1987 Tomcats survive wild shootout with 1997 Tomcats

ASHLAND, Ky. – Two of Ashland’s greatest running back duos met in Putnam Stadium on Tuesday night and, as could have been predicted, it was a shootout.

But, in the end, it came down to one defensive play.

Safety David Hicks of the 1987 Tomcats pulled down 1997 Tomcat great Jason Nichols just shy of the goal-line on a 2-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game with 3:39 remaining in the TOMCAT TALES simulated battle.

With the 1997 Tomcats trailing 38-36 after Nichols scored his fourth touchdown of the game, coach Vic Marsh called on his star running back one more time to try and tie it up.

Nichols took the handoff on a counter, saw the hole was plugged, and bounced it outside. Hicks stretched out the play and dove for Nichols’ ankles at about the 5 and held on tight. Nichols pulled him to the 1 before being going down.

The 87 Tomcats then turned to bulldozing Mike Johnson to run out the clock with some chunky running to preserve the 38-36 victory. He gained 230 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns. Ryan Blake, his speedy running mate, had 114 yards on 19 carries.

Nichols (172 yards on 27 attempts) and Jack Smith (123 yards on 18 carries) combined for 295 yards rushing.

“These were my kind of teams,” Marsh said. “They showed why again tonight. Running backs like these four guys didn’t come along often but when you had them, it sure was fun. The fans had to love watching big Mike run again and nobody in Tomcat history probably ran any harder than Jason Nichols. Probably nobody makes that defensive play that David Hicks made either. What a huge stop.”

Nichols had eight runs of more than 10 yards and ran for first downs on 14 occasions. Johnson ran for 15 yards and had 11 runs of double figures with a long of 27.

The game itself was a shootout of high-powered running attacks. The 87 Tomcats broke ahead 14-0 on a pair of touchdown runs from Johnson but it wasn’t long until Nichols and Smith put the 97 Tomcats on the scoreboard.

The game was tied at 14 early in the second quarter and the 87 Tomcats held a 24-20 halftime lead. The second half was a little better for the defenses.

Nichols scored on a 9-yard run five minutes into the third quarter, capping a four-play 49-yard drive, to put the 97 Tomcats in front for the first time at 27-24.

On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, the 87 Tomcats fumbled, setting up a 31-yard field goal from Kevin Hammonds as the lead stretched to 30-24.

The 87 Tomcats turned back to Johnson and Blake, who carried four times apiece on a 57-yard drive that culminated with Art Boyd plunging into the end zone on a 1-yard run. Stewart’s extra point made it 31-30 and the 87 Tomcats never trailed again.

Blake snared a 20-yard touchdown pass from Hicks to make it 38-30 until Nichols scored his last touchdown.

Hicks said he was fortunate to bring down Nichols on the crucial 2-point conversion.

“If you watched the game, Jason hardly ever went down without two or three of us hitting him,” he said. “I reached for his ankles and wouldn’t let go. My fingers were getting stomped on but I finally was able to trip him up. That was probably the best tackle of my life.”

Marsh, who was the head coach of both teams, called plays for teams from the press box.

“Well, I gotta tell ya, that was fun,” he said. “I don’t think our defensive coaches would agree with that statement though.”

There was plenty of defense played. Joe Avila racked up 13 tackles and Stewart 11 for the 1987 Tomcats. Eric Broomall (16), Scott Wilson (14) and Dustin Stakely (10) led the 1997 Tomcats.

Real life

Ashland’s 1987 team finished 8-5 behind the rushing of Johnson (1,480 yards) and Blake (1,398 yards). They combined for 24 TDs.

Ashland’s 1997 team finished 6-5 with Nichols having a season to remember after Smith went down with an injury early in the season. Nichols had 2,103 yards and 24 touchdowns.

