G. Sam Piatt
GREENUP – When McKell, Wurtland and Greenup high schools merged in 1973 to form the new Greenup County High School Musketeers, both the Wurtland Warriors and the McKell Bulldogs fielded football teams. The Greenup Tigers did not, and most people assume Greenup has never had a football team.
But, ah, there was that fall of 1952, when coach Carl Terry, who played at Ohio State, called for volunteers for a Greenup football team.
Greenup was a very small school. Jim Archey, who was a junior on that team, said his class had but 16 people, and half of them were girls.
“Coach Terry had to recruit some 7th and 8th graders to pull in enough numbers for a team,” he said. “We wound up with 21 players, most of them, of course, from the basketball and baseball teams.
“We didn’t know a football from a pumpkin.”
Archey said Boyd County High School had recently dropped football from its athletic program and “they gave us their equipment.”
The first game came Sept. 26 when the team traveled five miles upriver to take on Wurtland, a game the Tigers lost, 34-7.
An account of the game that ran in the Sunday Sept. 28 edition of the Ashland Daily Independent reported Greenup was playing its first football game in nearly two decades, indicating there must have also been a team back in the early 1930s.
“Only one or two Tigers had ever played a football game,” the reporter wrote.
But they proved they knew where the end zone was when running back Russell Zachem broke straight up the middle to score from inside the 10. Roger Johnson kicked the extra point to make it 28-7.
One game that Archey, who stood 5-8 and weighed 150, still talks about came when the team traveled across the river to take on Rock Hill.
“I came in and Rock Hill wasn’t expecting me to carry the ball. Neither was I. But linemen Jim Doran and Don Meadows said if I’d carry the ball they’d make a hole for me. They did, and I ran 88 yards to score. It was a night game, and the huge, long shadows cast by the players pursuing me scared me enough to help me keep it in high gear. Then I lugged it in behind the same two guys for the two-point conversion and we led 8-0.”
But they lost by about as much as they had at Wurtland.
“It was a rough game and tempers flared,” Archey said. “After the game, a fight broke out in the parking lot, and we got our tails whipped a second time before we were able to get in our cars and get out of there.”
Another game Archey remembers vividly came against Russell.
Bob Bennett was Russell’s star, on both offense and defense. He went on to play for the University of Kentucky.
Of Bennett, Archey said, “He and I both tried out for the Ashland American Legion baseball team. He didn’t make it, but I did. He was highly disappointed. I don’t know if he was ticked off at me or not, but I figured he was. So when they called a play for me to carry the ball down his side of the line, I wanted no part of it. Bob Bennett was built like old man Bonzo’s bull.
“So I talked Ernie Boyles into taking my place and carrying the ball down Bob’s side. Bennett hit Ernie so hard he split his helmet. After the play, poor Ernie was so addled he wound up in Russell’s huddle. They got him back over on our bench and had him trying to count how many fingers they were waving in front of his face.
“I saw Ernie just a few weeks ago and he’s still riding me about the time I talked him into carrying the ball against Bob Bennett.”
The Tigers wound up playing about eight games and lost them all.
The 21 members of the football team, with Carl Terry the coach and Lalo Bradford the student manager, were Don Coffee, Ernest Boyles, David West, Roger Johnson, Don Meadows, Jim Coffee, Bob Burkhardt, Jim Archey, Buddy Banks, Ray Gumbert, P.A. Williams, Larry Archey, Terry McBrayer, Bill Wilcox, Russell Zachem, Lloyd Allen, Tom Thomas, Kenneth Rowland, Buddy McBrayer, Jon Zachem and Jim Doran.
Eight of them are now dead, Archey said.
“We lost six players to graduation, and we just couldn’t attract enough numbers the following year to field a team – so that Greenup football team of 1952 was it.”
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (606) 932-3619 or Gsamwriter@aol.com.