By Austin Bishop
The Winston County Journal
A large chunk of Louisville High School football history will be on display in the LHS Auditorium Saturday afternoon in the form of the six head coaches who led the Wildcats to eight MHSAA State Football Championships in each of the last four decades.
The Louisville Municipal School District will be hosting a “Celebration of Champions” at 3 p.m. Saturday in the school auditorium in recognition of the success the Wildcats have had since the MHSAA Playoffs were instituted in 1981.
Louisville High School is the only school to have won an MHSAA State Football Championship in each of the four decades since the playoffs began, and is also the only team to have played in at least five title games to never have lost one.
“We just wanted to do something to honor all of those who have played a part in the football success at Louisville High School,” said Louisville Superintendent of Schools Ken McMullan. “It just made sense to do it now because we just won our eighth title and that gives us one in all four decades.”
McMullan began to call the former coaches and he said all seemed eager to attend.
“They said they are looking forward to it,” McMullan said. “We are hoping as many of their assistant coaches and former players who can attend will come and join us.”
There is no charge for the event, although McMullan said donations would be taken to go toward purchasing rings for the 2013 MHSAA Class 3A State Champion Wildcats who defeated Hazlehurst 30-28 in dramatic fashion.
“The coaches had talked about getting together some time to take a picture and we thought why not just bring them all in together for this one event,” McMullan said.
Each coach, beginning with Mike Justice who led the ‘Cats to their first MHSAA state titles in 1985 and 1986, will take a turn at the microphone to talk about his championship teams.
“I think most people would just like to hear those guys talk about football,” McMullan said. “Anybody who cares about high school football in general would find that interesting, and especially Louisville fans. There will be a lot of history gathered together on that day.”
Justice is quick to point out that it was not he, nor any of the other coaches who will be honored on Saturday, who started what has become a football powerhouse at LHS.
“When I got here I studied a lot of the history of Louisville football,” Justice said. “It goes back to the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s and even further back that that. You have a lot of great coaches like Charlie Pete and A.J. Kilpatrick.
“Things were on a little downswing when I got here, but you knew the tradition was here and the athletes were here,” Justice said. “I think this whole idea (of a Celebration of Champions) is a special thing. I hope a lot of the former players and the people who were a key part of the program through the years come out and take part in it.”
Justice, who was 31 when he took the job at LHS, says he vividly remembers a conversation during his interview with then Superintendent Dr. Thomas W. Saterfiel.
“I was a young man and sort of full of myself and when he offered the job I said the typical things,” Justice said. “One of them was that there was one thing that he could count on and that was that I would do my very best.”
He said Saterfiel glanced over at him and said, “Son, at Louisville you don’t have any choice.”
That’s something I’ve never forgotten and have told anybody that’s every told me that they were going to do their very best. ‘You just ain’t got no choice.'”
After Justice’s teams won titles in 1985 and 1986 by beating Pearl 23-7 and South Pontotoc 12-7, Bobby Hall’s 1991 LHS team claimed a 6-3 win over Stone County for championship No. 3.
The 1993 team under the direction of Lynn Moore defeated Magee 25-6, while Tony Stanford’s 1995 club took a 14-7 win over McComb.
Then came the longest gap in Louisville history between state championships as it wasn’t until 2007 when Brad Peterson’s squad took a 21-7 win over Franklin County. The ‘Cats repeated in 2008 with a 26-21 win over Tylertown, making Peterson and Justice the only LHS head coaches with two titles at the school.
M.C. Miller’s ‘Cats then gave Louisville it’s eighth state title this past December with a 30-28 win over Hazlehurst. Only Class 6A power South Panola has more MHSAA state titles than Louisville.
McMullan said a slide presentation reflecting all eight state titles will be shown at the beginning of the program on Saturday.
Even Justice is a little awed by what Louisville has done on the high school football landscape.
“The playoffs were a new thing when we got here so I don’t think anybody could have envisioned how it would turn out,” he said. “But eight championships without a loss is hard to beat. Once we won that first one, nobody wanted to be the first team to play for a state championship and lose.”
And so far, nobody has.