Battle of The Blue and The Gold set Friday
By Jim Turner


Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM



 

Instead of the Battle of the Blue and the Gray, a “basketball grudge match” Friday night will match the Blue and the Gold in a Land of Logan civil skirmish.

On the eve of Parade Day during the Logan County Tobacco & Heritage Festival, a significant portion of the sports heritage of one of the state’s largest counties will be celebrated in the form of bouncing balls on hardwood and swishing nets 10 feet above the playing surface.

For several decades, this district consisted of six schools, all from Logan County. They were the five schools in the county system—Adairville, Auburn, Chandlers, Lewisburg and Olmstead—along with the school from the independent city district, Russellville. Jim Richards, who coached Auburn High School before leading Glasgow to a state championship and becoming head coach of the WKU Hilltoppers, once said people from these six schools would rather beat each other than win the region.

That participants changed when those five schools in the county system became one with the opening of Logan County High School in the fall of 1982. Todd Central, Butler County and Franklin-Simpson have all been part of the new district, with it having settled into a four-team format without Butler in the mid-90s.

Still the rivalry between the city and county schools has flourished in the years which have followed. Logan County has won two regional girls championships and one boys regional and, mostly important, state title. Russellville has won three regional boys championships and reached the state Final Four twice. The Lady Cougars have also been regional runner-up twice and the Cougars three times. The Panthers have been to the regional finals twice more and the Lady Panthers were regional runner-up once.

Friday, alumni who played varsity basketball for Russellville through the 1992 season will take on varsity basketball players who represented one of the county schools before consolidation or were on the LCHS varsity before the 1993 season. The game starts at 7 p.m. Admission is $3 per person.

Players will be a little older than they were in their high school playing days. If a varsity player was a freshman in 1992, he would be 35 now. That’s the youngest possible player Friday night. The youngest varsity players in the final year before consolidation would be 45 or so.

The 1991-92 season was special. It was former Panther football and basketball great Phil Todd’s first season as head coach for RHS. Led by future professional players and Globetrotters Bubba Wells and Otis Key, the Panthers reached the regional finals for the first time in 31 years. Todd will coach the RHS team tonight, and Key will be one of the players. Wells would have liked to be here, but he will be helping coach his alma mater, Austin Peay State University, in a season-opening practice. Todd is returning as the Panther basketball coach this season after retiring as the RHS athletic director.

Logan County was very close to being Russellville’s equal that season. It took a sensational game by Todd Central’s Greg Bibb and an unfortunate technical assessed by a confused official to keep the Cougars from joining the Panthers at region that year. In 1993 Coach Dick Webb’s Cougars also reached the regional finals before losing in overtime.

At least three players from that LCHS team—one of Logan’s best ever—will be in this game Friday night. They are Montez Mason, Craig Bailey and Lonnie Mason, who this summer became the first former Cougar to be named head basketball coach of his alma mater.

A minimum of six of the players in the Grudge Match have pre-consolidation experience. The oldest will be Danny Finch, a starter on Adairville’s last district champion team in 1972. Also from that era will be Dave Dockins, a member of multiple district champion teams for Russellville. He was a key member of the Panthers’ state champion track team in 1975. His basketball teammate, Roger Daniel, plans to play tonight. He’s one of the best long-range shooters ever for the Panthers, a skill her has perfected over the years at the Recreation Center. He is a long-time member of the Lady Panthers’ coaching staff and is still in that position.

Also pre-consolidation players for Logan will be brothers Wade and Paul Jones of Olmstead. Paul was also a member of the first Cougar team in 1982-83. Their younger brother, state tournament standout Henry Jones, is expected to make an appearance but not play tonight.

The sixth pre-consolidation player is Tyrone ‘Ice’ Kennedy, whowas akey player for the Auburn team which played the last non-consolidated game in 1982, on Coach Barry Reed’s regional runner-up Tigers. He has organized the Logan team for tonight and will serve as player coach. He also presents a picture of the conflicted nature of the Blue and the Gold, since his two sons, Josh and Jordan Kennedy, have been standout players for the Panthers in this century.

Organizers of the Russellville team have been Kennedy’s fellow leader of the Givin’ Back sports program for youngsters, Jae Allison, who will play Friday night, and Todd Kerr, another long-range shooter from the 80s.

Also scheduled to play for the Panthers are star backs from state championship football teams Rodney Gordon and Onassa Duncan, along with one of Todd’s big men, Cedric Boyd.

On the roster for Logan will be Marcus Mason, who had an outstanding career for the basketball Cougars, and football standout William Darden.

Helping Kennedy coach will be Melodie Goodman Bingham, who was a top reserve on Logan County’s 1989 regional championship team and a starter on the 1990 Lady Cougars who reached the state quarterfinals for the second straight year.

Trey Turner, who was a four-year varsity player and three-year starter for the Cougars during this century, will be the official. Like so many players in this game, he went on to play college basketball. He officiated over 125 games last year.

Former pep band members are invited to play their instruments during the game. Brad Waters is organizing this group. Former cheerleaders are invited to cheer for their teams. Belinda Humphrey is in charge of this activity. Basketball homecoming queens during this era will be recognized.

Anyone who played varsity basketball for these schools before 1993 will be recognized. Anyone who qualifies is welcome to play in the game.

No uniforms will be worn. Anyone who plays on the Russellville team should wear a yellow or white tee shirt. Players for the Logan County team should wear a blue or dark tee shirt.

Other activities will be going on at RHS outside Jim Young Gymnasium. The Russellville Alumni Association will hold its annual Meet and Greet in the deGraffenried Lobby instead of downtown, beginning at 6 p.m. The RHS Class of 1962 will be inducted into the Black and Gold Circle, signifying having been an alumnus for 50 years.

The Russellville Kiwanis Club will hold its annual fund-raising activities in the RHS cafeteria rather than downtown. Those participating in these activities are not required to pay a gate fee for the ball game, but it is hoped they will.

The Basketball Grudge March is a fund raiser for renovation of the 4th Street Theatre. The evening is the brainchild of Main Street Russellville Director Darlene Gooch. She can be reached at 726-1303.

A sports theme will continue in the Logan County Tobacco & Heritage Festival on Saturday. Gerald Sinclair, who coached basketball at four local high schools, including the 1984 Cougar state champions, and Ken Barrett, who coached the Panthers to three state Class A football championships, will be grand marshals of the parade. Special Olympians will serve as parade marshals.

Then at 1 p.m. the Tobacco Bowl returns to Rhea Stadium. Coach John Myers’ Panthers will be heavy favorites over district opponent Fulton City.

Logan County, meanwhile, plays its most important game of the season Friday night at Barren County. The winner of the game will move into the Class 5A playoffs. The loser will see its season end in two weeks.

 




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