Friday, June 2, 2017

Johnson will play football at Knox College

Joining CCHS graduate Charlie Johnson on his signing day for a
 football scholarship to Knox College were (front from left)
his brother Devin Souvongkham, step-father Phillip
Cale, Johnson, mother Stacy Wallen, grandmother Charleen
Hagerty, (back) CCHS Associate Head Coach Sean
Thompson, CCHS Head Coach Al Starnes, CCHS
Athletic Director Angela Starnes and Crittenden
County Superintendent Vince Clark.
Charlie Johnson never pictured himself playing collegiate football, but thanks to technology and his academic standards, the Crittenden County High School graduate has been called to play at Knox College at Galesburg, Ill.

Johnson was a kickoff returner and running back for the Rockets, where he earned a reputation for enthusiasm and leadership. His quickness was key to his success on the field, and his determination has helped him earn a collegiate scholarship.

His formal affirmation as part of the recruiting process took place recently at Rocket Arena surrounded by family,  supporters, school administrators and coaches.

After creating a profile on the web-based recruiting service Next College Student Athlete (NCSA), Johnson started getting text messages from the coach at Knox, which plays as member of the NCAA Division III Midwest Conference.

Johnson, a great math student, knew he wanted to go to college to pursue a career in civil engineering. He also wanted to play football. An official visit to Kentucky Wesleyan didn’t go as well as he’d planned so Johnson decided to make the six-hour drive north to Knox, which is northwest of Peoria, Ill. There, he found his match.

The school is a highly-acclaimed liberal arts college with about 1,400 students. Johnson said the coach was eager for him to sign with The Prairie Fire football team, which tipped the scales.

“He told me I would start off on special teams, but would have an opportunity as a running back,” said Johnson, who was presented the coveted Principal’s Award at last month’s Class Night. Johnson was recognized for his unwavering zest for life and contagious good nature.

“I guess it just comes natural,” he said about the positive attitude he delivers whether it’s football, school or community events.

He said, “I just like to see the good things in people.”

CCHS Athletic Director Angela Starnes said she remembers Johnson in elementary school physical education class, carrying that same  perspective.

“He’s been like that since he was just a little kid,” she said.

His high school football coach said Johnson will continue to be successful because of his willingness to persevere.

“He has stuck with a (sport) because he loved it. He’s a go getter and we’re excited for him and proud of him,” said Rocket football coach Al Starnes.

Johnson said he became interested in engineering while helping design an airplane wing in a school aeronautics class.

“I’ve just always liked making things run,” he said.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Courtney joins football coaching staff

Former Crittenden County football player Gaige Courtney is back in Rocket Nation after accepting a position as an instructional assistant in the computer lab at Crittenden County Elementary School.
Rocket football coach Al Starnes said Courtney will become an assistant coach for football and basketball.

Courtney played collegiate football four years at Kentucky State University. He was a standout linebacker and full back on Crittenden County’s state semifinalist team in 2008. He graduated from CCHS in 2009 and has a bachelor’s degree from KSU. He is also working toward a master’s degree in elementary physical education.

Starnes said Courtney will be a wonderful addition to the football staff, which includes only Rocket football alumni.

At KSU, Courtney played linebacker. In high school, he set the career tackles record at Crittenden County.

For the past few seasons Courtney had been an assistant coach at Webster County.
“He’s the one we wanted on our staff,” Starnes said. “Things are coming together nicely.”
It is no secret that Starnes has been building a coaching staff with deep roots in Rocket football. Starnes is planning to retire after the 2017 football season and has already named offensive coordinator Shawn Thompson as the associate head coach.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Hart inducted into athletics hall of fame

Brad Hart
Brad Hart has barely enough fingers to support his athletics hardware.

The 30-year-old former Rocket football and basketball player was enshrined Feb. 10, 2017 in the Farmers Bank Marion-Crittenden County Athletics Hall of Fame Friday, in just his second year of eligibility. That alone speaks volumes to his competitive achievements in athletics and his personal integrity off the field.

