This is the story of our 1990-91 (1st undefeated football team in Lawrence County History), 1991-92 (1st Regional Championship football team in Lawrence County history) and 1992-93 (1st District Championship football team in Lawrence County history). It comes from one set of eyes that got to play around giants and play for legends. This entire group will be honored Friday night at the LC football game vs East Carter. At halftime we will celebrate the 29-31st anniversary as our boys that left Luke Varney Jr Memorial Field will return home from different states to be reunited. We will also be celebrating the Coaches that helped mold us along the way. Parlay that with a top 4 undefeated Bulldog team and it has all of the makings for a special night. The hope is this gets the snowball rolling honoring our proud tradition. There will be a smaller write up each day breaking down the seasons with the crescendo on Friday.
Lawrence County Football has always had a special place in my heart. We grew up on Springhill behind Lawrence County High School. Can still vividly remember the cool Fall air settling in as football season kicked off. The percussion section in the LCHS band would be warming up out of sight behind the high school but their rhythm would echo across the hills of Eastern Kentucky. Kids in the neighborhood would be dressed in their Bulldog gear anticipating the Friday night lights. If the neighborhood kids weren’t throwing football together we were spinning it up in the air to ourselves anticipating a fun atmosphere that night at Luke Varney Jr Memorial Field.
Once at the stadium the kids would gather together pitching in to buy a Coke from the concession stand. The Coke was nice but we really wanted the paper cup that the drink came in to use as makeshift football. We would stomp it into the ground where it would ball up and we could then use it to play football with our classmates. Eventually being the crafty kids we were we’d run under the bleachers as the cheerleaders threw miniature plastic footballs into the stands. It was inevitable some of the balls would fall through the bleachers (before they became enclosed for safety) and one of us would score one of these miniature footballs to play games with the rest of the night. It was jubilation when one of us would come running out from under the bleachers with those bad boys often sponsored by the bank.
We dreamed of wearing a Bulldog jersey one day and it being “our time”. We’d grow up watching guys like Bill McKenzie, Bobby Preece, Wendy LeMaster, Tracy Bryant, Hackney etc fly down the field with a football under their arm. Off the field we dreamed of having the swagger of the LC Quarterbacks like Jimmy Dotson, Eddie Vinson, Jimmy Cyrus, Shane Peck (heck that guy even pole vaulted for the track team) and the smarts of a Quarterback like Brian Thompson.
I was lucky having an older sister (Shana Preece) that had a lot of great friends growing up. Guys like Phil Ratliff (the son of sons when it comes to our Lawrence Co football program).
Phil was an animal on the field and arguably the best three sport athlete to ever play for Lawrence County. He dominated in college too as one half of the “Kentucky Headhunters” where he would become an All American and a son of Marshall as a centerpiece for their National Championship Team. Years later was blessed in life to Coach with Phil in the Chuke Williams era.
It was through guys like Phil where we learned what it was like to be a star on the field then be a kind leader off the field. How important it was to represent the program with younger kids in the community through quality time (that responsibility still holds true and it was a beautiful site seeing our Sr Dawgs in their jersey’s greeting the elementary kids as they got out of the car at school last week).
I was just a pup in Middle School where Phil would hang day after day spending quality time shooting basketball in the driveway at our parents house. We’d go to his games watching hard hitters like Kenny and Clyde Horn, the Sexton Brothers (Shannon, Jason and later Josh). There would be dominance in the trenches with the start of the Cook brothers (JR, later Stu and Brent). The legend of James “Hurricane” Jude also brewed up during that era as he would steal the headlines in the Ashland paper after dominating performances.
There are so many great players and great stories from the Lawrence County Football Family. Blessed to Coach with and play for both Coach Goldsmith and Coach Williams “Chuke”. To grow up looking up to Phil Rafliff then later was lucky enough to coach with him. To be able to coach legends like Jason Michael (who would go on to QB Western to a National Championship and is still coaching in the NFL with the Eagles).
Position coaches to leaders like Gerad Parker and Spencer Harris. Watched many Coach Short+Michael to Parker TD’s. Travis Hughes grew up across the street where he was a knee high clone of Bart Simpson. He would go on to be one of the most feared fullbacks in EKY history with the choo choo sign as he trucked people crossing the goal line. Had the thrill of watching young Mike West and Dontae Wright burn off energy as waste high youngsters at Wed youth and the city pool.They would go on to burn it up through the electric atmospheres such as the night when the Bulldogs stole the show vs Arliss Beach’s Ashland Tomcats.
