In Nov. 4 Issue
Former Russell County High School football standout Jason Foley, the school's all-time rushing leader with nearly 5,000 yards, can add a new feather to his cap, state champion.
Foley, now the head middle school football coach and a teacher at Northern Middle School in neighboring Pulaski County, guided his 7th grade Maroon team to the Kentucky Middle School Football Association state title over the weekend in Lexington.
"In my first year as Northern Middle head coach I was fortunate to have two very good football teams in my 7th and 8th grade," he said. "For the 7th grade team, it was a dream season for me to coach."
"When you start a season you want to win every game and championships are your ultimate goal. That don't happen often but it is still the goal. With this team, we went 10-0 in the regular season, won our conference championship, advanced to the state playoffs and won four more games to win the 7th grade state championship. The goals were met."
His team finished the season at 14-0 and is the only football team, middle or high school, to win a state championship in Pulaski County.
"I told my assistants before the season that this team had some serious potential but I didn't know how we would mesh," he said.
"After the first week of practice I knew this team was different and there was something special about them just by their work ethic and attitudes. As the season developed we dominated most football games and our closest challenge was the state championship game against Johnson County at 34 to 22."
Foley, who played college football at Campbellsville University from 2004-2007, said his young squad played stiff competition all year but with their diverse offense and a mixture of the spread game and power game they became a force offensively.
"Our team was very diverse in that we had five or six athletes who were dangerous with the football," he said.
"If a team tried to key on one or two players the other two would burn you. As a coach you just have to find a way to get the guys in the right position to utilize the weapons and we were able to do that."
He said it was interesting as his team advanced in the state he noticed most teams they were playing were much bigger than they were.
"Message boards and media labeled us as the underdog saying we were just too small to compete with all the Eastern Kentucky schools," he said.
"However, our speed and grit took us all the way. It was a joy for me to coach as I never got to play for a state championship as a player. It was a great feeling to be able to be a part of something like that. "
He said his team had a will to win and a belief they couldn't be beat as the season wore on.
Foley, who played at RCHS from 1999 to 2002, said it would take a while for this to soak in but it is something he will always be able to cherish as he looks back on this season and this team.
"It was truly a perfect season and that is something many coaches never get to experience," he said. "I am very fortunate and was lucky to have a great supporting cast around me to make this all happen."
Foley's 8th grade team started a little slow with two early losses but improved greatly to finish the year 11-4, advancing to the state playoffs and winning the school's first ever state playoff game . They were eliminated by the eventual state champion, Southern Middle School, by a score of 7-0 in which it was anybody's ball game.
"The team was not very disciplined to start the year but really grew mentally as the year progressed and was able to compete with the very best in the end," he said.
"I was proud of the way that team came together. We had a lot of talent but many players were a first or second year player and it took us a little while to get them up to speed. Those guys and this team will only get better as they enter high school and really have a bright future.
The Kentucky Middle School Football Association, which was created four years ago, also selected Foley to coach in the Kentucky Middle School East/West all star game as a west Coach.
"This is a prestigious honor as the association evaluates middle school coaches across the state and selects the ones they feel fit the mode for a game such as this," he said.
Foley's assistant coaches this season were Greg Cox, Dormus Smith, Eric Minton, Brett Aaron and Jeff Roberts.
"These guys were a great supporting cast and it was special to be able to share this season with two other homegrown Russell County boys in Eric and Brett," he said.
"These guys were first year coaches and did an excellent job throughout the year."