LANCASTER - Garrard County senior Billy Abney has already played in 37 games - and started them all at quarterback for the Golden Lions.
He had his best season in 2011 when he completed 100 of 189 passes for 2,005 yards and 22 touchdowns with just seven interceptions to help Garrard win its first regional title and make the Class AAA state semifinals for the first time.
In his career, he has completed 249 of 485 passes (52 percent) for 4,288 yards and 48 touchdowns with 25 interceptions. He’s averaged about 16 yards per completion.¿He’s also rushed for six touchdowns.
“We expect a lot from him, and he always does a lot,” said Garrard coach Mark Scenters.
The Golden Lions open the season Aug. 17 by hosting Clay County — and University of Kentucky commit Jacob Hyde — in the Farmer’s National Bank Hall of Fame Bowl.
Abney shared these thoughts on his career going into Garrard’s second week of preseason practice:
Question: When you think back to last year’s state semifinal season, what is your best memory of that year?
Abney: “Winning the region was really fun, and it was the first time in Garrard County history it had ever happened. It was really exciting. I had a lot of friends that were seniors and to experience a season like that with them was great.”
Question: Did making the state semifinals surprise you or did you believe the team could do that well?
Abney: “It really didn’t surprise me. Before the season even started, we all knew we were going to be good even if other people didn’t know that we would be good. Nobody like believed in us when we said we would be good, but once we started winning games everybody started believing and it was pretty cool.”
Question: Are you over the disappointment of losing to Belfry in the semifinals and not reaching the first state championship game in school history?
Abney: “No, not at all. That is what is going to motivate us all season. It already has motivated us to just work harder.”
Question: Is it harder to build off last year’s success than it was to actually reach the state semifinals last season?
Abney: “I think it might be a little bit harder this year just because we already have the target on our back. People know that we are a team that you have to play your best game to win. It will be tougher this year having that target on our back than it was last year.”
Question: Is there more pressure on you this season?
Abney: “Yes, there is more pressure, but our team does good when we have pressure. We do what we have to do. I feel the pressure, too, but I¿am ready for it.”
Question: Do you consider yourself lucky since you have started since you were a freshman and didn’t ever have to play a backup role?
Abney: “My freshman year I¿got pretty lucky. Me and another kid that was a sophomore both competed for the starting job and I guess Coach (Mark Scenters) thought I was just better for the spot. I got put in early and it made me better because I¿have got to start every high school game I¿have ever played. I got a lot of experience. I know how losing every game feels and I know how winning every game feels. It’s a big difference.”
Question: Do you ever pay attention to your own individual statistics or even know what your career numbers are?
Abney: “I try not to just because I don’t want to get big-headed or cocky. I¿just try to play. I am trying to do anything I can to help my team win.”
Question: Have you changed much from that young freshman who started three years ago?
Abney: “When I was a freshman, I really wasn’t confident. I was actually kind of scared before a game because I did not know what to expect. My first game ever I was like, ‘What in the world is this?’ The speed difference was so much different from middle school.¿In middle school, you just throw the ball and don’t have to read anything.¿In high school, you have to watch the cornerbacks and safeties and you have to read the defense. But I¿am confident now. I feel good when I am playing.”
Question: Even though you lost to Danville in the Bob Allen Pigskin Classic in game two last year, looking back how important was playing well in that game for setting the overall tone for the season?
Abney: “I¿just think we came out that game and it was a chance for us to show everybody that we actually were a team and that it was not going to be like the other years where we went 5-7. It was a chance for us to show we could have a winning record and go deep in the playoffs, which we did. This year our plan is to go deeper, make state (championship game) and win state.”
Question: What prompted you to have the Bible verse Philippians 4:14 tattooed on your arm?
Abney: “I got in last December. I have always wanted it. I always put that Bible verse on my cleats. I feel like it just helps me out a lot.”
Question: Why put the tattoo in a spot that is not very conspicuous?
Abney: “I know when you get a job, you can’t really have a tattoo on your forearm. I¿got it there for that reason. I don’t care if people see it. I just wanted it because it is a special verse to me and I¿like it.”
Question: By saying you don’t have a mean bone in your body and that you are the team jokester, doesn’t that hurt your tough guy football image?
Abney: “I feel like if I am not having fun when I am playing football, then I¿am not going to play very well. My best games are when I¿am kind of joking on the field, but I am plenty serious when I¿need to be. You have to have fun and smile and stuff or you are just not going to get any better. Every practice I just try to come in with a positive attitude to get better.”