Story and photos by Joseph Barkoff:
Home is where you hang your clipboard, and Edmonson County High School’s newest head football coach is back home.
Justin Vessels, 42, from Edmonson County had been hanging his clipboard at Barren County for the past three years, but as of Thursday, November 30th, it was officially announced that he will hang it back in Edmonson.
“I’m excited to be back, to coach here,” Vessels said. “I’m thankful for the administration and Mr. Alexander having faith in me to bring me back and try to lead the program.”
Vessels was born and raised in Edmonson County, graduated from ECHS, and then Western Kentucky. He coached at ECHS previously from 2004-2015 and was very successful according to ECHS athletic director Kyle Pierce.
“Justin coached with me for 12 years,” Pierce said. “He was my offensive coordinator here. Arguably, our most successful, ever, offensive year, he called the offense.”
Vessels thinks the most difficult thing will be establishing the standard where he wants the work ethic to be, how they practice and how they want to play, he said.
He hopes to build on the momentum Zach Vincent had in growing the team in numbers, as well as continuing to promote the idea of being good citizens in the community, students and athletes, he said.
“He’s a good guy,” Vessels said of Zach Vincent.
Vessels reflected fondly of coaching Vincent as a running back from his time at ECHS in the past.
“I’m looking forward to being back home here, coaching and trying to get this program back to a level we’d all like to see it at,” Vessels said.
Vessels knows what it takes to build success. His record at Barren County shows it with improvement in number of wins each year.
“The X’s and O’s,” Vessels said, “I’ve done this so long, I understand what I want to do on offense and defense and all that. Probably more important than X’s and O’s is getting the players to buy in and believe in what you’re doing. If you can get that, that’s the big battle.”
Barren County was 3-8 on the season on 2021, 4-7 in 2022 and 5-6 this past year, according to Kentucky High School Athletic Association stats.
If Vessels can show that kind of improvement each year, good things are in the future for Edmonson County High School.
Hopefully we can continue to add more players and build depth, he said.
“It all starts in the off season in the weight room down there,” Vessels said. “You know we have to get bigger, faster, stronger and the more kids we can get up to a high level of strength and conditioning, the more depth we can deal with like that.”
Not only does strength and conditioning help performance, he added, it helps prevent injury, too, he said.
“I’m really excited to have Justin back,” Pierce said. “He is probably one of the smartest offensive minds you’re going to get around here. He is a tremendous offensive line coach, defensive line coach, but he understands offense like none other.”
He likes to run the ball on offense and follow up with play action, in similar formations to the run and plans to highlight talented players wherever needed, Vessels said.
Inside, off-tackle, outside, mis-directions and adaptive audibles in zone-read situations, they will be well rounded and ready for any situation.
“I want to hold the players to a high standard of football but also, in the classroom and also in the community,” he said. “I don’t want them to be just good football players, I want them to be good citizens in the community as well.”
Vessel’s work is definitely cut out for him, but if the tenacity of graduating seniors from this year, like quarterback and linebacker Noah Meredith and running back and linebacker Michael Mills have rubbed off on players returning for next year, both players and coaches are in good hands.
Story and photos by Joseph Barkoff:
Edmonson County men’s basketball opened the season with a 59-43 win at home against visiting Allen County-Scottsville Tuesday, November 28th in Brownsville.
“A lot of it was our nerves,” EC head coach Trey Tinsley said after the game about the slow start for the Wildcats.
Four of his five starters had not played much varsity ball, he said.
The Patriots took the lead and kept it for a little more than half of the first quarter until a layup in transition from sophomore shooting guard Tyler Wilson put the Wildcats ahead by 1 point with 3:50 to go.
It was just the beginning of the tug of war in lead changes early in the evening and after a couple of them, Edmonson came back on a 6-0 run and took the lead to end the first quarter 17-16.
“I knew that was going to happen early,” Tinsley said. “I told them, you are going to have to handle adversity and I though they did a good job of that.”
He said he was proud of the second half, as well as the first, but after they calmed their nerves down, he said.
After two more lead changes, Edmonson had the lead by four at 27-23 at the end of the first half.
Edmonson County had 17 rebounds to Allen County Scottsville’s 7 at the halfway point, too.
By the end of the third quarter Allen County seemed to run out of buckets and Edmonson County kept pouring them on to hold the lead at 42-28. The Patriots were 0-7 for their first field goal attempts of the second half, all of which were 3s.
At the end of the fourth despite some scoring from ACS, Edmonson held onto their 16-point lead for the 59-43 win.
Edmonson County junior power forward Josh Decker earned a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Senior power forward Layne Ashley had 10 points and six rebounds, Will Alexander also earned a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds and freshman point guard Braden Wright had 9 points and 5 rebounds on the evening.
“I thought we played good,” Alexander said after the game. “First game jitters, of course, and we are a pretty young team. Allen County, they’re a pretty good squad. They’re pretty young too, but I felt like we came out and played well.”
Going forward on the season Tinsley feels his team needs to handle the ball better like making smart passes, he said.
“Overall, I was proud of our performance,” Tinsley said.
