It is no secret that success is measured by results and by that definition, the 2018-19 Grayson County Athletic season will be remembered as one of the best in recent years.
Cougar teams combined for a District Championship, 5 District Runners-Up, 4 individual regional championships and an individual state runner-up all for a combined 133-122 (.521%) record. The year also saw multiple athletes sign to play their respective sports at colleges like Kentucky Wesleyan, Lindsay Wilson and Campbellsville.
Here is our official recap from a successful season of Cougar Athletics!
Best Moment: McHenry runs for 357 yards in rout of Eagles
Recap: After winning only four games the previous three seasons combined, the Cougar football team looked to turn the tide with multiple starters returning. Most notably, senior quarterback Noah Bullock, who missed all but a few plays of his junior season, provided much needed consistency at the quarterback position. Running the Ed Smart option offense, Bullock rushed for over 500 yards and 9 touchdowns while also passing for 825 yards and 9 touchdowns.
Out of the backfield, Bullock was joined by running back Q’Daryius McHenry who proved a jolt to the Cougar offense. In just 10 games, McHenry accounted for 1,975 all-purpose yards and scored 25 touchdowns. The sophomore had his best game of the season at the best time as he rushed for 357 yards and 6 touchdowns in Grayson County’s 54-35 win over Graves County in the KHSAA playoffs.
The Cougars started the season with a record of 4-0. The season began with a 14-6 victory over Hancock County that saw the Cougars score twice in the fourth quarter to stun the Hornets. The next week, Grayson County held Breckinridge County to negative yards for the game in a blowout victory. The running clock games didn’t stop there as they won the next two over Edmonson County and Ohio County to have one of their best starts in a few years.
The team lost three in a row to South Warren, Allen County and Bowling Green before coming out of the Fall Break with wins over Greenwood, Barren County and Muhlenberg County.
The win over Graves County, who the Cougars will be matched up with in district play this coming season, was only the sixth time that Grayson County had won a game in the playoffs. The Cougars were one of only eight road teams to win a playoff game in the first round. They were also the ONLY team to travel 150 miles or more and win their game.
Next season, the Cougars will once again find themselves in a new district. Owensboro, Ohio County, Muhlenberg County, Graves County and Grayson County will combine to form a new grouping. As always, every Cougar Football game will be broadcast live on K105 with Sam Gormley and beginning this year will also be broadcast on K105’s Facebook page.
Playoff: Regional Semifinals
Best Moment: First Regional Tournament Win vs. Muhlenberg County
Recap: After losing their first four games of the season, the Cougar Soccer team flipped a switch as the schedule turned to September where they won 9 of 11 with one of the losses coming in penalty kicks. That stretch saw the program win six games in a row which was the longest streak in program history.
Once the calendar flipped toward the postseason, the Cougars found themselves matched up with Muhlenberg County; a team that the Cougars had beaten twice before with an aggregate of 6-1. Behind two early goals and tight defense, they completed the three game sweep of the Mustangs which clinched the first victory in program history in the 3rd Region tournament.
Pacing the team was the one-two scoring punch of Wyatt Schultz (27 goals) and Cody Watkins (21 goals), but one of the more overlooked stats was the play of Matthew Haycraft, whose 27 assists tied as the third best in the entire state.
Playoff: Regional Quarterfinals
Best Moment: Johnston’s 4 goals send Lady Cougars to Region
Recap: Youth was the theme entering this past season for the Lady Cougar Soccer team. Temple Strader was the lone senior on a team that lost their leading scorer from the previous year to graduation.
The year saw the continued outbreak of sophomore Gillian Johnston who led the team with 18 goals, 4 of which came in a district semifinal victory over Breckinridge County. In addition to Johnston, the Lady Cougar defense was solidified by junior goalkeeper Laura Vincent who had 353 saves over the 21-game season. That total ranked first in the entire state, 20 ahead of the next closest opponent.
One of the high points of the season was a five game winning streak in the middle of August that saw wins over Hart County, McLean County, Butler County, Christian County and Breckinridge County. Jumping ahead a month and a half, the best moment of the season came off the foot of Johnston who had the four goals and the Lady Cougars advanced to the district championship game.
The future remains bright for the Lady Cougar program as they will return 29 of their 30 goals scored from the previous season.
Playoff: Regional Quarterfinals
Best Moment: Sweeps Edmonson County to head to region
Recap: For the first time since 2011, the Grayson County Lady Cougar volleyball team advanced to the 3rd Region tournament. To get to that point, they defeated Edmonson County on the road in the 12th District Semifinals.
