family decision and it's now time for someone else to take over after his 5 years at the head of the program.
"I entered the ECHS football program 17 years ago as a freshman and have never spent a season away from this program," he said. "It's been one of the biggest blessings in my life and some of my fondest memories have come from ECHS football; however, at this time I feel that it's in the best interest of me and my family that I step away from the program that I love. A lot of other things in my life have been neglected because of the time and passion that football requires. It's time to pass the reigns to some one else for a while."
Smith said he wanted to share his thanks with everyone that has contributed to his life of football over the years.
"All of the players that I have had the privilege of coaching have shaped the person that I have become and I can't express how much they have meant to me. The men who have coached with me have been great and are some of my best friends. We have a great and supportive community who have always helped us and a group of parents that have gone above and beyond to provide for our football program. I want to thank my family for supporting me for all these years and for the sacrifices they have made to help me and the football team. Lastly I want to thank Kyle Pierce who has been so influential to me over the past 17 years. He has been a true coach, friend, and mentor to me along the way."
Smith was named head coach on January 15, 2016. During his 5 seasons as head coach, Edmonson County had an overall record of 24-29 and won the Class 2A District 3 Championship in 2019. He was also named KFCA District 3 Coach of the Year for the 2020 season.
Athletic Director Kyle Pierce said Smith has been contributing to Edmonson County football every since he was a player.
"Coach Smith has been a tremendous asset to our football program since he walked into the fieldhouse in 2004 as a player," Pierce said. "He began working with our coaching staff immediately following his senior season and we've been extremely fortunate to have him working with our student-athletes for the past 13 years."
Pierce said the search for Smiths' replacement will begin immediately and that there is already a short list of candidates the school would like to consider.
"There are some quality people out there that have head coaching experience and a few solid assistant coaches that we would want to sit down and talk with," he said.
"At the end of it, you want a person who will be a good fit with our football team, our school system, and our community. If any of those are missing, it's usually an uphill battle."
Smith said while he's stepping down from the responsibilities of coach, there's no way he could ever fully walk away from Wildcat football.
"I plan on being at every football game in the future and will always support this program and our players in any way that I can. Once you get ECHS football in your blood it doesn't really ever leave. Go Cats!" he added.
Wildcats Finish Season 4-4
Darren Doyle, story:
It was a scrappy, hard fought game by two similarly-matched teams, but one that would fall in favor of the Metcalfe County Hornets over the Wildcats 34-27 in the Class AA, District 3 finals on Friday, November 27, 2020 at ECHS.
Metcalfe County got their offense going first as they scored a touchdown on a reverse play. The extra point was no good for a Hornet 6-0 lead with 5:09 left in the first.
On the next Wildcat possession, quarterback Jon Smith connected with Clay Walden for a 43-yard catch and touchdown. Walden's extra point attempt was a little left with a score of 6-6 with 3:55 to go in the first.
Edmonson County scored again in the first, thanks to quick hands from Isaiah Johnson as he intercepted Hornet quarterback Peyton Dial's pass and ran it back for a 29-yard touchdown. The extra point attempt was good and the Cats took a 13-6 lead with 2:22 left in the first.
Metcalfe County scored early in the second quarter and took a 14-13 lead with their two-point conversion. They were able to return to the end zone again with 3:24 left in the half. Another 2-point conversion extended their lead to 22-13.
The Wildcats answered on their next possession when Johnson caught a shovel pass from Smith for a 5-yard TD. The extra point cut the Hornets' lead to 22-20 with 1:39 in the half, which would be the score at halftime.
Edmonson County struggled in the third and the Hornets took advantage. Two more touchdowns from Metcalfe with no extra point kicks extended their lead once again to 34-20 with 4:24 left in the third quarter.
Time ticked away in the fourth and the Cats were in a tough spot on 4th and long when Smith connected with Walden on a big 30-yard catch for a first down in the red zone. Smith was able to score on a QB keeper with 4:32 left in the game, and the extra point cut the Cats' deficit to 34-27.
Metcalfe County was able to keep possession through the remainder of the game with a big first down with 3:35 to go on 3rd and 10. It first appeared to be short, but after measurement, the officials ruled the first down and the Hornets held on to win.
Edmonson County will lose 12 seniors from this year's squad, most all of which have played for Coach Nathan Smith, who was named KFCA District 3 Coach of the Year earlier this week, since they were 6th graders.
"We fought through a lot this year, it's been a crazy football season," said Coach Smith. "Just to have a chance the whole game, I never thought we were ever out of it, but they made some plays we didn't make. That's the difference when you got two evenly matched football teams. Us and Metcalfe, it's always been a battle."
Smith sincerely discussed this season's seniors.
"I'm proud of my boys. We just kept making plays and making plays," he said. "You know, it's tough. I love the group we've got right now. I've coached most of them since the sixth grade. A lot of them I have, and it's going to be tough. I don't even know how to coach football without some of them around here. Hats off to them. They played their butts off. I can't ask for any more from a group of football players than what I have right now."
Edmonson County finishes the season at 4-4 and district runner up. Metcalfe County advances to face Lexington Christian in the regional round of the playoffs.