Edmonson County travels to Fort Knox Friday, December 1st to play at 8PM against host Fort Knox.
Lady Cats Start the Season 2-0
Photos and story by Joseph Barkoff:
Edmonson County Lady Cat basketball stuck their claws in and held on for the win against visiting Allen County Scottsville 57-55 Tuesday evening, November 28th in Brownsville.
“I could be wrong, but I think we led the whole game,” EC head coach Jody Booth said after the game. “And that’s a really good Allen County team.”
Acknowledging his team is young without a lot of starter experience, Booth was pleased with the performance of his team, he said.
“They earned tonight’s win,” Booth said.
The first quarter ended with Lady Cats up 19-8 and the Patriots cut their lead almost in half by the end of the second quarter, with the Lady Cats up 29-23.
“The first three quarters we played well,” Booth said. “Fourth quarter, Allen County picked up the pressure a bit, and we have to experience that.”
With a young team they had not yet experienced the level of pressure they faced, he said.
“We are learning as we go and this is a good learning step right here,” Booth said. “We got to stay aggressive and we got to put that foot on their throats, ‘cause they made a great comeback.”
Allen County is coached well and made good adjustments, he said.
It was not quite enough for the visiting Patriots though.
“We had a really good start and then we got over our heads a little bit,” EC junior guard Kennadi Swihart said after the game.
Her favorite thing on the evening was how hard the team pushed and never gave up, she said.
Edmonson County sophomore center Cariann Williams earned a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds and a block. Freshman guard Shelby Sowders had 11 points and 5 rebounds, junior forward Julie Norris had 11 points and 4 all offensive rebounds, and Swihart shot for 10 points with 6 boards on the night.
Only shooting 44 percent from the free-throw line shows the team has more room to grow, but their ability to hold on and never-give-up attitude show they will fill out their room for improvement.
Next game, ECHS takes the court at Wildcat Hall at the EC 5/6 Center on Saturday, December 2nd at 3PM against visiting Cumberland County for the school's annual "Throwback Game."
Game Set For December 2nd
1973-74 Edmonson County High School Wildcats Varsity Basketball Team: Front Row (left to right): 20 - Kevin Hayes, 12 - Chester Bethel, 14 - Jeff Doyle, 33 - Ricky Davis, 00 - Lennie Slaughter, 11 - Gary Meredith, 32 - Terry Rich, 44 - Mickey Jones, Back Row (left to right): Head Coach - Dave Denton, Manager - Larry Starnes, Manager - Steve Gipson, 40 - Gary Cline, 30 - Thomas Hennion, 52 - Gary Key, 35 - Phil Rich, 53 - Edd Williams, 51 - Aaron Goad, 50 - David Lynch, 55 - Larry "Bull" Cline, Manager - James Kirby Woosley, Manager - Robert "Hoppy" Decker, Assistant Coach - Gerald Meredith
Edmonson Voice Sports:
Edmonson County Schools has announced another "Throwback Night" in "Wildcat Hall," the gym located at the Edmonson County 5/6 Center. The games (a girl-boy varsity double-header) will take place on Saturday, December 2, 2023. The girls will tip-off at 3 P.M against the visitors from Cumberland County with boys action to follow.
In addition to the games that afternoon, a reception and ceremony will be held honoring the 1974 Boys Basketball District Champions. The '74 team was the highest rated boys team thus far at Edmonson County (ranked #10 in the state) and was able to knock off #3-ranked Owensboro when that team traveled to Wildcat Hall on January 18, 1974 (92-90). All players, support staff, and their families are invited to attend the reception (Saturday, December 2 at 3 P.M. in the 5/6 Center Cafeteria) and ceremony (halftime of the boys game vs. Cumberland County in Wildcat Hall). Anyone planning to attend the reception should RSVP the number in their party to Jamie Carnes by Monday, November 27th, (email@example.com or 270-597-8915).
Back Row, L-R: Coach Dave Denton, Principal Johnny Pete Vincent, #55 Larry "Bull" Cline, #50 David Lynch, #30 Thomas Hennion, #32 Terry Rich, #53 Edd Williams, #35 Phil Rich, #52 Gary Key, #11 Gary Meredith, Coach Gerald Meredith, Manager James Kirby Woosley. Front Row, L-R: Manager Larry Starnes, #20 Kevin Hayes, #44 Mickey Jones, #40 Gary Cline, #51 Aaron Goad, #00 Lennie Slaughter, Manager David "Dink" Houchin, and Manager Robert "Hoppy" Decker. Not pictured: #12 Chester Bethel, #33 Ricky Davis, and #14 Jeff Doyle.
Darren Doyle, story and photo:
Zach Vincent, Head Coach of ECHS Wildcat Football, informed the Edmonson Voice today that he has stepped down from his role.
In a statement to the Voice, Coach Vincent said, "I want to begin by thanking everyone for the support that they’ve given me during my short tenure as a head coach. I want to give a special thanks to Jonathan Williams and Brad Johnson for allowing me to help lead great, young men."
Vincent said he has coached football for 16 years.