With four seniors leading the charge, the Lady Cougars won 20 games on the year with 18 of them coming by a sweep. During a nine-game winning streak in September, the team did not lose a single set with only one of the sets being decided by two points.
Grayson County’s season came to an end after a tough loss to one of the traditional powers in the region; Owensboro Catholic. Despite not winning a game in the regional tournament, the 20-win mark was the most wins in a season since 2015 and was the same as the combined win totals in 2016/17.
The Lady Cougars will look to build on that mark next season behind a class of 11 returning players. They will be looking for a new head coach after Rebecca Meredith stepped down after three seasons as the head coach of the program.
While the boys side graduated most of its’ production from the previous year, the girls side was prepared and ready for a big season. Led by senior Hailey Stallings, who won multiple races on the year including another regional championship, and other returning runners, the Lady Cougar cross country made noise seemingly everywhere they went.
On the boys side, Lucas Gallagher turned in a strong performance at the regional race to qualify for the state meet that was held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. There, Gallagher turned in a performance that saw him finished in the front half of the field.
Stallings’ career finished with a 7th place finish in the state meet.
While the Lady Cougar program does graduate Stallings, Kaylee Masden and Emery Crume, a young core will return that is headlined by Ellie Evans, who finished in 5th place at this past year’s regional race.
Playoff: District Champions; Regional Quarterfinals
Best Moment: Comeback vs. Edmonson to Win District
Recap: After knocking off the defending regional champions, Apollo, to start the season, the Cougars ran into some of the top teams in the local area which caused a 3-10 overall start to the season. Once 2018 ended and the new year began, the team began to find its’ footing and turned into one of the better teams in the 3rd Region.
While memorable moments were hard to come by in the first month of the season, the final month of the year was anything but that, especially against their biggest rival in Edmonson County. On February 1st, in a rematch of a game from December, the Cougars defeated the Wildcats after sophomore Jaxon Higdon nailed a three pointer as time expired to win the game 33-30.
— Cougar Sports on K105 (@K105sports) February 2, 2019
After a loss to Breckinridge County in the middle of January, the Cougars only lost once in the regular season/district tournament, winning 10 of 11 games.
While most would probably believe that a buzzer beater over your biggest rival would be hard to top as the best moment of the year, the blue and orange found a way to do that by pulling off one of the more improbable comebacks in school history. Down by 20 points with 9 minutes left in regulation in the district championship game against Edmonson County, the Cougars stormed back to tie the game in regulation before completing the major comeback in overtime.
Grayson County 63
Edmonson County 58
Cougars come back from 20 down to win their second straight 12th District Championship pic.twitter.com/mNftoCqnOp
— Cougar Sports on K105 (@K105sports) February 23, 2019
Playoff: 12th District Semifinals
Best Moment: Masden’s Free Throw Clinches win over Owensboro
Recap: The Lady Cougars’ season went very similar to a roller coaster. While the team hit the peak at times, they also took multiple dips that they tried to fight out of. The highlight of the first semester was a win over Edmonson County, that turned out to be the Lady Cats only district loss of the season, where Bailey Snyder and Kenzie Renfrow combined for 25 of the 40 points and the Lady Cougars hung on for a three point win.
The middle of January proved to be a high spot for the team as they won three straight games, with all three coming on the road; the highlight of which was a one-point victory over Owensboro. The win was clinched after senior Kaylee Masden completed a three-point play in the closing seconds to give the Lady Cougars the road victory.
Grayson County 53
Lady Cougars’ Kaylee Masden ties the game with 1.2 seconds left and converts on the and-one opportunity to give them their third straight win! pic.twitter.com/QX0XoCL5pR
— Cougar Sports on K105 (@K105sports) January 16, 2019
The last month of the season saw the Lady Raiders of Whitesville Trinity turn into their kryptonite. In the game hosted in Whitesville, the Lady Raiders snapped a 40-game losing streak to the Lady Cougars in a 56-53 victory. Grayson County was able to get revenge in the rematch back at the Cougar Den, but the rubber match went the way of Whitesville Trinity in the district semifinals; ending the Lady Cougars season.
Last month, it was announced that head coach Josh Basham had resigned his position as head coach to become the principal at Caneyville Elementary. A search for his replacement is currently underway.
Playoff: Regional Quarterfinals
Best Moment: Caine Smith mows down Butler County in 3-0 win
Recap: Coming off of three straight losing seasons, the Cougar baseball team was looking to turn the tide with a strong returning crop of players. The season started on the losing end after facing Warren East’s Ryan Hawks, who is rated as one of the top players in the state, Hawks held the Cougars to only 4 runs in an 11-4 Raider victory. The struggles in the Bowling Green area did not continue as just a few days later, the Cougars won the Greenwood Hot Rods Classic with wins over the Gators and defending state runner-up Highlands.
