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Dan Weber's Just Sayin': Ludlow/Bellevue Rivalry; Football Shows Covid Improvement?

Dan Weber writes a sports column for The River City News. Contact him at dweber3440@aol.com.

Something to look forward to this spring: If you’ve liked the way the combination of grants from the Cincinnati Reds Community Fund and St. Elizabeth Healthcare have turned Covington’s Meinken Field and Bellevue Vets Field into baseball palaces with artificial turf, dugouts, concession stands and professional fencing, get ready for another one.

Ludlow’s venerable Lemker Field is scheduled for the next makeover, we’re told, with all the bells and whistles including pushing the right field fence back through the trees and on to the edge of the Ohio River bank.

Can’t wait. Ludlow has been historically a baseball town and this update will validate that . . . JUST SAYIN’. 

*** OK, it may not equal the 147 games that neighbors Bellevue and Dayton last Friday in their annual football game but when Bellevue and Ludlow square off Friday at Ludlow's Rigney Stadium, just off the Ohio River banks for these two "river city" schools, it will be Game No. 106 in a series Bellevue leads 67-33 with five ties. Thanks to former Bellevue High coach Mike Swauger, the school’s unofficial athletics historian who retired in 2002 after 30 years at Bellevue, for the info. The two teams’ first game came in 1925 with Bellevue winning 13-0. Ludlow won last year 54-8. And for the last 87 straight years these two have played – that’s since 1935 – without a break for a total of 98 games after playing more than once a number of years. Bellevue and Ludlow along with Dayton, Highlands, and Lloyd were members of the “Little 5” Conference, which added Crescent Springs in 1935 (later merged into Beechwood) and became the Little Six, forerunner of the still-in-existence NKAC (Northern Kentucky Athletic Conference). Longest win streaks: For Bellevue, 16 games (1943-1958); for Ludlow, six games (1985-1987). So if you're in the neighborhood, stop by for some history . . . JUST SAYIN'.

*** After not catching high school games in Northern Kentucky for three decades, maybe it shouldn't be a surprise how the locus of football has moved south via I-275 and into the suburban and exurban areas of Campbell, Kenton, and Boone Counties. Their new facilities don't hurt. Ryle now is the biggest of the 6A big boys with Union rival Cooper moving into contention in 5A and now with Alexandria’s unbeaten Bishop Brossart the strong horse in Class A . . . JUST SAYIN'. 

*** One thing that has changed the most with our return to Northern Kentucky isn't the numbers on the field, although they're down. It's the numbers in the bands that seem way down. Some schools now are fielding only pep bands in the stands with numbers under 20 but no field marching. And even for the schools that do have bands, the marching is nonexistent since most seem to do the kinds of set-pieces with non-marchable orchestra instruments that we have to think are constructed for contest judging. Visiting schools have yet to take a band to a road game that we've seen no matter how close the schools are. And as a big fan of bands, we're sorry to see them go . . . JUST SAYIN'.

*** Good job by the Northern Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame to add Rachel Lantry Berkemeier to the original trio of Bob Saalfeld (Holy Cross), Mike Holtz (Bishop Brossart) and Kevin Timon (St. Henry and Thomas More) for the next Wednesday’s induction (1 p.m., Villa Hills Civic Club). Rachel, who started at Ludlow High and finished up at Holy Cross, scored 2,353 points in her high school basketball career, won 18 all-tournament and all-star selections plus four MVP awards while also starring four years in soccer. Then she moved on to NKU with a basketball scholarship as she helped the Norse to an NCAA Div. 2 title in 2008 before being named captain and best defensive player in 2009-10. Not a bad career, certainly a Hall of Famer . . . JUST SAYIN.   

*** Things are a bit tough out Florence way these days as Boone County tries to get back into the mix under alum Bryson Warner from more than a decade of football drift. But if you catch a game in Florence, you'll see a program where they're working really hard to get back into it. It's a good scene. Lots of fun. The community seems behind them. Nice work, Rebels . . . JUST SAYIN'.

*** Got a note from the mom of Dayton High’s Preston Baggett, Robin Haugabrook, that the roster spelling of her son’s name as well as the state stat leaders listing on the KHSAA web site, is incorrect. It’s Baggett, not Baggot, she says of her powerful 6-foot-1, 208-pound senior running back/linebacker son. And if he keeps playing the way he has been, lots of folks will know how to spell his name . . . JUST SAYIN’. 

*** Want proof things are getting better as far as Covid in Kentucky? Well, look at high school football as an anecdotal indicator of community spread – or not. Early in the season, there were as many as 25 games canceled each of the first weekends for Covid. Last weekend, there were just three. This weekend, only one game has been canceled. Moving in the right direction . . . JUST SAYIN’.    

--Dan Weber

Photo: Ludlow takes on Bellevue in a 2016 football match-up (Brian Frey/RCN file