1987 ASHLAND       14         10         7        7            –              38

1997 ASHLAND         7        13       10         6            –              36


1987 – Mike Johnson 3 run (Barry Stewart kick)

1987 – Johnson 15 run (Stewart kick)

1997 – Jack Smith 8 run (Kevin Hammonds kick)


1997 – Jason Nichols 19 run (Hammonds kick)

1987 –Stewart 28 FG

1997 – Nichols 19 run (kick failed)

1987 – Bill Keaton 13 run (Stewart kick)


1997 – Nichols 9 run (Hammonds kick)

1997 – Hammonds 31 FG

1987 – Art Boyd 1 run (Stewart kick)


1987 – Ryan Blake 20 pass from David Hicks (Stewart kick)

1997 – Nichols 8 run (run failed)


1987 RUSHING: Johnson 22-230, Blake 19-114, Hicks 13-54, Salyer 4-29, Keating 90-2, Keaton 2-16.

1997 RUSHING: Nichols 27-172, Smith 18-123, Boyd 16-52, Stakely 8-27, Messer 1-8.

1987 PASSING: Hicks 5 of 7 for 56 yards.

1997 PASSING: Messer 3 of 3 for 48 yards.

1987 RECEIVING: Blake 3-43, Hyre 1-5, Hall 1-8.

1997 RECEIVING: Broughton 1-13, Wilson 1-15, Frazier 1-20.


Day at the Beach: 2001 Tomcats rock 1984 Cats

ASHLAND, Ky. – Ashland’s 1984 football team found a day at the Beach isn’t always fun.

The 2001 Ashland Tomcats, led by Arliss Beach’s 311 yards rushing and three touchdowns, throttled the 1984 Tomcats, 49-28, in Putnam Stadium in a TOMCAT TALES simulated football game.

Beach scored on runs of 16, 72 and 14 to trigger a rushing attack that piled up 474 yards. Quarterback Ryne Salyer completed 6 of 8 passes for 49 yards.

“We couldn’t contain Beach, it was simple as that,” said 84 Tomcat coach Vic Marsh. “We fell behind 21-0 and it was a long game of catch-up. Trying to chase down Arliss when you’re trying to catch up made it that much longer.”

The 2001 Tomcats went ahead 21-0 two minutes into the second quarter when Beach took a handoff, broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and headed for the sideline on the way to a 72-yard touchdown run.

“Backbreaker for them,” said 2001 Tomcat coach Larry Hall. “That run put us in the driver’s seat and when Arliss is driving the bus, it’s good for us.”

Beach carried 24 times and averaged 13 yards per run. Matt Johnson also had a big game with 113 yards and two touchdowns for the 2001 Tomcats. The 1-2 punch of Beach and Johnson proved to be too much.

Quarterback Chuck Broughton completed 12 of 26 passes and four touchdowns for the 1984 Tomcats. Lee Evans (two), David Gifford and Jeff Koontz had the receiving TDs. Kent Feazell was held to 53 yards rushing on 14 carries. He broke loose once for a 30-yard gain but was largely held in check by the 2001 defense, led by safety Josh Duley with 12 tackles.

“We knew containing Feazell was going to be big,” Hall said. “We did a good job on that but let Evans get behind us twice. Broughton has a good arm and they gave him good protection.”

Gifford had four catches for 62 yards and Koontz caught an 82-yard touchdown bomb from Broughton.

“You know passing isn’t my game but when you fall behind 21-0, you have to score in a hurry,” Marsh said. “We couldn’t keep up with them.”

The 2001 Tomcats led 28-14 at the half and 35-21 going into the fourth quarter. The 84 Tomcats were never closer than 14 points.

Real life

1984 Tomcats finished 7-5 and Broughton was a second team Courier-Journal All-State quarterback.

2001 Tomcats finished 8-4 and Beach made All-State and scored 39 TDs and 2,503 yards rushing in record-breaking season.

1984 TOMCATS           0        14       7          7            –            28

2001 TOMCATS          14       14         7       14            –            49


2001-Arliss Beach 16 run (Jordan Sloan kick)

2001-Matt Johnson 3 run (Sloan kick)


2001-Beach 72 run (Sloan kick)

1984-Lee Evans 7 pass from Chuck Broughton (Sven Steinnender kick)

2001-Brandon Swimm 10 run (Sloan kick)

1984-David Gifford 12 pass from Broughton (Steinnender kick)


1984-Evans 12 pass from Broughton (Steinnender kick )

20001-Ryne Salyer 7 run (Sloan kick)


2001-Johnson 4 run (Sloan kick)

1984-Jeff Koontz 82 pass from Broughton (Steinnender kick)

2001-Beach 14 run (Sloan kick)


1984 RUSHING: Feazell 14-53, Riedel 9-49, Stephens 2-10.

2001 RUSHING: Beach 24-311, Johnson 21-113, Salyer 7-35, Swimm 4-15.

1984 PASSING: Broughton 12 of 26 for 212 yards.

2001 PASSING: Salyer 6 of 8 for 49 yards.

1984 RECEIVING: Evans 4-31, Gifford 4-62, Feazell 2-17, Koontz 1-82, Pendel 1-20.

2001 RECEIVING: Davis 4-39, Schweitzer 2-10.


Old school basketball between 1968 and 1979 Tomcats

ASHLAND, Ky. – Ashland’s 1968 Tomcats welcomed the 1979 Tomcats to a little old school basketball at the gym on Lexington Avenue.