Darren Doyle, photos:
Nearly two dozen senior athletes from fall sports were honored with their families Friday night at Edmonson County High School for the 2020 Fall Sport Senior Night Ceremony.
Seniors from football, golf, cheer, cross country, and band were recognized. The following seniors were honored at midfield at Wildcat Stadium on Friday night, November 20th.
Darren Doyle, story and photos:
Edmonson County senior Clay Walden made sure to leave his mark on the field during 2020 senior night against Clinton County in the first round of the KHSAA Class AA Playoffs, as his big night led the way for a 26-12 win over the Bulldogs.
Walden has earned respect as one of the area's top kickers, but his defense tonight led to one of the biggest Wildcat plays of the year, which was an end zone steal from the Bulldogs and a 102-yard touchdown that stunned Clinton County and shifted all the momentum back to the Cats
It was a long time coming, as Wildcat football was back after nearly a month without games as a result of the coronavirus. Edmonson County had to pause the season due to quarantining, losing three games in the process. An extra week was added to the season statewide, as KHSAA hoped coronavirus numbers would improve.
Wildcat senior Isaiah Johnson got things started off well for the Cats with a big 50+ yard run, but Edmonson County was unable to score. On the Bulldogs' next play, Clinton County senior quarterback Chase Stines connected with Bryson Cross for an 8-yard touchdown. The two point conversion was no good and Clinton led 6-0 with 5:29 in the first.
Edmonson County once again tried getting into the end zone but took the field goal opportunity with 3:05 left in the first as Walden connected on a 30-yard kick, which cut the Bulldog lead to 6-3.
It would be Walden again early in the second quarter as senior quarterback Jon Smith connected with him for a 35-yard touchdown. The Wildcat two-point conversion was no good but the Cats took their first lead of the game at 9-6 with 9:29 to go.
With time running out in the second quarter, the Bulldogs got into the red zone. A pass went into the hands of a Clinton County receiver while he was airborne in the end zone, but he never gained control of it and Clay Walden snuck right in and snatched it away. Rooster tails flew from the senior's cleats as he blistered the entire field for not only a pickoff, but also a 102-yard touchdown run as the Bulldogs did their best to try to figure out what just happened. What should have been a 12-9 lead for Clinton County was quickly transformed into a 16-6 lead for the Wildcats after Walden's extra point kick with 30.3 seconds left in the half.
Edmonson County never trailed again.
The Wildcats scored again on a 6-yard touchdown run from Logan Davis and the extra point from Walden made it 23-6 with 3:07 in the third.
Walden wasn't finished as he came close to the school field goal yardage record, with a 43-yard kick that extended the Wildcats lead to 26-12 with 4:59 left in the game. The record currently stands at 46 yards, which was accomplished by WildcatsLive broadcaster Granville Meredith in 1988.
Edmonson County held on for the 26-12 win, which also secured a home game advantage for the district finals in the second round of the playoffs against Metcalfe County.
Head Coach Nathan Smith discussed the big win and Walden's huge play that helped seal the deal.
"Anytime you get a playoff win after taking a six-week break from football, I think that's a pretty big deal," he said. "It looked like the kid had the ball and bobbled it a little bit, Clay went over the top and just took the ball right out of his hands. 102 yards. That has to be close to a school record. I don't know what it is, but I'd say it's right there. You can't get much farther, can you?"
Smith then discussed the seniors on the team and what they've meant to not only him, but also the football program over their years of service.
"This senior group, I've been coaching some of them since they were in the 6th grade," he said. "I'm pretty proud of them, and I'd like to just go through the list if you want me to," he said as he then discussed each one.
Edmonson County improves to 4-3 on the season and will face the Hornets next Friday night at 7pm for the District Championship game at ECHS, a title that the Wildcats hope to defend.
Edmonson Voice Sports:
Several Edmonson County Wildcat team members were named to the 2020 all-SKY Conference teams. The SKY Football Conference is made up of southcentral Kentucky schools ranging in size from 1A up to 5A teams. Member schools include Allen County-Scottsville, Barren County, Bowling Green, Edmonson County, Franklin Simpson, Glasgow, Greenwood, Logan County, Metcalfe County, Monroe County, Russellville, South Warren, Todd County, Warren Central, Warren East.
In the small school division (1A-3A), two Wildcats were named to the FIRST TEAM DEFENSE:
Defensive Line: Preston Mills - Edmonson County
Defensive Back: Isaiah Johnson - Edmonson County
Three team members were named to the FIRST TEAM OFFENSE
Quarterback: Jon Smith - Edmonson County
Offensive Line: Jace Conder - Edmonson County
Kicker: Clay Walden - Edmonson County
Two more were named to SECOND TEAM DEFENSE:
Defensive Line: Daniel Pereira - Edmonson County
Linebacker: Logan Davis - Edmonson County
Finally, one more Wildcat was named to the SECOND TEAM DEFENSE:
Offensive Line: Michael Shaw - Edmonson County
Ten different Wildcats were named to the 2020 Class AA District 3 all-district teams:
Edmonson County is scheduled to take on Clinton County at home on Friday, November 20th at 7pm in the first round of the Class AA District 3 playoffs.