DEMAREE: Transient Fort Campbell a Joy

I made my yearly trip to the high school football championship playoffs held at Papa John Cardinal Stadium in the city of Louisville, Kentucky better known as the KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl. This is a two-day extravaganza of championship games of the six classes in Kentucky.

The event is a haven for a football junkie and without fail a standout story comes out of such event--not to mention college prospects for all levels of college competition.

The Fort Campbell Falcons, the former team of UK's Micah and Christian Johnson, in light of repeating as the state's 2A champion presented this year's interesting story. The first irony is that they repeated by beating the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds both years.

The huge drawback for coach Shawn Berner is he has to deal with the transient nature of his team. It's difficult when you don't know who is going to be on your team the following season. That makes it all the more special for the seven-year Fort Campbell head coach to achieve back-to-back championships. The game provided some of the more exciting moments of the two days in their 26-23 victory. The big moments came in the last few seconds of the game when what looked liked a long touchdown pass to seal the victory for Fort Campbell was called back on a penalty. The very next play was a 59-yard quarterback-throwback play for a touchdown caught by Antonio Andrews, which they had worked on all year and chose that moment to use it for the first time.

One ingredient in the Fort Campbell scenario of winning and coaching that make it interesting is the built in discipline of the players along with the transient nature of the families. "They are called sometimes when they don't want to be called," coach Berner lamented. "They fight for our country and the discipline is in their household. The discipline is amazing, our kids are awesome. I can't say enough about our kids." The coach said it is a lot different coaching there than coaching most anywhere else he's been.

There are times when the father is off fighting in Iraq and there's that constant worry the families have looming in their minds. Senior linebacker Josh Carter, who was in UK's camp this summer was the catalyst for the NCC fumble that sealed the game for Fort Campbell. He is one that has been burdened with the sadness of losing his dad (rank CW-5) in a helicopter crash in June in Iraq. He is solidly committed to Western Kentucky University but has the size and ability to play at a higher level. He said he wants to stay close to home.

Starting junior quarterback Antonio Andrews, who caught the winning touchdown, said he is a solid returnee for Fort Campbell next season. This is sweet music for coach Berner. Andrews has a sidearm delivery that he attributes to baseball because he is a pitcher and an infielder. He is very effective as a passer on the high school level, however, and possesses lightening quick feet. The coach alluded to Andrews' numbers accounting for 46 regular season touchdowns. "He's a great kid and exceeded all expectations as well as our entire team. Perhaps it's the military lifestyle that accelerates the cohesiveness of our team. We had a lot of new players this year." Andrews said he won't start thinking about his future until next season and it's rare to hear an athlete talk in terms of an academic scholarship. Berner said he is a 3.5 student.

Given the built in discipline of the military youngster, if he is a major college material, a team like a University of Kentucky can't have enough of those type of kids.

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