Hart’s high school career was noteworthy indeed, but his name surfaces most often in conversations about his three college football bowl rings. He played in the Music City Bowl and Liberty Bowl and was on the roster for another Music City Bowl while playing at the University of Kentucky.

Hart carved out a niche on the Wildcat football team as a walk-on who earned the starting job as the team’s long snapper. After his senior season, Hart was elected the University of Kentucky Male Scholar Athlete of the Year.

Longtime Rocket football coach Al Starnes said Hart’s a great example of someone who recognizes the opportunities athletics can offer and seizes them by specializing in a particular area.

“Brad was a very good high school football player. He played tight end and linebacker on some very good teams and was a large part of those teams’ successes, but so were many other athletes,” Starnes said. “Brad realized he had a special talent and used that to his benefit in big time college football.”

Starnes said Hart is the only player he has coached in 26 years at Crittenden County who started and finished a career in Division 1 college football.

“That says a lot about his character,” Starnes said.

“Long snapping is just something I could always do,” explained Hart, now an attorney at a prestigious law firm in Nashville, Tenn. “I have dads call me sometimes wanting advice on things to teach their boys about long snapping. Honestly, I don’t have much advice for them because it just came natural.”

Many things come natural to Hart, whose academic and professional successes probably outmeasure anything he accomplished on a football field or basketball court. In high school, he was valedictorian of his class in 2005 and was a two-sport athlete. Hart lettered four years in football and the teams on which he played rank No. 4 on the all-time list of cumulative wins by a class with 33.

Hart recalls his sophomore season as one of the best in school history. The Rockets finished 10-3 and he was a lineman. Crittenden beat Fulton and Murray in the playoffs that season before losing to eventual state champion Mayfield in the First Region title game.

Hart recalls a game his junior season at Hancock County when both teams were hoping for a district championship. The Hornets routed CCHS and injured six players. Four went to the hospital. Hart took a big hit in that game as well.

“I got crushed,” he said. “Somehow I managed to stay in the game.”

Crittenden went to the spread offense his junior season and Hart was a tight end and enjoyed getting in on the action. He had 258 yards receiving and 69 tackles that season. As a senior, Hart was a second-year starter at linebacker and recorded 115 tackles. On offense, he had 233 yards receiving on a team that featured an up-and-coming young quarterback, Austin Berry.

“We were really good offensively that year,” said Hart who was third on the team in receiving as the Rockets won nine games.

As a basketball player, Hart was a tenacious 6-foot-1 center known for his blue-collar approach around the basket. He lettered four years on the court and his teams never had a losing record although their post-season accomplishments were quite unremarkable. Hart played with all-time leading scorer Tim Hill, but never as an upperclassman did one of his teams win a game in the district tournament. The Rockets were 17-10 his sophomore season and lost to Henderson in the regional tournament. Hart averaged nine points and five rebounds as a senior and eight points and four rebounds as a junior.

In retrospect, Hart believes he could have pushed a little harder, worked a little more in the offseaons and made himself into a better player, and perhaps a more versatile collegiate athlete.

“If I could have gotten a little faster, a little stronger I might have been able to play linebacker at some small college,” Hart said. “But back then I was preoccupied with normal high school stuff. I guess it worked out pretty well, though, because the memories I made at UK were really special.”

After biding his time as what Hart calls “just a walk-on practice player” his sophomore season at UK, Hart earned a spot as the full-time long snapper as a junior in 2007. He lettered two seasons and played in some of the greatest venues and against some of the best players in the country. Hart played with a number of Wildcats who played or are still playing in the NFL, including Jacob Tamme, Randall Cobb and Tim Masthay.

“We played at Alabama and in The Swamp,” Hart said. “All the travel experiences I had with the team, flying to games and playing in those stadiums, I am not sure I understood at the time how special that was.”

Now that he’s on the other side of schoolboy sports and college degrees, Hart says it’s fun to look back and size up all those memories. Being elected to the Hall of Fame is something he will always cherish just like his induction into the Frank G. Ham Society of Character at UK.