Coached the night we broke Breathitt’s 42 game win streak and tore down the goal posts at Luke Varney in celebration. Can still see that Nick Meadows run and Josh Diamond intensity. Got to meet at camp during the McPeek era with players like Hoss, Barnette, Brian Short, Smoke etc. Had a lot of fun years bantering with my Uncle Eddie Butler who was a fullback in the Louisa High School days that would go to the final 4.
Loved hearing his stories of the legend Drex Short (Coach Short’s Uncle), the skilled Jim Bob Michael (who also led the state in scoring in basketball), the hard running Jack Short, Phil Triplett, Mark Hamilton etc.
Blessed to be a part of starting the LC Legends camp where many of the above came back put on a camp for knee high kids like AJ Cyrus, Turner O’Brian, Blake Bradley, Hunter James, Wade Skaggs, Shane Pack, Hayden Kiser, Tyler Combs, Cody Anderson, Caleb Bentley, Chandler Shepherd etc.
Many of those waste high kids would be a part of taking LC from 0-11 to 12-1 the biggest turnaround in state history where we also got to Coach with Coach Salmons and Cecil.
I share that because all of those teams and players are special. All hold special places in my heart. All deserve to be celebrated and hopefully this snowballs to exactly that more celebrating our tradition as we grow our future.. We have a very long storied program to be proud of. There are so many more that we didn’t go over but it’s a good feel that there is an immense amount of respect for the tradition and brotherhood that have graduated through our program.
We are in the midst of something special right now in the moment with our current Bulldog team! Coach Short has them on track currently undefeated and sitting top four in the state again. I hope our fans continue to come out in droves to support our kids! We have the chance to create a special night Friday night vs East Carter.
So many groups deserve to be celebrated. We were raised that there is enough sugar to go around and all for celebrating each other along with our rich tradition. This week…THIS WEEK is about a foundation that started one of the greatest football runs in state history and the most successful decade in our programs history. Much like UK basketball at the time (Feldhouse, Farmer, Pelfrey and Woods) this group of Bulldogs were all homegrown players that came up through our grassroots youth program. ZERO transfers. Like UK our Bulldog football program was sitting on probation not able to play in the postseason as we served our final year of no playoffs for dropping out of classification. We were living Lawrence Co’s version of THE UNFORGETTABLES!
It’s about the rise of a county program that hadn’t strung together a lot of dominate seasons and zero playoff wins as Lawrence County High School (Louisa did in the 70’s). It’s about a great blue collar community that was united in a way we didn’t know we could be. It’s about grown men that worked hard labor all day then flew in their vehicle to practice often in their work clothes. It was their those coaches would install hard work, discipline and belief into the youth of their community.
This story is about a culture created in Lawrence County High School where the teachers loved the kids so hard that coming to school was exciting because we were all in this adrenaline filled movie script together as a family (Administrators, Coaches, Teachers, Players, Cheerleaders, Classmates, Pep Section, Band and Fans). It’s about leaders and coaches that made life lasting impacts that have carried on for decades and will carry on for many decades to come. Louisa Kentucky was a town on fire! Between the four walls of our locker room there was a band of brothers that loved each other and our coaches more than ourselves. A group of kids that took immense pride in putting our community on our back knowing our parents could go back to the factories, mines etc with coworkers with their chest out on Monday mornings as the Dads from the elite programs in the tri state would banter about the previous Fridays games. We played with a chip on our shoulder that people looked down on our area and community. We thrived on proving them wrong.
107 wins over a ten year stretch from 1990-1999 seasons and becoming one of the most feared/respected programs in Kentucky didn’t happen overnight (almost 11 wins a season for 10 years is still hard to comprehend). On the surface it did but that ball really got rolling about a decade before. Hopefully through these lenses that story is shared and many of the great leaders in our community get much deserved credit they’ve long deserved.
Stella Moore Baseball Fields…..if you live here you know them. If you are lucky you are blessed with memories from Stella Moore. It’s been sacred ground where thousands of kids have built friendships and many of life’s lessons have been learned. This group actually started on the old baseball fields that are now the Louisa Middle School parking lot. At the age of ten we could transition over to Stella Moore. It was in those earliest years where many of us learned what it was like to have a championship mentality playing selfless team ball and learning to love the game. A lot of us have the opportunity to play for Shannon Preece, Jim Cyrus, Bruce Caudill, Joe Bevins and Mark Hamilton with the” Mighty Mets”..
