Thursday, December 02, 1999

Highlands gets 3 defenders on all-state team

Scott, Grover, Hamblen earn 1st-team honors

The Associated Press

        Highlands landed three players on the Associated Press all-Kentucky football team, tying Lexington Bryan Station for the most players on the team.

        Attracting high-level recruiting attention from Kentucky, Ohio State, Notre Dame and other traditional powers are the three Highlands defenders, all of them juniors: lineman Ben Scott; linebacker Brent Grover; and defensive back Brett Hamblen.

        One year after offense propelled Highlands to a perfect season, 13-1 Highlands has done it with defense and is back in Saturday's Class AAA title game.

        Coach Dale Mueller recalled Grover and Hamblen setting the tone early in a 41-24 playoff win last month over Dixie Heights.

        “Their first series, they complete a pass over the middle and Brett just completely dislodges the guy from the ball and Brent recovers it, and that just set the stage,” he said.

        Matt Mercer of Beechwood, a defensive lineman, also was a first-ream pick.

        Danville offensive lineman Josh Jaggers led all vote-getters. Jaggers, a second-team all-state selection last year as a junior, only improved in 1999, coach Sam Harp said. “He got stronger, he got better foot speed, and I think his best football's still ahead of him,” Harp said.

        In spite of missing two games with a strained knee and playing at what Harp estimated as 70 percent of his capabilities in Danville's last two playoff games, Jaggers still was named on more than three-quarters of the ballots cast by state sports writers, editors and broadcasters.

        “He's just a tough kid,” Harp said of the 6-foot-4, 290-pound Jaggers, who plans to attend Kentucky. “You'd have to kill him for him not to be in there.”

        In spite of his intention to accept Kentucky's scholarship offer, Jaggers continues to be pursued by Tennessee, Colorado and Michigan State, among others, Harp said.

        “He's not wavering at all,” said Harp, whose own son, Chase, is a tight end at Kentucky. “He bleeds the blue.”

        Chuck Smith, who led 14-0 Boyle County to Friday's Class AA state title game, was the voters' choice as the state's coach of the year.

        “When we first started this year, I didn't know what to ex pect,” Smith said. “As the year progressed, I realized these kids were demonstrating a strong character and a refuse-to-lose attitude.”

        Two of Smith's defensive mainstays, brothers Bobby and Travis Leffew, were first-team selections, at linebacker and defensive lineman, respectively.

        Bobby Leffew, a 6-5, 235-pound senior, set a school record for tackles and provided a dose of maturity on a team in which seniors filled just four of 22 starting spots. Travis Leffew, a 6-4, 250-pound junior, anchored both Rebels lines.

        The Leffews are now an all-state dynasty at Boyle County — older brother Chuck was honored earlier this decade for his offensive line play.

        The multi-talented Travis Atwell of Hancock County was the choice at quarterback after a season in which he ran for 37 touchdowns and passed for 32 more, leading the the Hornets to Friday's Class A title game against Beechwood.

        “I was watching him play ping-pong one time this year, and he did not want to stop playing until he won,” coach Mark Peach said. “That's the type of kid he is.”

        Bryan Station, which will face St.Xavier in Saturday's Class AAAA title game, placed three players on the first team: offensive lineman Josh Hurst, running back Eric Shelton and defensive back J.T. Haskins.

        Shelton “runs behind a really great offensive line and he just generates so much force or velocity or whatever that it's just hard to tackle him,” Bryan Station coach John Nochta said of the 6-3, 235-pounder. Earning multiple all-state honors was Pulaski Southwestern senior Scott Blair, a first-team selection as a punter and defensive back and a second-team choice at running back. Rounding out the first-team offense were ends Montrell Jones of Male and Gerad Parker of Lawrence County; lineman Matt Huff of St.Xavier and Brandon Coldiron of Lawrence County; Tates Creek center Justin Richards; place-kicker Joe Davis of Bowling Green; and backs Herana-Daze Jones of Iroquois and Quinton Henson of Lynn Camp.

        Henson ran for just more than 2,000 yards and finished his high school career third on the state's all-time rushing list.

        Also first-team defense were lineman Will Rueff of Trinity, linebacker Robert Reynolds of Bowling Green, and defensive back Tyler Ford of Somerset.

AP All-Kentucky football teams

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