A major story line for much of the first month of the season was the lack of home games for the team. In fact, Grayson County played 16 of their first 17 games away from the friendly confines of Don Lee Field. After splitting the first district series against Edmonson County with the Cougars winning in Brownsville and the Wildcats winning in Leitchfield, Grayson County won the next four district games to win the regular season district championship.
The most notable stretch in that point was a 3-0 victory over Butler County in 8 innings. Junior pitcher Caine Smith threw 8 shutout innings allowing only a hit and striking out 11 Bears to keep the Cougars hopes of taking the regular season district title alive.
Smith continued his transformation into Grayson County’s ace throughout the season. In district play, he gave up only 3 runs while striking out 40 in 27.2 innings of work. This includes having a 21-inning scoreless streak to end the season.
After shutting out the district host Whitesville Trinity, the run through the district looked like it was going to continue early on against Butler County in the 12th District Championship game. The Cougars took a 9-0 lead after 4 innings and looked to be in business, but the Bears had other ideas. They scored 10 unanswered to stun the Cougars by a final score of 10-9 to claim the 12th District Championship.
The loss proved to be detrimental for Grayson County as they drew region favorite Breckinridge County in their first round game. The upset minded Cougars took a 5-4 lead late, but a two out rally capped a 7-6 Fighting Tiger victory to end the season for the blue and orange.
Playoff: Regional Quarterfinals
Best Moment: District Semifinals win over Butler County
Recap: As the old adage says, “it is not how you start, but it is how you finish.” Coming into the season, the Lady Cougars were picked by the local coaches as the #4 team in the region and one of the top 30 teams in the entire state. After starting the season with a 3-5 record, the team lost 18 of their next 20 games in what turned a season with a lot of hope into a disappointment. Multiple players left the team which forced head coach Eddie Anderson to give playing time to some of his younger players.
One of the bright points of the season was a road game at Breckinridge County where the Lady Cougars scored their most runs in a single game in nearly two months en route to a big win in the second to last game of the regular season.
Even as the hosts of the 12th District Tournament, the odds were against the #4 seeded Lady Cougars as they were tasked with playing Butler County. The Lady Bears swept the season series against Grayson County by a combined 26-5 score.
Using the doubt of many as fuel, the Lady Cougars stunned the top seeded Lady Bears in dramatic fashion 5-4. With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Junior Kenzie Renfrow made a diving catch that clinched the upset victory.
The final two games of the season saw the team lose to both Whitesville Trinity and the eventual region champion Daviess County, but the win over Butler County turned an entire season for the team. As Anderson put it before the championship game against the Lady Raiders, there was nothing that could take his team’s confidence away.
Record: Boys- 19-3; Girls- 12-10
Recap: Continuing their trend of being one of the region’s top programs, the Cougar Tennis program had another stellar season under head coach Sherry Vincent. Seemingly every night, Vincent would send positives about the Cougars matches from the night.
The highlight of the season was Maxton Cummings advancing to the region semifinals. By doing so, he helped himself make a trip to the KHSAA State Tennis tournament. Cummings fell in the first round, but did so after drawing one of the top players in the entire state. Like most of the Cougar sports programs, the future is extremely bright for the tennis program who Coach Vincent will return to coach again next season.
Track and Field
Recap: After a strong performance in the fall on the cross country circuit, the Cougar track and field program looked to continue to make their mark as one of the top programs in the area.
In the regional meet, they did exactly that. Juniors Laura Vincent and Ethan Pierce both won regional titles in the pole vault with Vincent also claiming a title in the 100m hurdle. Multiple other Cougars found themselves placing during the event held at Greenwood High School.
The award-winning performances didn’t end in Bowling Green as the team headed to the State Championships at the University of Kentucky. Ethan Pierce showed out during the pole vault by jumping a mark of 14 feet to claim the state runner-up title.
As a team, the K105 Sports crew broadcast 69 games (12 Cougar Football, 26 Cougar Basketball, 18 Lady Cougar Basketball, 8 Cougar Baseball and 5 Lady Cougar Softball). In those games, Grayson County finished with a record of 38-31. Our sports writer Don Brown also penned 134 recaps for the GCHS season and more for Grayson County Middle School.
We look forward to August when a new season of Cougar Athletics begins with more coverage than ever. As always, we remind you to follow us on Twitter @K105sports
By Sam Gormley, Play-By-Play Announcer/Local Sports
Reach Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org