Seventy-five years is a long time. So long that more than 400 high school football games have been played at Putnam Stadium since it opened in 1937.
Selecting the top 25 games from 1937 to 1975 at the home of the Ashland Tomcats is a rather monumental task. There have been many great victories — 282 of them to be exact — and heartbreaking losses. Most have their own special memories.
But since Friday night could well be the last game played in the stadium before it is reconstructed prior to the 2013 season, a look back on some of the biggest victories in Tomcat history would seem appropriate. It may not be the 25 games you would have selected and it may not be the absolute best 25 games in stadium history — because there have been some great games played at the stadium where Ashland came out on the losing side.
Here we go in chronological order:
1937, Ashland 22, Ceredo Kenova 0: This one has to make the list because it was the first one at the stadium that was built by the WPA for $6,500. Moose Zachem scored the first touchdown.
1939, Ashland 7, Erie East, Pa. 6: This was the last game in a fabulous seven-game series and it played out like most of the rest of them — down to the wire.
It was Erie that ended Ashland’s seven-year unbeaten streak in 1932. The score was tied 13-13 when Bert Johnson tried a short pass in the flat to “Red” Craig that was intercepted and return for a touchdown to end the game. Tomcat fans were said to have literally broken out in tears after the game.
1942, Ashland 70, Russell 0: This victory capped a 10-0 season and a claim on the state championship. A fabulous backfield that included J.C. Kennard, Doc Rice and Spencer Heaton dominated play. The game that may have decided the state’s best came the previous week when the Tomcats won 7-6 at Manual.
1944, Ashland 80, Huntington Vinson 6: This win was significant because it was also the first night game at the stadium. It was lights out early for Vinson.
1958, Ashland 51, Catlettsburg 6: The season opener of this campaign that produced the last undefeated team in Tomcat history. Herb Conley and Dick Fillmore paved the way for a 10-0-1 season.
1965, Ashland 19, Catlettsburg 13: One of the classic battles between longtime rivals went down to the wire.
The Tomcats went on to make the playoffs for the first time since the Kentucky High School Athletic Association established the postseason.
1967, Ashland 21, McKell 20: One of the most exciting games in stadium history came down to the end when John Radjunas sneaked over with less than two minutes remaining to allow the Tomcats to defeat the Bulldogs and Don Gullett, who scored three touchdowns. No other team scored more than two TDs on Ashland that season.
1967, Ashland 21, Harrison County 13: The first playoff victory in school history came against the state’s top-ranked team. The crowd for the game was one of the biggest in stadium history.
1967, Ashland 42, Belfry 0: A rout over the Pirates in the semifinals sent the Tomcats to the state finals, where they defeated Elizabethtown for the championship. It was the first playoff-earned title in Ashland history.
1972, Ashland 33, Middlesboro 14: The town was pumped for the first playoff game since 1967 and the Tomcats didn’t disappoint, keeping check on talented Bimbo Fuson.
1972, Ashland 21, Bryan Station 6: The Tomcats surprised the Defenders and Everett Talbert in the state semifinals to advance to the championship where another Lexington team, Tates Creek, won 16-7.
1975, Ashland 22, Bryan Station 12: The JAWS Tomcats sunk their teeth into top-ranked Bryan Station and served notice to the rest of the state that they were for real. Chuck Anderson’s crushing block on Rick Sang’s punt return for a touchdown was a key moment.
1975, Ashland 14, Ironton 0: It’s rare that Ironton lost, much less were shut out. But the JAWS defense was too much for All-American Kenny Fritz and the Tigers.
1987, Ashland 20, Ironton 19: Tomcat fans will remember this one as Ryan Blake sped to the game-winning touchdown on a late run. The previous week in the Ironton pressbox a fan overheard a Fighting Tiger fan talking about how they were going to take care of the Marsh-mellows, a reference to Tomcat coach Vic Marsh. But it didn’t happen.
1990, Ashland 27, Clay County 16: The Tomcats opened the playoffs against what many said was the best team in Clay County history.
Ashland prevailed in a rock-em-sock-em affair that included a near brawl after a hit on the visiting sideline. Order was quickly restored but the game kept a tense tone.
1990, Ashland 19, Bell County 14: The Tomcats won another bruising battle in the state semifinals on the way to the state championship behind rugged backs Juan Thomas, Charlie Johnson and Chris Hutt. It was another great Putnam Stadium moment.
1991, Ashland 28, Covington Holmes 24: It didn’t look good at halftime of this playoff game when Holmes went out to a 24-7 lead. However, Chris Hutt and Co. rallied for a huge victory.
2000, Ashland 43, Greenup County 42: One of the highest-scoring games in stadium history finished with the Tomcats winning in overtime. It was a game full of twists and turns. It also happened to start a 13-game winning streak against the Musketeers.
2003, Ashland 24, Boyd County 15: While Ashland and Boyd County have often determined who went to the playoffs this is the only time the two teams actually met in the postseason. The Tomcats prevailed after losing to the Lions in the regular season. It also started Ashland coach Leon Hart’s 10-game winning streak against rival Boyd County.
2004, Ashland 34, Rockcastle County 27: Quarterback Ian Holbrook led the Tomcats past the Rockets in a playoff game despite being dazed and confused after a hit.
Tomcat players in the huddle said Holbrook was calling plays from his JFL days. But it all worked out well for Ashland and Holbrook, who is in his third year of medical school.
2005, Ashland 13, Johnson Central 10: The district championship was on the line when the Golden Eagles missed a last-second field goal that could have forced overtime. It’s been one of several huge games with Johnson Central.
2006, Ashland 24, Russell 21: Tomcats win thriller against rival Red Devils.
2008, Ashland 54, Woodford County 44: This Saturday night special produced a record for total points by both teams in Putnam Stadium. It was wildly entertaining for everyone, except for the defensive coordinators.
2009, Ashland 26, Ironton 12: Tomcats finally snap Ironton’s long hold in the series. The Tigers hadn’t lost to the Tomcats in almost 20 years.
2011, Ashland 22, Johnson Central 6: A huge crowd gathered for the district championship and a game against state rushing king J.J. Jude and the Golden Eagles. The Tomcat defense clamped down on Jude, holding him to 83 yards, and snapped Johnson Central’s five-year hold on the district crown.
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2648.