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Prep Sports Notebook: Walton-Verona’s successful basketball coach plans to step down after this season

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

Mark Clinkenbeard plans to step down as head coach of the Walton-Verona girls basketball team after the upcoming 2021-22 season and he’s looking for the Bearcats to post a winning record like they have every year since he took charge of the program in 2011.

“I went through some health issues last season, and it is time to let someone else take over,” Clinkenbeard said. “I have enjoyed each season, and I plan to enjoy this one especially.”

Walton-Verona girls basketball coach Mark Clinkenbeard enters his final season with a 213-105 record

The veteran coach was diagnosed with colon cancer before last season started. He had chemo and radiation treatments before undergoing surgery in February. While he was recovering, the Walton-Verona players wore t-shirts with “Clawin’ for Clink”  printed on the back that inspired them to play their best.

The Bearcats made it to the All “A” Classic state semifinals with assistant coach Rianna Gayhart in charge. Clinkenbeard did return for the post-season playoffs and guided the team to the 8th Region semifinals to complete an 18-9 season.

Clinkenbeard said his last medical scan showed he was cancer free, but he decided this was going to be his last season as head coach.

“After you do something long enough, it’s time to let somebody else do it,” he said. “I still like coaching. I just don’t think I want to be a head coach anymore.”

The Walton-Verona girls team has compiled a 213-105 record over the past 10 seasons under Clinkenbeard. His first team won the 2012 All “A” Classic state championship, made it to the “Sweet 16” post-season state tournament as 8th Region champion and finished with a 29-7 record.

Over the last six seasons, four of his teams won 24 games or more and the Bearcats made it to the All “A” Classic state championship game the last three years.

“We’ve had some really good players and that always helps,” Clinkenbeard said of the team’s successful run that’s expected to continue. With three of the top six players on last year’s roster returning, Walton-Verona was voted one of the top 10 teams in Northern Kentucky in a pre-season poll of local coaches.

Scott senior joins list of local quarterbacks with 5,000-plus yards

Scott senior Gus Howlett became the 11th Northern Kentucky high school quarterback to surpass the 5,000 mark in career passing yards last Friday during his team’s 43-7 win over Harrison County in the Class 4A playoffs.

Gus Howlett

Howlett passed for 162 yards in that game to raise his career total to 5,090 yards. He broke Scott’s long-standing team record of 5,008 passing yards set by 1996 graduate Andy Powers and moved into the No. 10 spot on the local list of all-time passing leaders.

The top name on the local list is Beechwood senior Cameron Hergott with 8,368 passing yards over the last four seasons. A bill passed by the state legislature allowed Hergott to repeat his senior year due to disruptions caused by the pandemic. He has passed for 2,154 yards through 12 games this season to become the area’s career leader.

According to statistics posted on the khsaa.org website prior to this season, the other quarterbacks who passed for more than 5,000 yards while playing for a Northern Kentucky team are Gino Guidugli of Highlands (7,516), Patrick Towles of Highlands (7,431), Jared Lorenzen of Highlands (6,821), Randy Lee of Lloyd (6,391), Michael Kramer of Campbell County (6,231), Sam Diehl of Newport Central Catholic (6,018), Tanner Morgan of Ryle (5,421), Matt O’Toole of Dixie Heights (5,213) and Andy Powers of Scott (5,008).

Morgan passed for 4,882 yards in two seasons at Hazard before transferring to Ryle. He has a combined total of 10,303 passing yards that ranks ninth in the state record book.

Former Ryle football player finishes college career with big game

Ryle graduate Jake Chisholm made his last game with the University of Dayton football team a memorable one by scoring five touchdowns and getting 334 all-purpose yards in a season-ending 38-29 win over Davidson on Saturday.

Jake Chisholm

The senior rushed for 226 yards and three touchdowns, caught three passes for 46 yards and two touchdowns and returned three kickoffs for 62 yards in the upset victory over the top team in the Pioneer Football League.

After Davidson pulled to within two points late in the fourth quarter, Chisholm slammed the door on the Wildcats’ comeback bid with a 32-yard run around left end for his fifth touchdown that tied a team record.

He was named national Offensive Player of the Week in the Football Championship Subdivision after receiving the same honor in the Pioneer Football League.

In the Football Championship Subdivision national statistics, Chisholm currently ranks first in touchdowns scored (18) second in all-purpose yards per game (163.9), fifth in rushing touchdowns (14) and seventh in rushing yards per game (103.3).

He ended his college career with 2,212 rushing yards and more than 4,200 all-purpose yards for the Flyers, who posted a 6-4 record this season.


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