At one point we had won 33 straight games and understood what it was like to have a bullseye on our back. We learned that a championship mentality wasn’t about the team you were playing but challenging yourself day in day out with self motivation to be the very best you could be. We learned when you efficiently outwork people you go into games playing fast with confidence knowing you wouldn’t look in the eyes of anybody who had outworked you. They taught the game with love and pride. We were meticulous on practicing fundaments and situation ball. All of that would come back to pay off a decade later!
As we moved up to the Little League field at Stella Moore there was a group of coaches from different walks of life. Some tough as heck some diehard baseball guys. That mix created some outstanding competition. There were coaches like Lonnie Cook, Trudy Abshire, Joe Bevins, Jim Cyrus, Mark Hamilton, Shannon Preece, Sheldon McCreary, Wendy Best, Jim Hill, Randy Keeton, Paul West, Herold Johns, Dave Phelps, Mont Wheeler, Sam Davis, Joe Maynard, Denny Ratcliff etc. Many of those last names would often be called over the loud speaker at Luke Varney Jr Memorial Field a decade later but those bonds started on the baseball fields.
As we continued to age we started becoming eligible for All Stars in baseball. This was a game changer. After all of these years of beating on each other we finally all got to play beside each other. Watch out world! We were pumped… and quickly humbled! We got the breaks beat off of us out of the gates down in the Boyd County District Tournament. There was no ducking people in those days baseball was loaded in the 16th and 15th Regions. You had to knock off elite programs game after game to advance each step to get out of District. Then you had a monster waiting in Regionals then Sectionals then State.
We went into the first tournament full of vigor and quickly got sent home with a dose of reality. This would be a pivotal point heading into our 13 yr old season of Sr League. We could lay down and take it or we could cowboy up and humbly start outworking everybody in the state. We did the latter.
The next summer of peroxide ensued. Springhill sat just above Stella Moore Baseball Fields. We would roll out in the mornings under the rising summer sun and with the infield pulled in we would get pelted with baseball after baseball coming at us like missiles. Day after day a slew of us waddled up the road to our parents house licking our wounds. About every day a least a couple of has had taken a shot between the legs. We were battered and exhausted but man we loved each other and the bond was forming together that only we understood the sacrifices we were making together.
We took turns pouring peroxide on each others strawberry’s where we’d burnt the skin off of our knees and forearms diving into bases so much. It hurt but we always got a laugh… still can hear Stuart Cook now chuckling as the peroxide was poured on strawberry and him saying “love pain love pain” about every day. (Stu and his cousin Phil Ratliff were so much alike. Both constantly laughing loud both completely dominant when they flipped the switch). The team would crawl into my parents basement where there was no windows and sleep for hours. Like vampires it was pretty rough walking out into the light but we would head back down to Stella Moore for our evening practice. Most evenings it was much hotter in the dog days of Summer. It was wash rinse repeat. You could see improvement though. The roster ran deep in pitching with a lot of guys that could shut teams out on any day. Home run after home run started happening in practice.
Senior League All Star teams were divided back then. You had the 13 yr old All Stars and combined 14-15 year old All Stars. Our 13 yr old season we caught fire and for the first time realized little Louisa KY could beat anybody in KY. That 13 yr old LFG team blistered all of Kentucky that year. To put in perspective at one point we scored 73 runs in a 3 baseball game span.
It was during this time we realized that a bunch of country kids could not only beat anybody in KY we started expecting to find a way to win going into every game.. That team would go all the way to the state finals where Richmond won with an illegal pitcher after a several hour protest.
Hungry for more the same group was now paired the next Summer in All Stars with the class ahead of them (the group that would later take LCHS to it’s first final four vs Mayfield). This team would also blister through KY knocking out programs like Ashland and Boyd Co to win Districts. In the Regionals vs Paintsville Morgan Cyrus, Eddie Young and Stuart Cook would go back to back to back home runs over the flood wall in Cattletsburg. Ace pitchers like Morgan Cyrus, Travis Phelps and Roger Lyons would carry us all the way to the final four in Louisvlle Kentucky vs PRP’s feeder Okalona.