They didn’t have to do much introduction about style of play to the 79 Cats, who played a methodical pound-it-inside game under defensive guru coach Paul Patterson. The 68 Tomcats, led by guards Bobby Lynch and Joe Conley, were more of the get-it-and-go style under coach Harold Cole.

The conflicting styles were going to make for a delicious simulation matchup between two great Tomcat teams.

Coach Paul Patterson took the Tomcats to four regional titles.

Coach Paul Patterson took the Tomcats to four regional titles.“We’ve heard about these guys,” Patterson said. “They have some offensive firepower with Lynch and Conley. Our defense will have to play one of its best games to win this game and that’s what we plan to do.”

The 68 Tomcats used Cole’s 1-3-1 trapping defense as a force itself. But they loved to run with the basketball most of all.

“This team played it as well as any of my Tomcat teams,” Cole said of the trapping defense. “We’re looking forward to how we matchup with these guys. They have some size advantage on us, but I like our chances. We can score points with anybody.”

The height advantage belonged to the 79 Cats, who had a pair of 6-7 players inside in Dirk Anders and Jeff Tipton. Doug Smith and Greg McCauley also had size on a team that looked like they belonged in college.

However, the rebounding edge went to the 68 Tomcats, 38-34, with Johnny Mullins pulling down 11 boards. It turned out to be pivotal.

“Rebounding is effort,” Patterson said. “That should tell you something.”

After a stalemated first quarter ended at 19-19, the 79 Tomcats put together a nice streak. McCauley was practically unstoppable with 10 points during a 13-4 run that resulted in a 30-23 lead. The advantage was 38-28 at the half when Smith drove to the basket, collided with Roger Baldridge, and scored anyway.

The old Ashland High School gym was packed for the game and the crowd got silent after the strong move from Smith. The teams headed for the locker room thinking about that late move.

Cole could be heard loud and clear even though the locker room door was closed at intermission. His rant lasted about five good minutes.

“I’m not going to say exactly what he said but, I will tell you that the message was received,” Lynch said. “We knew the second quarter wasn’t us. We got intimidated by their size and quit playing our game. That changed in the second half.”

Trailing 41-36, it was Lynch who started a resurgence. He banked in a 12-footer and was fouled by McCauley. Lynch completed the three-point play and the 68 Tomcats had trimmed the deficit to 41-39. Baldridge tied the game by pump-faking and going up and under Anders to score. It was 45-45.

Mike Griffith put the 68 Tomcats ahead for the first time in the second half at 52-50 when he bombed in an 18-footer at the third quarter buzzer. The gym was extremely loud between quarters as the 68 fans started to like what they were seeing on the court. Their team had returned.

“That wasn’t us in that second quarter,” Conley said. “I don’t know where our heads were.”

Cole’s message was definitely received. The 68 Tomcats outscored the befuddled 79 Tomcats, 24-12, in the third quarter.

“We let the pace of the game get away from us,” Patterson said. “Then the defense let down and it was all but over.”

The 79 Tomcats tied the game again at 52 on a pair of free throws from John Anderson. However, Lynch’s long jumper completed an 8-0 run that put the 68 Tomcats in control for keeps. It was the last of his 22 points though because he came down awkwardly and rolled his ankle. Lynch went out and never returned.

The 79 Tomcats took advantage, pulling within 66-61 when Tipton got loose and slammed a two-handed dunk down. The crowd began buzzing again.

“Man, that was some power move,” Baldridge said. “The big guy can play. He was tough in there.”

Ray Kleykamp sank three free throws down the stretch to secure the 71-63 victory over the 79 Tomcats. It was a dominating second half for the 68 Tomcats, who held a 43-25 advantage in the second half.

“They outplayed us in every phase of the game in the second half,” Patterson said. “We’ve called an early morning practice for tomorrow. This was embarrassing to them and me. I want to apologize to the Tomcat fans out there for how we played. It won’t happen again.”

