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Chet Strother, a member of the 1949 Ashland High School football team that I’ve written about recently, had “the rest of the story” about the Tomcats’ 22-19 loss to Ludlow that season.
It seems as though Ashland was suffering from some dead legs after a grueling week of practice.
The Tomcats had lost the previous week at Covington Holmes 33-12 and Ashland coach Bob Stoneburner didn’t take that defeat well.
“Our coaching staff decided to hold practice sessions every day after school and not concluding them until nine in the evening!” Strother wrote to me in an email.
Strother said Stoneburner was following the lead of Bear Bryant’s methods at the University of Kentucky. “But the Bear had sandwiches and milk brought out during a break, then back to the drills,” Strother said.
Kentucky had allowed Xavier to score in a game played in Cincinnati and the Bear wasn’t happy about it.
Stoneburner wasn’t happy about losing to Ludlow so he put the Tomcats through the extra paces well into the night sky.
“At our break, Coach had the stadium lights turned on so we could continue and not be able to escape,” Strother wrote. “By Friday night, our legs were shot, along with our energy, so the Ludlow lads ran through us like butter, and one in particular, whose name was ‘Nutter,’ if I recall correctly.”
The Ashland-Ludlow game in Putnam Stadium during the ’49 season came up after I received a phone call from Buddy Waite, a member of that Ludlow team of about 15 players. It was a stunning loss for a tiny school like Ludlow to defeat the Tomcats and Waite, who still lives in northern Kentucky, remembered every second of it.
Ludlow’s coach was Cliff Lowdenback and that name struck a chord for Tom Heaberlin of Wurtland. Heaberlin, who is 90, played one season for Lowdenback at Wurtland in 1939. He also played for Bill Secrest in 1938.
Heaberlin said Wurtland had only 15 players when he played, which is why he ended up playing tackle despite being a skinny 6-foot-2 and 145 pounds. “He had to play me because he didn’t have anybody else,” Heaberlin said.
Wurtland didn’t win a game and was outscored 163-0 during the season.
“We were the Wurtland Wonders and we always wondered if we’d ever win a game,” Heaberlin said through a laugh.
He said the story about the Ashland-Ludlow game brought back memories for him.
“It had to be something for them to come here and beat the Tomcats,” Heaberlin said.
Heaberlin said he really didn’t know how much impact he had on Lowdenback until his coach’s death. Lowdenback had requested Heaberlin take part in his funeral.
“We had one last run together where we crossed into the red zone,” he said.
Heaberlin said Secrest was quite a coach and one who had many tricks up his coaching sleeve.
“He had more tricks than any coach I ever saw,” he said. “We’d have a substitution where four players would come in for five except that fifth one would come over near the sideline but stay inbounds as a receiver. Then they’d throw him the ball and he’d be wide open. It worked several times.”
Heaberlin said he was also the father of the fumblerooskie where the center would hide the ball under his jersey. The play looked like it was flowing one way and the defense usually followed. The center would take the ball out from under his jersey and sprint the other way.
“I’d never seen anything like it,” Heaberlin said. “He loved the trick plays.”
Secrest fashioned a 4-4 season in 1937, quite a record for tiny Wurtland.
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2648.
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