You have to remember in these days there was no lake in Louisa. There was no McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Subway’s, Taco Bell’s etc. It was a big deal for the family to load up and head up 23 to Ashland to eat McDonald’s. The thought of going to Louisville Kentucky to represent our community was exhilarating! So much so that Stu ran straight in our hotel room, jumped on our bed and it crashed straight to the floor. We protected him but statute of limitations we can tell the story now. We were The Bad News Bears in our minds and we weren’t going to stop winning until we went to Nationals! The chemistry between classes in those times would pay off down the road!
We had one heck of a run that summer. The bonds between us continued to grow. The confidence from preparation was out the roof. We took PRP to the final pitch coming up just one run short with runners on first and third from going to a second straight state championship.
That is a lot of baseball for a football story but without that foundation I don’t think we’d ever reached the heights we did in football. Shared a lot of this for a couple of reasons. The first as a way from all of us to say THANK YOU!!! Thank you so much to all of those coaches that built a foundation for us to be successful in life! Thank you for the countless unpaid hours you all flew from work to baseball where you would have impact beyond your imagination! The life lessons you taught us, the love of the game you taught us, the brotherhood you built and the championship mentality you taught us has carried on our whole lives!
Shared this stuff too because there are many people in our community that currently coach or will coach. Hopefully you digest this. Understand what a blessing and opportunity it is to coach our youth here in Lawrence County! Even at the youngest ages you are building bonds and mindsets that can potentially change lives for ever in either direction. It is a huge responsibility! As the week goes on it will become more and more clear what one coach, one administrator etc can do for a small town. There are other teams and other coaches deserving. Know you are loved and appreciated! I hope others share your positive stories and you continue to impact! Thank you!
In those days we didn’t start playing organized tackle football as kids in elementary school.. We did play tackle football. It was often rough in the neighborhoods and a free for all. Our organized football was flag football led by Coach Eddie Wayne Michael. Eddie Wayne IS Lawrence County Football! It was a great set up that got a lot of young kids out learning spacing, building bonds and we retained players year in year out.
Fifth through seventh grade we put on football equipment for the first time. Pretty sure that equipment was made back in the gladiator era. The helmets were awful! Actually atrocious is probably a better description. They were hard rubber that rubbed your head raw. Kids tried putting vaseline on the forehead part, powder, even cut out part of the forehead etc. It didn’t matter none of it worked. The facemask a two bar kicker looking deal. You had no choice but to be tuff because it was miserable! Luckily we had those good mint mouthpieces you molded in boiling water to save us.
The concept of having three in house teams 5th-8th grades along with a Fallsburg team was that we could build depth as classes graduated to our middle school program with Coach Pigmon’s LMS Panthers. Teams were divided somewhat evenly between the Jets, Cowboys, Falcons and Dragons (except the Dragons were all Fallsburg kids where our boy Dave McMillian dominated us in games! Dave would be a huge part of helping us in High School ). These little league years were important ones in our growth. It was a blue collar league where the Jets would have Coaches Ira and Eric Preston. The Falcons Laural Ally, Mark Hamilton and Joe Bevins. The Cowboys Lance Compton, Phil Short and Dave Phelps.
These coaches would often show up in their mining shirts, many straight from the power plant, railroad etc. They were tough blue collar men and by gosh they made us tough. It was common place for teams to be doing “bull in the ring” during practice. This is where the team circled around one player in a big circle. Everybody had a number. The player in the middle chopped his feet and as numbers rattled off by a coach that player had to swivel to see what player was running at you on a dead sprint trying to hit you! If you were slow you got trucked from behind! If you felt sorry for yourself you got trucked getting up. There was no hiding and it was often players 2 grades ahead of you with a lot of size/weight on you. The guys on the Cowboys were blessed to get destroyed by Jay Bird Childers, James Pollock, Shawn Hill etc. Howard Adams was a great guy! Sometimes he wouldn’t crush you until you got cocky then he’d remind you he could any time. I tried to quit that year. Looking back it’s no wonder. It was a valuable lesson in parenting. Our parents said if you don’t want to play next year that’s fine. You will never quit anything . This story completely changes had they allowed us to be quitters.
These coaches will never understand what they meant to us! They were such a huge part of building the mental and physical toughness that not only made the Bulldogs a dominant program. They taught lessons that carried us through life. Like the Mighty Mets we got sick of playing the Falcons because Eric Cantrell was like a runaway freight train! The only two kids I’ve seen run like at that age since then are Smoke Storts and Dylan Ferguson. Throw in Eric was running behind linemen like Stuart Cook, Chris Hamilton, tight end Lee Abshire with Mo Cyrus leading and it was rough! Just ask those teams through the early 90’s that got railroaded every Friday night by that combo! The Falcons too went undefeated a couple of years. Once again more of our core group understanding self motivation and not getting content winning every week.
