Bears have come long way since starting program in 2003
The Spencer County High School football team is the hottest ticket in the small town of Taylorsville, Ky., these days, but there was a time the program didn’t even bother to charge admission.
After all, when there’s no fence around your stadium, it’s hard to keep fans from simply walking in.
“We didn’t even bother selling tickets,” said Doug Schneider, the Bears’ first varsity coach in 2004. “We had to come up with some money to put a fence around the stadium that first year. … People would just show up with their lawn chairs and set them up around the field.”
The Bears have come a long way since those infant days and figure to sell plenty of tickets Friday when they host rival Collins (2-2) at 7:30 p.m.
Spencer County is 5-0 for the first time in program history and is No. 19 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings.
The Bears busted loose last week with 737 rushing yards – 8 shy of the state record set by Conner in 2011 – in a 77-42 victory at Bullitt Central. They currently rank No. 1 in the state in points per game (52.2) and rushing yards per game (456.6).
It’s uncharted territory for Mike Marksbury, who inherited a 17-game losing streak when he became head coach in 2010. Just five years later, there were four TV stations at a recent practice.
Marksbury described the Taylorsville community’s feeling about the team as “bonkers.”
“People I don’t even know have been coming up to me and asking about the game,” senior running back Logan Holbrook said.
The Spencer County program was born in 2003, the idea of long-time football and basketball coach Junior Dugan.
He said there was huge support for that first junior-varsity season, evident in the program’s first game.
“We went three-and-out on our first series, and the North Bullitt kid ran the punt back about 70 yards before we tackled him at around the 10,” Dugan said. “The crowd erupted when we tackled him. We had terrible punt coverage, but our crowd was just so excited to get him down.
“I looked at my buddy and said, ‘We’re in the right place.’”
Schneider took over as head coach in 2004, playing a partial varsity schedule that year before the Bears encountered their first full-fledged varsity season in 2005 and finished 1-9.
Matt Powenski went 16-17 in three seasons (2006-08) as head coach before the program slipped under Wes Napper, who compiled a 3-19 mark from 2009-10.
Marksbury, who was an assistant under Mark Brown when Nelson County won the Class 4-A state title in 1996, said friends thought he was crazy for taking the job after the 2010 season.
“The thing that stood out is that it’s a one-school county,” Marksbury said. “When I got here, talent was not the issue. It was just a mind-set thing. We had to change the mentality.”
Marksbury’s first team finished 5-7 and recorded what remains the only playoff victory in program history – a 20-8 win over Doss in the first round of the Class 4-A playoffs.
After going 7-4 in 2012 and 6-5 in 2013, Marksbury said his team blew a chance to win a district title last season when it lost to Collins 20-7 – setting up the significance of this Friday’s rematch.
“We should have beaten Collins last year and didn’t,” he said. “They were ripe for the picking, but we turned the ball over and didn’t complete the task. … Are we good enough to beat Collins? I think we are. But we have to go out and prove it and hold our own in the trenches.”
The Bears have used the loss to Collins as motivation this season and are ranked No. 4 in Class 4-A in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings and No. 5 in The Associated Press poll.
Spencer County runs a wing-T offense that features three running backs, all of whom are averaging at least 11 yards per carry – Holbrook (882 yards, 13 touchdowns, 11.2 yards per carry), junior Brandon Leff (637, nine TDs, 15.9 ypc) and sophomore Kadin Smith (742 yards, 10 TDs, 18.6 ypc).
“Smith is very athletic, and the other two are just very hard-nosed runners,” Collins coach Jerry Lucas said. “We’ll have to stay at home and be disciplined and not chase what we think is the football.”
Collins is the first district opponent for Spencer County in what has shaped to be a very competitive Class 4-A, District Four. Franklin County (5-0) and Shelby County (5-0) also are undefeated, and North Oldham (2-3) was a play away from reaching the Class 4-A state final last season.
Holbook said the ultimate goal for the season is a state championship but noted a district title is the first step.
“To finally hang a (district championship) banner in our gym, that would mean everything,” Holbrook said. “Everybody would remember the 2015 season as the year we finally hung a banner.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and followed on Twitter @kyhighs.
GAME OF THE WEEK
* Who: Collins (2-2) at Spencer County (5-0).
* When: 7:30 p.m.
* Jason’s pick: Spencer County 40-34.