Cole was beaming about the 68 Tomcats’ play in the second half. “That’s as good as we can do it,” he said. Conley scored 12 and Mike Griffith 11 in a balanced attack.

“Our guys could have packed it in at halftime,” Cole said. “We had a little heart to heart that might have helped us.”

Lynch, raising his eyebrows after hearing Cole’s comments, said, “You think?”

Real life

Ashland’s 1979 team followed the same Patterson style with great defense and captured a fourth consecutive regional title. The Tomcats were 19-14 and lost in the quarterfinal round of the Sweet 16.

Ashland’s 1968 team dropped an 80-75 decision to talented Russell in the regional championship. It was a heartbreaking defeat. The Tomcats beat Russell 77-73 in the regular season. Ashland finished 22-10.

1979 ASHLAND (63) – Cobb 3-8 1-3 7, Anders 2-5 3-4 7, McCauley 8-13 3-7 19, Smith 4-14 3-7 11, Tipton 4-9 3-4 11, Withrow 0-2 0-0 0, Henderson 0-3 0-1 0, Brown 1-4 0-1 2, Anderson 0-5 2-2 2, Bush 1-3 2-2 4. FG: 23-67. FT: 17-31. Rebounds: 34 (Cobb 1, Anders 2, McCauley 5, Tipton 7, Smith 7, Withrow 2, Brown 6, Anderson 1, Bush 2. Assists: Tipton 1, Withrow 1, Henderson 2). PF: 23. Turnovers: 10.

1968 ASHLAND (71) – Lynch 9-16 4-5 22, Kleykamp 3-10 3-5 9, M.Griffith 4-10 3-3 11, Mullins 2-5 1-2 5, R.Griffith 0-5 0-0 0, Conley 4-7 4-6 12, Baldridge 3-4 2-3 8, Owens 0-2 2-2 2, Leibee 1-1 0-0 2, Salyers 0-2 0-0 0. FG: 26-62. FT: 19-26. Rebounds: 38 (Lynch 5, Kleykamp 1, M.Griffith 3, Mullins 11, Conley 6, G.Griffith 2, Conley 2, Owens 1, Baldridge 2). Assists: 13 (Lynch 4, Kleykamp 3, M.Griffith 2, Mullins 1, R.Griffith 1, Owens 1, Leibee 1. PF: 21. Turnovers: 19.

1979 ASHLAND   19         19         12         13         –              63

1968 ASHLAND   19         9            24         19         –              71





2019 Tomcats get their shot against strong 78 Tomcats

ASHLAND, Ky. – Lest we so quickly forget, it was the 2019 Ashland Tomcats who sparked the current basketball revival.

Those Tomcats, under the reins of veteran coach Jason Mays in his first high school coaching experience, caught fire late in the season and stunned everyone by winning the 16th Region Tournament and then even a game in the Sweet Sixteen before bowing out.

It had been 17 years, the longest drought in the proud history of Ashland basketball, since the Tomcats had last won the regional title. They finished with a pedestrian 19-16 record but it may have flipped the switch to bringing Tomcat basketball back to the forefront.

Devaunte Robinson led the 2019 Tomcats with 22 points.

“I’ll always love what this team gave the Tomcat program,” Mays said. “Nobody expected us to be holding that regional championship trophy and going to Rupp Arena. These guys helped me better understand how to coach players this age, after all of those years where I coached college players, and I’ll always appreciate them for that.”

That being said, they deserved the opportunity to play it again and this time it was against one of coach Paul Patterson’s four regional champions – the 1978 Tomcats. Like all of his teams, the 78 Tomcats were built on tough, man-to-man defense. It was the kind of defense that made you wake up in the middle of a night in a cold sweat.

“They make me break out in hives and I’m just coaching against them,” Mays said.

The 2019 Tomcats, once they found their way and got everybody healthy, became a free-wheeling offense that loved to aim and fire. They played in a style much like the undefeated 2020 team and, no wonder, since many of the same players from that team were the main players in 2019.

So it was going to be a battle of defense vs. offense.

The 3-point play was going to be part of the game since the 2019 Tomcats were the host on the scoreboard. But don’t expect the offensive-conservative 78 Tomcats to take many shots from outside 12 feet.

“Coach Patterson likes the high percentage shot, let’s just say that,” said point guard Greg Swift. “Anything outside of 5 feet wasn’t high percentage. It wasn’t that we were conservative, it was more about running the offense until that high percentage shot was available. But everything we did was predicated on playing good defense.”

