Yes, it's been a little while since our readers have gotten to enjoy one of these copious notes columns, but I have a legitimate excuse.
Zack and I (him more than me) have been feverishly working on the upcoming fall sports preview section, which will be in the newspaper next Friday, coinciding with what is referred to as "Week Zero" in the high school football season across the commonwealth.
Mason County is idle next Friday and will open their season the following week at home against Boyd County, but Bracken County, Fleming County and Lewis County will begin play next week.
The Panthers kick off their campaign at Harrison County and the Lions will be on the road at Greenup County on Friday. The Polar Bears meet Nicholas County in Carlisle on Saturday evening.
•One of the University of Kentucky's beloved "Unforgettables", Mason County's own Deron Feldhaus, is reuniting with the one opponent he is forever linked with, former Duke All-American Christian Laettner.
The combatants in what has been described by many as the greatest college basketball games ever played will be featured speakers at the ninth Holy Cross Sports Nite, a fundraiser for both Holy Cross High School and the Christian Laettner Basketball Academy, at 7 p.m. on Oct. 19 at Paul Brown Stadium.
One of the more unique items to be auctioned off at the event is a three feet by four feet "Laet-Haus," autographed jersey with half Laettner's Duke jersey and half Feldhaus/ Kentucky jersey. Laettner will also be conducting a youth basketball camp and a coaches' luncheon earlier in the day.
For more information, visit www.holycrossnite.com.
•As for the aforementioned fall sports, high school golf season began early, even before school was in session, and the early returns point to another successful for several local teams and individuals. Both Mason County boys' and girls' golf teams are off to solid starts and both have similar goals, to make it to the second day of action in the state tournament at the Bowling Green Country Club.
The other sports in autumn, which include football, cross country, boys' and girls' soccer and volleyball, get going in earnest beginning Monday.
As our regular readers already realize, Zack is the soccer expert in the office and yours truly attempts to cover volleyball.
It's about to get even busier around here, with games to cover nearly every night of the week, but for the most part, we enjoy it.
The sport of volleyball has become more popular in recent years and it's a fast-paced, exciting sport. Personally and somewhat selfishly, I'd like to see the matches revert back to a best two-out-of-three format but apparently the best three-out-of-five matches are here to stay.
It's just that many matches end rather late in the evening, because of the extra time it takes to play all of those games, especially when there are freshmen and/or junior varsity matches played before the varsity teams get going. Not only does it make a curmudgeonly sports writer have to rush his story to make deadline, but it also means student-athletes get home late on school nights. Seems the KHSAA wasn't thinking of that when they made the change to the longer format last season.
On the other hand, soccer is Zack's forte and he does a fantastic job covering the sport. I covered a few matches years ago but I was admittedly pretty much bluffing my way through the game stories. I learned a few things about the sport but it just isn't something I've been around a lot.
I do admire the kids who play it however. It's definitely an intensely competitive endeavor and you have to be in tip-top shape to perform effectively. Soccer is another sport that has seen significant growth over the years in this country after originating in Europe. It remains the most popular sport in the world and draws the highest global television audience of any sport.
•The high school football season promises to be a fun and interesting one.
Mason County has high hopes, as well they should. The Royals are talented and experienced and have been ranked ninth in the Courier-Journal's Class AAA preseason poll, which actually may be a tad low. Mason County coach David Buchanan probably doesn't want to hear it, but the Royals have a great shot of being 10-0 heading into the postseason.
Central, which defeated Belfry 12-6 in overtime in last year's Class AAA championship game, sits at the top spot, with Belfry in second place. Bourbon County, the team that ended Mason's season a year ago in the District 6 title game, is ranked seventh. Mystifyingly, Bath County was among the schools receiving votes. True, the Wildcats were 8-3 last year, but most of the key pieces from that team have graduated.
Fleming County doesn't play the Wildcats in the regular season, but the teams squared off in a scrimmage last night at Panther Field as part of the annual EKC Grid-O-Rama. (Look for Zack's coverage of that elsewhere on this page.) The Panthers, who defeated Bath twice last year, have to replace their entire offensive and defensive lines from a year ago, as well as many of their skill position players. Fleming may get out of the gate a little slowly, but look for them to progress into a dangerous squad by the end of the campaign.