There were times when guys like Howard Adams would show they were on a different level athletically Timmy/Robert Dalton type skill. You could start seeing Travis Phelps could spin the football different than everybody in the league (it was in his blood with Paul and Dave Phelps also sharing that gift). There were great memories during those years and instead of heading to Dees like we did in baseball it was popular for the Football team and Cheerleaders to head to Druther’s after the game to get milkshakes.
The foundation was built. Kids were heading into 8th grade mentally and physically tough. It was a good thing because awaiting us was Coach Pigmon’s LMS Panthers who were on a different level. It was like Rocky Balboa was the Head Coach of a football team that year in year out just didn’t lose! When guys that played for Coach Pigmon talk nobody can remember losing seasons or losing a game on the schedule.
Coach Pigmon was a lights out history teacher. He would double for many of us as our LMS Head Basketball Coach. Coach had an expectation without having to say it that we were going to win every game (in football) and we were physically going to break teams will doing it. Warmups were often going straight down the line hitting every player on our team. Progress to Goat Drills where we’d learn to tackle and back to Bull In The Ring (outlawed now). Mentally and physically tough kids is what Coach Pigmon produced every year!
Here’s what some of the guys had to say about Coach Pigmon:
Anyone who has put on the black & red over the past 30+ years owes this man a huge debt of gratitude. He was the foundation of it all and probably gets less thanks than anyone. A great coach and a great man – Thank You Coach!
#52 – Class of 1991
Coach Pigmon was a great teacher. I learned more from him about the X’s and O’s of football in one year than I did in 4 years of High school. Goldsmith brought the motivation, toughness, and smarts into it, along with X’s and O’s and Coach P was the foundation.
Coach Pigmon’s intensity allowed him to serve as an excellent precursor to Coach Goldsmith in that aspect. For me in particular, (Mo and Joe) having played for Mark Hamilton’s hard butt the 2 years prior, he reinforced that notion of instilling fear in our opponents. Make them hate to have to line up across from you. And like Dad taught, do it with a workmen’s attitude and keep your mouth shut.
Coach Pigmon…was the 8th grade Goldsmith! Looked the part, pure leader, and taught us how to kick butt! Coach Pigmon in my mind deserves just as much credit as anybody. His record speaks for itself. Coach Pigmon made us ready for high school football. He instilled toughness in us along the way. Bull in the ring to everyday all year at practice he wanted to to be so loud that Fort Gay middle school could hear us
Walter Pigmon is a fantastic Son, Husband, Dad, Teacher, Coach and Friend. Walter is a Mans Man. He has the greatest attention getter ever. If you ever shake his hand, man or women, you better be ready. He probably has the best winning percentage as a football coach in LC history. Walter and Jim Cooksey coached the Louisa Middle School football team. A lot of times he did it by himself. He was so self sufficient that I feel that I neglected to help as much as I should have. He has so much pride in his school and made it fun for his kids. Could of very easily been a very good head varsity football or basketball coach. When the kids came up to the high school I knew they were ready. They knew there fundamentals and they knew how to win. It sure helps to surround yourself with a winner like Walter Pigmon. Thanks my friend for everything.
—Coach Billy Goldsmith
If you’ve made it this far thank you for hanging in. Thirty years is a long time ago and many of these men were long overdue to hear the gratitude for the impact they had on our community. Many know the run in the late 90’s and athletes of the early 2000’s. This week will hopefully give some insight into the men that got that massive snowball of wins and memories rolling downhill after the long trek up the mountain of success in the early 90’s.
Each day this week we’ll have shorter articles breaking down the three year run that got the ball rolling. We’ll give you insight from the players and coaches eyes on that run. Friday we’ll wrap it up with an article of gratitude that is long overdue. Friday night our boys that played under the lights 30 years ago will return 45-50 year old men from many states to be reunited cheering on our Bulldogs and celebrating some of the coaches that helped mold us.
The next article will focus on the 1990 11-0 Bulldogs. The Senior class that changed everything and the Senior class all of us in the 90’s+ owe major gratitude. They’re coming home! Cannot wait to hug their necks!