Friday, December 03, 1999

Beechwood aims for 8th state title today




BY RAY SCHAEFER
Enquirer contributor

        Beechwood's football team didn't realize how much it missed battling for the state Class A football championship until it couldn't.

        The Tigers go for the school's eighth title against Hancock County at noon today at Cardinal Stadium in Louisville. This year's players want to make people forget about losing to Middlesboro in the semifinals a year ago.

        “If you don't go down to state for Beechwood, it's not a successful year,” senior quarterback Ben List said. “We got down there (this year), but we're not done.”

        Coach Mike Yeagle is learning to appreciate state championship games — his teams have won six this decade and finished second in 1995 — a little more than he used to.

        “I guess the older you get, the more you better enjoy them,” Yeagle said. “You don't know how much longer you're going to be doing it.”

        Beechwood's offense scored 502 points and averaged 397.7 yards a game this season. Against Hancock County, look for the Tigers to unveil as many different formations as possible.

        The Tigers have the players to do so.

        List has 1,138 yards rushing and 24 touchdowns, senior running back Joey Hampel has 873 rushing yards and 15 TDs, and junior Mike Nie has thrown for 795 yards.

        “The more looks we give them, maybe the more adjust ments they'll have to make,” Yeagle said.

        Defensively, Beechwood surrendered only 87 points and 198 yards per game. Its strategy for the Hornets? Do anything to contain senior quarterback Travis Atwell.

        Few teams have.

        Atwell has thrown for 2,362 yards and 32 touchdowns and ran for another 2,134 with 37 TDs. He has intercepted 11 passes and ran a fumble, inter ception and punt return back for scores.

        “He's incredible,” Yeagle said. “... He does everything. He's a field general, he's got a great arm, he's got a great touch (on passes). He runs the ball well, he runs their offense well. He's their punt returner, he's their kick returner. I think he drives the bus.”

        Yeagle said the best way to corral Atwell is to force him back away from the line of scrimmage.

        “If we can do that, I think we have a chance to defend him,” Yeagle said.

        Hancock County has more offense than just Atwell. Senior receiver Seth Flener has 957 receiving yards and 17 TDs, and fullback Reggie Williams has 968 rushing yards.

        “We're a multiple-set offense,” coach Mike Peach said. “We'll run the option and we'll throw. We've got a pretty nice balance. We're not a one dimensional team.

        Beechwood survived a season's worth of pressure in last Friday's 25-19 semifinal win over Pikeville — a game in which the Tigers scored 15 fourth-quarter points. Yeagle wants his team to have fun today, but Nie wants to take care of some unfinished business.

        “I just want to prove more than anything that we're still the best team in Class A,” Nie said. “And I think we are.”

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