Coach Josh Hughes leads Lewis County into its "Grid" scrimmage on Saturday at 5 p.m., when they face Paintsville at Raceland-Worthington High School. The Lions, who fell to Bourbon County in the first round of the playoffs last year, appear to have an excellent chance of rebounding from last year's 4-7 mark and putting together a winning slate this season.
In Brooksville, coach Michael Sizemore is battling the numbers game with his den of Polar Bears, taking a 24-man roster into its opener at Nicholas County next Saturday. Bracken County finished 5-6 last year after dropping its final five games. The Class A school hosts Ludlow on Aug. 30 in what should be a close one.
•The Cincinnati Reds are doing exactly what they're supposed to be doing, beating up on the lesser talented teams in baseball, as evidenced by their current hot run, which includes a sweep of the awful Cubbies in Chicago, followed by a 2-1 win in Milwaukee on Thursday to begin that four-game series.
Cincy has also won eight of their last nine games heading into last night's contest against the woeful Brewers to pull to within two and a half games behind front-running Pittsburgh and just a half-game out of second place behind St. Louis. It demonstrates just how quickly pennant races can change. It was only a week ago that the Reds had slipped seven games out of first place.
The Redlegs are a virtual lock to emerge as one of the two National League Wild Card teams but a division title is certainly within reach as well. If they continue to receive stellar pitching and they can remain healthy down the stretch, look for the Reds to pass both the Cardinals and the Pirates and claim the NL Central crown. If not, a one-game playoff looms and if it's against the Cards, you can't realistically like Cincinnati's chances.
St. Louis owns the Reds, and in a postseason one-game-means-everything scenario, a Cincy win would have to be considered a monumental upset. The Pirates are a different story but the preferred solution is to finish strong and win the division.
•Another exciting college football season is nearly upon us and this promises to be an intriguing year indeed.
A quick perusal of several of the preseason prognostications tells us that most pundits expect Alabama to win its third consecutive national title.
As former Louisville coach and current ESPN blabbermouth Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast, my friend."
The Crimson Tide is formidable, but so are Southeastern Conference foes Georgia, Texas A&M, South Carolina, LSU and Florida, so just winning the SEC will be not be easy.
Who knows? There could be as many as four or five unbeaten teams at season's end, with Ohio State, Stanford, Oregon, Louisville and Clemson all having a legitimate shot at running the table.
Just think of the gnashing of teeth we would hear from coaches and fans and the uproar such a scenario would cause the BCS.
•With the National Football League already in the middle of its exhibition schedule, it's about time to take a quick look at the prospects of the closest NFL team to Maysville.
The Cincinnati Bengals appear to be a team that can make lots of noise when the games start to count.
Coach Marvin Lewis has his best shot of leading the Bengals to the Super Bowl in his 11th year at the helm.
The Cincinnati defense is comparable, if not potentially even better, to last year's Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, and if quarterback Andy Dalton can avoid critical mistakes while maturing in his third year in the league, the Bengals have what it takes.
Injuries are always a factor when you're trying to predict where a team will finish, but it would be a disappointing season for men in stripes if they don't win the AFC North and at least a game or two in the playoffs.
One supposed NFL expert, Peter Prisco of cbssports.com, picks the Bengals to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in the first-ever cold weather Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on Feb. 2, 2014.
Not sure about the Falcons, but it would sure be fun to see a Cincinnati-San Francisco matchup.
•Mustard factoid of the week:
The use of mustard as a hot dog condiment was first seen in the United States at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, when the R.T. French Company introduced its bright yellow French's mustard.
•What, you may ask, is that Hamilton guy doing, yapping about mustard as one of his notes topics?
Well, it seems a certain someone recently dubbed yours truly the "Mustard Man" because of a little yellow stain on my shirt.
Secondly, this guy has always loved mustard, along with several of its delicious varieties, including the zesty Gulden's brand, as well as the hot and spicy Mister Mustard, which is produced in the Queen City.
Whenever I have brown mustard, it reminds me of Crosley Field, the home of the Reds when I was growing up in Cincinnati.
Good to hear that Great American Ball Park has brought it back this season, so that a new generation of Reds fans can enjoy just how yummy it tastes on their favorite hot dog, brat, smoked sausage, or soft pretzel.