Last original LCHS teacher Eans retiring today
By Jim Turner

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

On the first-ever day of classes at sparkling new Logan County High School on Aug. 16, 1982, young industrial arts teacher/football coach Steve Eans was a member of the faculty.

When the faculty officially closes the school year on Tuesday, May 28, 2013, gray-haired, gray-mustachioed Steve Eans will be on the faculty.

After that, no longer.

The last surviving member of the original LCHS faculty, Eans is retiring after 31 years on the job—the teaching job, that is. He gave up the football gig six years in. He has steadfastly refused suggestions and requests to be head coach again or serve as an assistant under another coach.

“I agreed to get the program started. I never thought it was going to be a long-term thing,” he said Friday while going about his teaching duties, just as he has daily into his fourth decade. “(Current head Cougar football coach Dain) Gregory was in here this week trying to get me to be an assistant coach next year, but I’m not interested in doing that.”

Steve Eans wasn’t sure he even wanted to be a teacher as he worked on a degree in industrial technology at Western Kentucky University. He had been framing houses to pay his way through college, and he liked what he was doing. “I thought I would get a teacher’s certificate as an insurance policy,” he said. “I’m glad I did because the economy was falling apart then like it has in the last few years, and people weren’t buying houses,” he recalls.

As LCHS was being formed, Superintendent Merle Johnson was looking for teachers who could perform multiple duties. As one of the greatest agriculture teachers in Logan County history at Adairville, Johnson was also vocational department-oriented. The wing that houses agriculture, home economics (now family and consumer sciences), business education, and ‘shop’ constituted a sizable percentage of the school’s floor space.

Home ec had four teachers—Eloise Hadden, Nannie Ruth Pogue, Brenda Harris (Glover) and Nada McDonough. The business department included Sue Downing (Wood), Vivian Neagle and Sheila Burns. Doug Milliken and Franklin Barnes were the ag/FFA guys. And Steve Eans was the sole proprietor of the industrial arts department.

He was also the only football coach. Superintendent Johnson wasn’t a sports enthusiast. Principal Howard Gorrell and Athletic Director Bob Birdwhistell were former basketball coaches. The five high schools which had consolidated into LCHS had never fielded a football team. Many of the boys who would become the first Cougars had never seen a football game in person, let alone played in one.

Steve Eans was a man on two islands.

He had played high school football at Daviess County but hadn’t played college ball. His then father-in-law, who was in the physical education department at WKU, let Johnson know that Steve could both teach industrial arts and coach football. The superintendent decided this would be his man.

Coach Eans had about 60 would-be players report when the announcement went out that an LCHS football team was being formed. Seniors weren’t eligible and juniors were discouraged. They spent the fall of 1982 in the classroom learning the game, not practicing football. David Beckner, a former Warren Central and WKU athlete who was always available to help out with Cougar sports even before he became a full-time faculty member, added input to the training.

In the fall of 1983, the inaugural Cougar football game was played, featuring a junior varsity team. That first game was played at Greenville. Officially, the Blackhawks won 6-0, but those of us who witnessed it remember it as one of the most questionably officiated games we ever witnessed. The guys in stripes weren’t about to let an experienced home team lose to an upstart like Logan. The Cougars did get a win in seven tries that season, beating Allen County-Scottsville.

Eans did have assistant coaches that year. One of them was Mike Deaton, who had been the starting quarterback at the University of Kentucky. Since then he has been a successful basketball coach, a member of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Board of Controls, and (currently) superintendent of Campbellsville Schools. Joining them were Mike ‘Alfie’ Curnutte and Hal Toms, who was also a shop teacher. (Mr. Toms died unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago.)

The following year, the decision was made to become a varsity program. “We had not planned to do that so quick, but the seniors wouldn’t have been able to play junior varsity and we only had about a dozen freshmen come out, so we decided to go ahead with the varsity,” Eans recalls. Toms and Curnutte were not longer on the staff, but Beckner and Deaton had become full-time teachers and continued on the staff. They were joined by full-time teacher Mike Harreld, and para-professionals Scott Rau, who had played tackle for WKU, and Dan Chase, who had been a starting defensive end at UK.

“We were green as grass last year,” Eans told a sportswriter named Jim Turner in 1984, “but the players started showing they knew a little about football at the end of the season.”

Those first seniors included David Bauer, Steve Bunton, Kevin Coles, Darnell Cross, Richie Gloyd, Mike Herron, Kyle Hines, James ‘Bubba’ Holman, Jim Kutzman, Scott Mallory, Gray Matthews, Ted Moore, Fadell Sydnor and Mark Yonts.

The first varsity game was played on Aug. 24, 1984 at Adair County. Gary Matthews ran for 191 yards on 12 carries, but scored the first varsity touchdown by returning a fumble. Quarterback Kyle Hines ran the conversion, as he often did that season. Adair County won 18-8.

 Matthews also scored the first Cougar offensive touchdown in an 18-16 loss at Metcalfe County. Jeff Hendrix caught the first touchdown pass, a 56-yarder from Hines.

The first home game was against Breckinridge County. ‘Home’ was Russellville’s Rhea Stadium. The on-campus stadium came long after Eans gave up coaching. Breck won 32-8. Matthews also scored that first home touchdown on a two-yard run. It was set up by a 25-yard pass from backup quarterback Doyce LaGrone to end Ron Sams.