“It is a huge deal. I am proud of Marion and proud of where I come from,” he said. “And, I am very proud to say I will be going into the Hall of Fame. Obviously, Crittenden County is a small school, but we have had some great athletes come through there.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Perkins will kick for Kentucky Wesleyan

Surrounded by family and school officials, Will Perkins on Monday signed a scholarship to play football at Kentucky Wesleyan. Pictured are (from left) brother Rowan Perkins, mother Leah Perkins, Will Perkins, father Adam Perkins, brother Noah Perkins, (back) CCHS Principal Curtis Brown and CCHS head football coach Al Starnes.
Up at 4 a.m., each day before school, Will Perkins is determined to get stronger and more explosive.
Perhaps that is what Kentucky Wesleyan has seen in the Crittenden County High School senior, prompting the Owensboro college to offer Perkins a partial athletic scholarship.

The 17-year-old was surrounded by family and friends on Monday when he officially signed forms to join the Division II football program.

Perkins had never kicked a football before the fall of 2015. Now, it’s something he studies and thinks about daily.

Rocket football coach Al Starnes says Perkins is a very hard worker and he’s not surprised that he’s getting a chance to further his education and play collegiate football.

“He only played for us two years, but we saw right away that he had a leg and could help us,” Starnes said.

Perkins joined the CCHS football team without a thread of experience in the sport. In fact, he is still learning the game.

The son of a former U.S. Army helicopter pilot, Perkins was introduced to soccer while living in Germany. He also lived in Hawaii and Alabama and played on travel soccer teams.

“We thought we were setting him up to play soccer in college,” said his father, Adam, who is now a pilot for the air ambulance service headquartered in Marion.

When the family moved to Marion from Hopkinsville a couple of years ago, Perkins realized there was no high school opportunities for boys soccer here. So, he went for the football team.

In between his first taste of kicking a ball that wasn’t round and his signing to play college football, Perkins became a record-setting place kicker at Crittenden County. He is currently No. 2 in the Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s all-time recordbook for most extra-point kicks in game – 10 at Fulton County. He is also among the top 10 in consecutive point-after attempts without a miss – 33. He also holds the school record in both categories.

By the end of his senior season, Perkins was consistently booting his kickoffs to the opposing team’s 10-yard line and got some touchbacks with balls bouncing into the end zone. Coach Starnes says Perkins can get stronger and should be able to kick it through the end zone.

That’s why Perkins is working out twice a day at a local gym. He goes before and after school.

“I want to become more explosive and stronger so I can kick the ball farther,” he said.

He has a personal kicking instructor and watches video and reads about kicking.

“I want to continue perfecting my craft,” he said.

Wesleyan plays football in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference.

Perkins is undecided on his academic path. He will either work toward a degree in biology in order to become a physical therapist or study music and music therapy. He plays several instruments including the electric guitar and drums in the Marion Baptist Church praise band.

Perkins is also a good student. Part of his scholarship to attend Wesleyan is for academics, thanks to an ACT score of 26. As for football, it’s all still new and Perkins thinks he can continue to improve.
“I feel like I am really just getting started,” he said.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Sean Thompson is Rockets' associate head coach

Rocket coach Al Starnes has announced the promotion Sean Thompson to associate head coach of the Crittenden County football team.

Many see this as the defecto changing of the guard – a move aimed at making it clear that Thompson gets Starnes’ endorsement to become the next head coach.

Starnes, who will begin his 27th season next fall, plans on retiring in June 2018.

“Sean has demonstrated his ability to lead the football program and because of my (administrative) position, I want it to be clear that he is in charge in my absence,” said the 54-year-old Starnes, who has coached in Marion since 1991.

Over the past couple of years, it had become apparent to many observers close to the football program that Thompson was the heir apparent to the football reigns. Starnes makes no secret of the fact that he wants the football program that he’s built and guided for the better part of three decades to be in the capable hands of someone with passion for the game and students.

“He is ready to be a head coach,” Starnes said last week when he announced the promotion.
“Sean has demonstrated care and concern for all students, not just football players,” Starnes said. “For me that is very important because it’s the way I always approached this job.”

