Not only has Burgin volleyball become a terrific success story, but superintendent Dick Webb says coach Maggie McKnight has a program that is “a model for what is right about athletics and academics working together.”
Garrard County assistant principal Kalem Grasham thought football coach Mark Scenters did a “fantastic job” in getting the Golden Lions to the Class AAA semifinals, but he’s also equally proud of what Scenters means to the school system.
Those attributes are why McKnight and Scenters are co-winners of the Bill Vaught Memorial Area Coach of the Year, which is sponsored by Coffman’s Trophy Shop and The Advocate-Messenger in memory of the longtime sports editor of The Advocate-Messenger who died 16 years ago. The selection committee considers not only the past year’s accomplishments, but also what the coach has meant to a program, the challenges a coach has encountered and the character of the coach.
McKnight is the only volleyball coach Burgin has had. She started the junior varsity program in 2008, and the program moved to the varsity level a year later.
“It was immediately apparent that we had something special in Maggie McKnight,” Webb said. “The record the first full season was 6-23, but most matches were very close and competitive. The first team won the Bluegrass Conference, and by the end of the season was a threat in the district tournament. Since that inaugural season, the Burgin volleyball team has become the most dominant volleyball program in the area.”
In 2010, Burgin finished 18-14, won the BGC for a second straight year and won its first 46th District championship before falling to Rockcastle County in the 12th Region Tournament. Last season burgin was 25-10 — three losses came when varsity players were on vacation during fall break — and not only won the 46th District again but also won the 12th Region All “A” Classic to qualify for the All “A” state tourney in Paducah.
“Burgin has not lost to a 46th District opponent since the 2009 season and that winning streak is currently at 18 matches,” Webb said.
Webb, though, might be even more proud of the example he feels McKnight displays for her athletes.
“Her players conduct themselves with class on and off the court and always play with discipline and pride,” Webb said. “Her players are expected to, and do, succeed academically and are great examples and leaders to other students in the school. Her program is a model for what is right about athletics and academics working together.
“Maggie McKnight has built a successful program and served as a model of hard work for her team for the past four years. In addition to being a successful coach, she serves as the school guidance counselor, is completing her master’s degree at Liberty University and her and her husband, Clifton, are raising four children ranging in age from 5 to 10.
“She is a very driven individual and as a coach, counselor and wife, she exhibits all of the characteristics that make her an outstanding candidate for this award.”
Scenters has worked to reverse Garrard’s football fortunes since leaving his job as assistant coach at Madison Central four years ago. He has a 26-23 record at Garrard, but last season his team had a magical 12-2 season and almost knocked off favored Belfry in the Golden Lions’ first state semifinal appearance.
Garrard won its first regional championship, tied the school record for wins and set school records for total yards of offense (5,791) and points scored (573). Garrard also tied the school record for most interceptions (17) in one season.
Scenters had numerous players set individual school records — Brett Dowell, tackles (410 career, 171 season); Markell Hayes, single-season rushing yards (1,732) and points (178); Tyler McCoy, single-season receiving yards (1,130) and career touchdowns (25); Cory Wilson, single-season rushing touchdowns (26) and career rushing yards (3,744); and Billy Abney, single-season passing touchdowns (22) and career passing yards (4,377).
The team also had a 3.22 grade-point average during the season and finished the year with a cumulative GPA of 2.96. Gresham says all nine seniors on the team plan to attend college, including three who will play football.
“Mark has a genuine and authentic care for the student. Mark works hard to ensure our student-athletes are students first and foremost. Mark has high expectations for his student-athletes in the classroom. Mark expects his players to be active leaders in the school building and within the classroom,” Grasham said.
“Mark has that rare ability to connect with all different types of people. Mark is outgoing and carries himself in a respective manner. He takes the time to get to know his players on a personal level and is able to maximize their potential. Mark has worked hard and has earned respect in and out of the school community.”
Grasham says Scenters teaches life lessons that he admires.
“From an administrative perspective, I truly appreciate the emphasis Mark puts on character, morals, ethics and values. Mark doesn’t bend on our expectations regardless of the talent or potential of the player,” Grasham said. “He teaches and instills accountability and being responsible.
“During our record-breaking football season this past year, we didn’t have a single player receive an out-of-school suspension or an in-school suspension. Mark has proved you can be successful and do it the right way instead of compromising your character, morals, ethics and values.”
Grasham says those values have helped Scenters improve Garrard’s football program.
“Mark has instilled a tremendous amount of pride in what it means to wear that ‘Garrard’ across your chest. Our players take the field expecting good things to happen,” Grasham said. “Our players now expect to win because they know they are not going to be outworked by our opponent, and they have learned how to be successful in life through working hard.
“Also, Mark refuses to make excuses if things aren’t going well. He has taught our players to make the best out of any situation and has instilled mental toughness within our program.”
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Winners of The Bill Vaught Memorial Coach of the Year award:
1997 — Alvis Johnson, Harrodsburg, football/track and field
1998 — E.G. Plummer, Danville, cross country/track and field
1999 — Roger Coyer, KSD, football
2000 — Jay Reynolds, Danville, girls tennis
2001 — Sam Harp, Danville, football; Chuck Smith, Boyle County, football (tie)
2002 — Duane Dunagan, Harrodsburg, boys tennis; Ed McKinney, Danville, boys basketball (tie)
2003 — Ken Hurt, Garrard County, girls basketball; Jim Spears, Boyle County, track and field (tie)
2004 — Hallie Hammond, Harrodsburg, volleyball; Sam Harp, Danville, football; Chuck Smith, Boyle County, football (tie)
2005 — Diane Beauchamp, Mercer County, girls tennis; John Kolasa, Lincoln County, girls basketball; and Chuck Smith, Boyle County, football (tie)
2006 — John Powell, Burgin, baseball
2007 — Sadie Gambrel, Danville, track and field; Marty Jaggers, Mercer County, football (tie)
2008 — Don Irvine, Burgin, boys basketball
2009 — Randy Salyers, Casey County, girls basketball
2010 — Larry French, Boyle County, football; Don Story, Lincoln County, girls basketball (tie)
2011 — Sharon Beasley, Boyle County, girls golf; Sandy Waters, Boyle County, girls golf (tie)
2012 — Maggie McKnight, Burgin, volleyball; Mark Scenters, Garrard County, football (tie)