By Austin Bishop
The Winston County Journal
What began as an idea by Louisville Superintendent Ken McMullan to celebrate the coaches and athletes who led Louisville HIgh School to eight MHSAA state football championships, quickly evolved into a history lesson. And many of those who were being honored, quickly became the teachers.
An estimated crowd of 600 turned out for the Celebration of Champions held at the Louisville High School Auditorium. All six head coaches of those eight state championship teams — ranging from Mike Justice in 1985 to M.C. Miller in 2013 — were on hand to name names and spin tales as the audience ranging from preteens to octogenarians was enraptured by what took place on the stage.
One at a time Justice (1985 an 1986), Bobby Hall (1991), Lynn Moore (1993), Tony Stanford (1995), Brad Peterson (2007 and 2008) and Miller (2013) took the stage to not only talk about their particular championship teams, but what made Louisville and football so eternally entwined.
It wasn’t long before the 1944 LHS team was mentioned, as was the 1971 undefeated team that featured the likes of Tim Ellis, Ray Hisaw and Earl Carter. And of course former Louisville coach Bud Turner, who led the ‘Cats during the 1960s was recognized. Then when State Senator Giles Ward stepped to the microphone he brought it to the attention of those soaking up Louisville football history like thirsty sponges that the 2013 state title marked the 50 year anniversary of the first game played at R.E. Hinze Stadium, thus bringing the 1963 team to the forefront.
While Louisville has certainly been a football power since full integration came about in Winston County in 1970, they began playing the game in this town long before then. And it wasn’t just at Louisville High School.
The Camille High School Trojans went undefeated and won Black Big Eight championships in 1965 and 1966. Those teams featured the likes of Miller himself, along with former NFL standout Lawrence Estes and ex-sheriff Walter Coburn.
While going down memory lane was certainly good for the long list of former players and assistant coaches who took time out of their week to return to the LHS campus on Saturday, it was also good for those not only young at heart, but young in body as well. The 2013 state championship team was well-represented at the event, and seemed impressed with the depth of the history of their school and hometown.
“I learned a lot of things i didn’t know today,” said 2013 LHS all-state linebacker Jeremy Sangster. “I knew about the state championships, but I heard some stories i’ve never heard before. It was great to be here.”
Yes it was.
Each of the state championship coaches had their own personal stories to share about their time at LHS, but there were a trio of themes that was so naturally and unintentionally woven into the presentation that it was hard to ignore.
— At Louisville High School, winning football games and championships is not a goal — it’s a must.
— Every coach and every team and every decade is connected with the next, whether it being former LHS assistant coaches like Stanford and Miller winning championships, or former players like Peterson returning to claim two more rings as a coach. It’s one big family. Always has been, always will be.
— The football players at Louisville High School are special. A different breed. Determined to win and refusing to lose.
It was mentioned more than once that every team that played for the state championship after that initial title team in 1985, had something extra spurring them on to victory — the fear of coming home after losing.
“I told the kids this year that going to Jackson and losing was not an option,” Miller said. “We weren’t going to be the first team to do that. It was more than wanting to win, it was not wanting to lose.”
Eight times Louisville High School has played for an MHSAA State Championship since the playoffs were instated in 1981 and eight times the Wildcats have won. No other school can say that.
The one five-letter word that was used more than any other to describe the football players on those championship teams — no matter the year or the decade — was tough.
Justice said Louisville kids were tough. So did Hall, Moore, Stanford, Peterson and Miller. And they just don’t say it to those in Louisville, every player at every stop they have ever made since coaching at LHS has had an opportunity to hear it as well. Probably to the point of becoming ill.
Before welcoming remarks and each coach taking his time at the podium, a video featuring the state championship teams was shown, honoring each of them on their unique accomplishments. Then after each speaker had his turn to speak, including Louisville Mayor Will Hill and Don Hinton of the MHSAA, Robby Donoho of WCBI closed the event by displaying a masterfully assembled compilation of video from the 2013 season.
After the crowd was formerly dismissed, many opted to hang around and reminisce. And they likely weren’t alone. For certain, the ghosts of Louisville’s football past were roaming the halls of LHS on Saturday afternoon, reliving what was, celebrating what is, and dreaming of what will come.