Thompson, 30, is a 2004 graduate of Crittenden County High School. He played four years of collegiate football as a wide receiver at Campbellsville. His coaching career began at Union County, but he’s been an assistant at Crittenden for three years, serving as offensive coordinator the last two seasons.

Currently director of the Alternative Learning Center, Thompson has an undergradate degree in business and a master’s in special education. Thompson has been instrumental in consolidating the entire football program from flag football and little league to middle and high school under one umbrella.

“That continuity is important,” Thompson said.

“For me, this is truly an honor,” Thompson continued. “This is exactly where I want to be.”

Thompson came to Crittenden County as a middle schooler. Prior to that he was living in Colorado with his mother, whose family had relocated to Marion from Florida. One of the main reasons he came to Marion in the late 1990s was because of the football program.

“Rocket football means so much to him,” Starnes said. “This is all by design as we prepare to move forward into the future and I can rest assured that this program will be in good hands.”
When Starnes retires next year, the head football coach’s position, by school district policy, will be posted and open to any applicant.

However, it is entirely clear who the longtime skipper wants as his replacement.

Friday, December 16, 2016

2016 Rocket Football Awards

Rocket Football Awards
Crittenden County High School’s football team held its annual awards banquet Monday. Among those honored were (front from left) Will Perkins, Special Teams MVP and Most Improved Special Teams; Ethan Hunt, MVP, Crittenden Press Leadership Award, Offensive MVP, Hitman Award and Captain Award; Gavin Dickerson, Greg “Dozer” Belt Award, Defensive MVP and Most Improved Defense; Maeson Myers, Marion Feed Mill “Grit Iron” Award and Hitman Award; (back) Charlie Johnson, Solid Rocket Award and Most Improved Offense; Adam Wright, 4-Year Award; Hunter Jones, JV Offensive MVP and JV Captain; Adam Beavers, Lineman MVP; Paxton Riley, Captain’s Award; Devon Nesbitt, Most Improved Offense and 110 Percent Award; and Hunter Boone, All-WKC. Others who earned All-WKC honors were Johnson, Perkins, Dylan Smith, Brady Birk, Dickerson, Branen Lamey, Nesbitt, Beavers, Hunt and Myers. A number of other specialty awards and record-setting recongnitions were made during the event. Crittenden lost in the second round of the playoffs, finishing with a 5-7 record.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Rockets have new opponent in 2017

Crittenden County has released its 2017 football schedule, which includes a team the Rockets have never played before and the renewal of an old rivalry. Gone are Todd Central and McLean County.

Todd Central dropped the Rockets and it appears that both Crittenden and McLean determined that it would best to let their series cool off a few years after the scuffle that broke out this fall.

New on the Rocket schedule is Stewart County, Tenn. The school is located at Dover, which lies at the southern end of Land Between the Lakes. The school is roughly the same size as Crittenden and the Rebels were 3-7 in 2016. One of their wins was against Fulton City.

Crittenden will renew its series with Trigg County. The teams have played one another a number of times throughout history, but regular meetings ended after the 2012 season, largely due to scheduling conflicts. Trigg is currently a 3A team and was 3-7 this past season.

Otherwise, the schedule will include the same non-district opponents. The only major change is that Hopkins Central will move to the last game of the year instead of early in the season, which has been customary since the teams started playing one another.

The Rockets will have a bye week on the second week of season. Their open week this past fall was in the last week of the season, right before playoffs.

Next season will be especially noteworthy because it is expected to be Coach Al Starnes’ 27th and final year as the Rocket head coach.

Rocket Football 2017
Aug. 11 Scrimmage Calloway (H)
Aug. 18 at Stewart County, Tenn.
Aug. 25 Open
Sept. 1 Trigg County
Sept. 8 Caldwell County
Sept. 15 at Webster County
Sept. 22 at Union County
Sept. 29 Fulton City
Oct. 6 Ballard Memorial
Oct. 13 at Fulton County
Oct. 20 Russellville
Oct. 27 at Hopkins Central
Nov. 3 Playoffs