Sep. 22—Scott Marsh wasn’t difficult for the sake of being difficult.
With Ashland set to host West Jessamine on Saturday, Tomcats coach Tony Love suggested to the Colts’ coach that they kick off in the afternoon.
Marsh declined, and he had a reason. He intended for West Jessamine to get its money’s worth from the two-hour-plus bus trip.
“I said, no, I want to be under the lights at Putnam Stadium. If we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna come here and I want our kids to be in this environment,” Marsh said. “It’s not something they’ve ever done before. As far as West Jessamine football goes, this is a state championship type of environment, and our kids don’t get that very often. I wanted to be able to give that to them.”
Marsh would know. He was a sophomore on Ashland’s 1990 state championship club and the defensive coordinator for two title teams in Indiana.
So Saturday night was, of course, a return home as well for the son of longtime Tomcats coach Vic Marsh.
“Spent half my life on those sidelines as a ball boy,” Marsh said, standing outside Putnam Stadium’s visitor’s locker room and glancing across the field toward the home sideline. “My son (Kellen) was out here doing it tonight.”
Scott and Missy Marsh’s oldest son, Luke, is a Colts senior. He was out with injury. They also have two daughters, Kennedy and Callaway, who played on last year’s West Jessamine volleyball team that was the first from the 12th Region to ever make the state semifinals.
Ashland won Saturday night, 58-21, keeping Marsh winless in three trips to Putnam Stadium wearing red. He was the defensive coordinator for Boyd County teams that fell at Ashland in 2002 and ’03.
That scarcely dampened Marsh’s enthusiasm, at least as it related to being back home — and, he hopes, building a new one.
“It was great. It was fantastic,” Marsh said. “Jessamine County doesn’t have a very big football history and central Kentucky doesn’t have stadiums like this. This is a unique deal.
“We need to put our kids in this environment. We need to put our parents in this environment. I wish our administrators would actually come to the away games, and they would get in this environment and see what it’s like in a community where (football) is important.”
It is here, and the Colts have long looked to coaches with northeastern Kentucky connections with hopes of replicating it in Nicholasville.
Former Morgan County coach Randy Wood, previously West Jessamine’s offensive coordinator, made some progress there running the triple option from 2008-09, and ex-Boyd County boss John Gilliam paced West Jessamine from 2017-19. Ashland alumnus and Boyd County baseball coaching legend Jody Hamilton even led the Colts on an interim basis in 2007.
West Jessamine has had state-level success in a handful of sports that hasn’t yet translated to the gridiron. The most memorable win in the history of the school that opened in 1997 when Jessamine County split remains a 2002 regular-season defeat of Boyle County.
“We’re still trying to get a whole culture change,” Marsh said. “Obviously, you look at (Saturday), we’ve got a long way to go, but we’re trying to get a whole community to shift their idea of what football is. It’s a lot of work, and I think we’re pointed in the right direction.”
—Chuck Rist’s distinctive sign-off had a new twist on Saturday night.
Ashland’s public address announcer still paused after thanking attendees and before bidding them good night. It was what Rist said before that which resonated on this night.
“From the Dick and Dicky Martin Press Box …” Rist began.
Putnam Stadium’s press box had been christened that in a halftime ceremony, honoring the Tomcats’ veteran radio announcer, Dicky Martin, and his late father, Dick, who preceded him in that role.
The Martin duo has provided the voice of the Tomcats over the airwaves dating back to 1953. Dicky inherited that gig from his father in 1975.
The family connection was what stuck with Martin on Saturday, he said, knowing the ceremony was coming but having been instructed by stadium restoration committee chairman Greg Jackson not to look at the front of the press box — where his and his father’s names are now emblazoned — ahead of time.
“First thing you think is how blessed you are,” Martin said. “And then, obviously, I think of my dad a lot. I think about him every day, but he was the man that taught me how to broadcast.”
Martin also credited his mother, Jean, for cleaning up his early miscues in “butchering the English language,” as he said she put it, and the rest of his family.
The listening public drew mention, too.
“What I think about is all the Tomcat fans that have invited me into their homes for 40-some years,” Martin said. “There have been some great moments, a heck of a lot more great moments than bad ones, but it’s been a great ride. I love every minute of it and I’m gonna continue to do it as long as I can.”
—If most of Ashland’s first three games felt like two steps forward and three steps back for the Tomcats, Saturday night was full speed ahead.
Zero turnovers. Three penalties. And, not coincidentally, according to Tomcats coach Tony Love, a 58-point outburst and a comfortable victory over West Jessamine.
Infractions and turnovers were a major problem for Ashland in a 1-2 start. The Tomcats gave the ball away five times in each of their first two games, a loss to Raceland and a win at Boyd County, and committed two turnovers in a setback to George Washington.
And Ashland had 75 yards in penalties against the Rams, 100 versus the Lions and 81 against the Patriots.
So cleaning up both issues was a point of emphasis in practice, Love said.
“Sometimes you allow things to slip by in practice, and you develop habits,” Love said. “I really believe that you’re always developing habits in practice, and they’re gonna be good habits or bad habits, but you’re gonna get them.”
Ashland backs got very familiar with the Blaster — a device which players run through carrying a ball that tests their hold on the pigskin.
“If you’re not gonna have two hands on the ball and have proper ball security, then you’re gonna do extra work,” Love said. “It’s not punishment, it’s just, you’ve gotta start stressing that these are things that are gonna either help us or hurt us as we move forward. Ball security really helped us (Saturday).”
Ashland also didn’t shoot itself in the foot with avoidable penalties against the Colts.
“The ones that are extremely frustrating are the unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, because I think that’s just a bad reflection on us as a program,” Love said. “There’s always gonna be some offsides, holding, but you break them down and look at each penalty and why they’re happening, and you try to improve in your practice habits there, too.”
—Three Bath County players surpassed 100 yards rushing on Friday night in a 54-30 win at Lewis County as Quentin Lewis, Jacob Easton and Carter Hart each cracked triple digits.
It hasn’t been as long as you might think since a northeastern Kentucky team did that — Russell’s Nathan Conley, Charlie Jachimczuk and Malakai Anderson each ran for more than 100 yards on Oct. 25, 2019 against East Carter — but it was a bona fide milestone for the Wildcats.
“I can say, being on the sideline, watching them do what they do, was fun as a coach and as a fan of power football,” Bath County coach Chris Lane said.
Lane praised the Wildcats offensive line’s aggression and finishing of blocks, and took note of the differences Lewis, Easton and Hart present that led them to the same place — triple digits.
“Jacob figured out that he’s an athlete and a really good one at that,” Lane said of the Bath County quarterback, who ran for 105 yards and two TDs. “He was able to use his legs to add a dimension that the offense hadn’t had the past few weeks.”
Of Lewis, who rushed for 143 yards and four scores: “Q Lewis did what Q does: he’s fast. He has matured as a running back and is letting plays develop, and then using his speed to break big runs.”
And Hart and his 132 yards and two house calls: “Carter got back to what Carter does. He took his power running style and started being the aggressive running back that he is. When Carter decides he wants to run someone over, it’s hard to stop him.”
Reach ZACK KLEMME at [email protected] or (606) 326-2658. Follow @zklemmeADI on Twitter.