By then many young players were seeing action, including linemen Jeff ‘Rocky’ Johnson, Tim Barnett, George Fugate and Chris Penrod, receiver Sams and freshman defensive end Erick Hendricks.

The first-ever varsity win came at Rhea Stadium on Oct. 4, 1984 against Class 4A Pulaski County. Logan won 30-16 as the Cougars racked up 404 rushing yards on 48 carries. Matthews had 187 yards on 14 carries, Jesse Arnold 146 on 11 runs, and Hines 49 yards on 6 carries. Joey Todd and David Bauer were defensive standouts. Michael ‘Pooh’ Elliott and Robert Fleming recovered fumbles, and Sams had an interception.

In 1985, progress was apparent. Baseball pitcher Chris Taylor succeeded the graduated Hines at quarterback, and he had a marvelous arm. Many observers believe he could have been a super college passer if he had played high school football more than one year. Instead, he pitched successfully for four years at Austin Peay State University.

Then in 1986, it all came together as Eans’ Cougars put together a sparkling 8-2 record. Behind quarterback Tyrone Babb, running back Lee Proctor, end Sams, and a super line led by Fugate and Penrod, the Cougars made Logan County’s basketball fans become football fans, too.

Proctor became the first Cougar to sign to play NCAA football. He went to Morehead State, where former Russellville and WKU coach Stumpy Baker was an assistant. Panthers Rodney Gordon and Sonny Green were there, too. Proctor later became the longest-serving head football coach at LCHS to date and is still on the faculty.

Sams went on to a successful college career at Campbellville University where a guy named John Myers—now the RHS head coach—was throwing passes to him. Proctor transferred to Campbellsville, joining them and several former Panthers there.

Babb, who was built like the statue of a Greek god, had several offers to play major college football, but he declined them in joining fellow Cougar Richard ‘Ernie’ Thomason in playing basketball for the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys. “If I were from Russellville, I would play football,” he said at the time. “But I’m from Auburn and I’m supposed to play basketball. If you can guarantee me I’ll play in the NFL if I go play for Tennessee, I might do that. But since you can’t, I’m going to play basketball.”

That theory proved to be true for many of the players Eans coached. They came to LCHS with dreams of playing state championship-caliber basketball. When that didn’t work out, they would come out for football as juniors or seniors. They played on athletic ability, not on a love or understanding of the game of football.

When the 1987 season rolled around, Eans had welcomed Stumpy Baker as one of his assistants, the same Stumpy Baker who had been coaching football for a quarter of a century. Eans was warned then that Baker would get his job. “That was okay with me. He could improve the program, and I was there to build a program. Stumpy didn’t really want to be head coach because he already had a heart condition, but after a year I was ready to turn it over to him. I had done what I set out to do,” Eans said Friday.

Baker continued building the program but died of a heart attack two years later.

At one point, Athletic Director Hugh McReynolds suggested to the board of education that the relatively new LCHS stadium be named Eans-Baker Field, but it remains unnamed.

Meanwhile Eans has steadily and steadfastly done his job as industrial arts teacher at LCHS. He handles most of his own disciplinary problems, often dealing with students who aren’t otherwise interested in being at school. He has taught them to use their hands and minds to design and build things. He also has taught most of them to accept orders and instructions.

“I see many of the guys I taught and coached in the early days and we get along well,” he said. “A lot of them work in construction for Eagle Industries in Bowling Green.”

Eans’ own daughters are working in Bowling Green. Leslie is a banker and Stevie works at a medical clinic.

He has no immediate plans for his future. “I might build spec houses. The first thing I want to do is finish a house of my own that I’ve been working on for years at Rough River Lake. But I’ll keep living on Friendship Road (outside of Auburn). I’ve got to keep (former basketball coach) Barry Reed in line out there.”

His friend and long-time industrial arts colleague Zane ‘Z-Man’ Williams will teach what have been Eans’ classes as well as his own. Williams is also a former coach.

Eans is the last to go from a 1982-83 faculty that included Martha Maynard (Bales), Charles French, Pat Gregory, Lugene Rogers, Reed, Jim Thompson, Jane Burton, Brenda Rigney, Stephanie Benjamin (Spencer), Jane Collier, William Norfleet, Nancy Wright, Ezbon ‘Buck’ Beauchamp, Mark Bennett, Rebecca Kemp, Marion and Lana Wells, Dean Lee, Donald Thornberry, Mary Gordon, Rebecca Christmas, Jane Harper, Martha Wright, Judy Williamson, Carol Parker, Sandra Hayes, Dwight Cockrill, Doug Riley, counselors Joann Schweers and Gerald Sinclair, and librarian Gwyneth McKinney.

He admits that he no longer knows everyone on the faculty. “The other day I was standing out on hall duty like I always do, and I saw a girl carrying food down the hall. I said, ‘You’re not supposed to bring food from the cafeteria into the hall.’ She looked at me  and said, ‘But I’m a teacher.’ I guess it is time for me to go.”

Eans is unassuming and humble. He neither asks for anything nor expects anything in return. Yet he is worthy of respect for longevity and durability as Logan County’s most experienced faculty member.

At least for one more day.

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