"My journey started in the youth program and led to me coaching at the varsity level under Kyle Pierce, coach/mentor. It's hard walking away from the sport that has shaped me into the person I am today, but as time has passed, my priorities have changed. I will always support my Cats, just not from the sidelines as a coach. Again, thank you for the support and encouragement through the years, and as always - GO CATS!"
Edmonson County High School Principal Jonathan Williams said he appreciated how Coach Vincent led the program over the last two seasons.
"He took the program when not many wanted to play and quickly improved numbers and morale," he said. "Zach is a very good person and a family man. He and his wife, Callie have a beautiful family and I’m excited to see what’s next for them."
Mr. Williams said that ECHS has begun the process of hiring the next candidate and that Athletic Director Kyle Pierce was already involved in the process.
"Zach took over in a tough situation," Pierce said. "We had 24 kids on the roster with only 19 returning. This year, he had 36 kids with 28 returning for next year. With any new hire, we want the right person, we need to provide a tremendous coaching staff, and be able to develop the players to maximize their potential."
Vincent spent two years as the head of ECHS football during rebuilding seasons. Edmonson County had a record of 5-17 under his tenure. He took over in 2022 from the departing Ed Smart, who coached one season at ECHS in 2021, the first winless season for the Wildcats since 1972.
Edmonson Voice Sports:
Nominations are now being accepted for the 2023-24 class of the Edmonson County Athletics Hall of Fame.
To submit a nomination, you must click the Google Form here and follow the instructions.
The following are some of the requirements for submitting a nomination:
Story and photos by Joseph Barkoff:
There were no surprises Thursday night November 2 in Mayfield. There were no surprises at the short trip into the post season for Edmonson County High School football. It was a case of a bottom seed (2-8) versus a top one in a first round of playoffs in Division 2A Kentucky High School Athletic Association football game.
Mayfield (9-1) had only lost once, to a Division 4A team who happens to also be undefeated.
No team in the 2A division has scored more total points than Mayfield, with 513, and only one team has held their opponent to less scoring, allowing only 121 points on the year.
It takes a lot of pride and effort to face a team like that, and had nothing to complain about, Edmonson County head coach Zach Vincent said to his team after host Mayfield defeated Edmonson County 68-0.
“Guys, I’m proud of ya’,” Vincent said. “I can’t say nothing else.”
Despite Mayfield having less students in attendance than Edmonson County by only a few, they have a huge football team and appears even larger with their junior varsity suited up on the sideline. The varsity roster of Mayfield is easily more than twice the number from Edmonson. They aren’t small either.
“It’s hard to come down here,” Vincent said. “Mayfield is a good team. They’re gonna put it to ya. There not gonna pull the breaks off. It’s just tradition here, football. To come here, you gotta be good, and you gotta be tough. You know our kids are tough.”
There were the usual suspects from Edmonson County making the best efforts where senior running back Michael Mills was just unable to break free as he has done in the past.
For the regular season, Mills ran for 1,510 yards on 212 carries for 14 touchdowns with an average gain of 7.12 yards per touch on the season. It came out to an average of 151yards per game, according to KHSAA stats.
"We fell short against a really good team tonight," Mills said.
His favorite thing from the season was “making a family,” he said.
“Havin’ that brotherly bond with other people on the field,” Mills said. “Even the kids on the sideline cheering us on. My favorite moments is making a family out there.”
While senior quarterback Noah Meredith was able to avoid a handful of sacks with his ability to get rid of the ball and saving loss of yards, but in return for his efforts he was punished on multiple throws.
Over the regular season, Meredith threw for 505 yards with four touchdowns and an average completion rate around 50 percent. He also had 322 yards on 100 attempts with 4 touchdowns, according to KHSAA.
Meredith said there wasn’t just one thing he remembered to stand out during the season, he said.
“I wish I could specify it but honestly, probably it wouldn’t even be a game,” Noah Meredith said. “Just the memories you make, like going to the games or going out and eat before the home games. You remember the games, but you really remember the time you spent with the people.”
He admitted his favorite pregame meal was Taco Bell.
“I love Taco Bell,” Meredith said about his favorite pregame meal. “It’s really good.”
Vincent thinks, in thanks to his senior class this year and their leadership, the following years look even more promising, he said.
“They don’t see it but they’ve helped this program so much this year from where it’s been,” Vincent said. “This group of guys are great. I couldn’t ask no more, no less of them.”
One of Meredith’s favorite targets during the season was junior tight end Garret Lyons. Lyons finished with 10 receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown, according to the KHSAA.
Some of the top tacklers over the season for the Wildcats included Meredith with 61, junior Gavin Alexander with 53, Lyons with 41, Mills with 40 and Ace Daugherty with 36 total tackles, according to the KHSAA.
“It takes a man with some faith to absolutely do what you need to do,” Vincent said. “I am proud of these boys. I have nothing negative to say. Nothing bad to say about tonight. We got outplayed, it’s as simple as that.”
Edmonson County High School football had two wins and eight losses in the regular season, with an overall record of 2-9 to include the post season.
“Wins, losses aside, I got a good group of kids,” Vincent said. “They work hard all day.”