Players who didn’t play good defense didn’t play long with Patterson.

“You win games with defense,” he said. “Any other questions?”

The 78 Tomcats followed one of the most successful teams in Ashland history. The 77 Tomcats won 30 games and reached the state semifinals. Most figured this was the season to knock Ashland off its perch. Of course, that didn’t happen. Another defensive giant emerged and the Tomcats won a third (of what would be five) consecutive regional titles.

But this challenge would be different, especially with the 3-point play as part of the strategy.

The 2019 Tomcats led 16-10 with freshman Cole Villers scoring five points late in the first quarter before the 78 Tomcats found their footing. They scored the last five points of the quarter and trailed only 16-15.

“It’d have been nice to build on that six-point lead but we had three straight bad possessions right there,” Mays said. “We got in a hurry on offense. It was so tough to get any open shots against them. We forced a couple.”

The 19 Tomcats were able to maintain a four-point at 33-29 through halftime, mostly thanks to Devaunte Robinson’s 14 points.

The game was tied at 33, 35 and 37 when a three-point play from Justin Bradley put the 2019 Tomcats in front 40-37.

“Scoring baskets for either one of us was like pulling teeth,” Mays said.

The rest of the third quarter belonged to the 78 Tomcats, who went on a 12-2 run to lead 47-42 entering the last eight minutes. The 19 Tomcats were held to nine points in the quarter.

“The defense ramped up and Donnie Allen made some big plays,” Patterson said.

Allen scored off a nice assist from Greg McCauley and then took a charge. He scored again on the next possession to put the 78 Tomcats in front for the first time in the second half at 43-42.

When Dirk Anders scored on a putback to begin the fourth quarter and make it 49-42, the road became that much tougher for the 2019 Tomcats.

However, four consecutive points from Robinson, who had been mostly quiet in the second half, pulled the 2019 Tomcats within 61-58 with 1:28 remaining.

Ethan Hudson, who finished with 15 points, drilled a 15-footer to make it 64-60 with 45 seconds remaining but the 78 Tomcats held them scoreless the rest of the way and recorded a 68-60 victory.

“This was a good one,” Patterson said. “Our defense set the tone. That charge that Donnie took stands out in my mind as the play of the game.”

Tom Welch played big all night for the 78 Tomcats as he finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Swift scored 15 with five assists.

“The big guy hurt us,” Mays said of Welch. “He was really banging in there. We didn’t have a good answer for him.”

Robinson scored 22 and led an 8-for-16 performance from behind the 3-point line. He was 4-for-6 on triples.

“We just didn’t shoot enough of them,” Mays said. “Give Coach Patterson credit. He was ready in stepping up a good defense to limit our looks from there.”

But the 2019 Tomcats shooting 50 percent from behind the arc didn’t excite Patterson, who said, “You don’t win games giving up percentages like that. Disappointing. We’ll have to work on that.”

Real life

The 2019 Tomcats came into the regional tournament as the district runners-up but promptly surprised Lewis County by surviving a last-second shot and then stunned favorite Elliott County in the semifinals. A win over rival Boyd County in the final completed the sweep and then they won their Sweet 16 opener against Owensboro before losing to eventual champion Louisville Trinity.

The 1978 Tomcats won a third consecutive regional title by edging Boyd County in the championship game. Covington Holmes overwhelmed the Tomcats in the Sweet 16 opener.

1978 ASHLAND (68) – McCauley 2-7 0-0 4, Swift 7-13 1-3 15, Cobb 5-10 1-3 11, Allen 5-9 2-2 12, Welch 7-11, 4-6 18, Henderson 0-1 0-0 0, Anders 1-4 2-2 4, Withrow 2-2 0-0 4. FG: 29-57. FT: 10-16. 3FG: 0-0. Rebounds: 26 (McCauley 5, Swift 1, Cobb 2, Allen 7, Welch 8, Anders 3). Assists: 14 (McCauley 3, Swift 3, Cobb 1, Allen 2, Welch 1, Henderson 2, Anders 1). PF: 14. Turnovers: 11.

2019 ASHLAND (60) – Sellars 1-5 0-0 2, Hudson 6-11 0-0 15, Bradley 2-8 1-1 5, Robinson 8-16 2-2 22, Mays 2-5 5-6 9, Villers 2-7 1-1 5, Atkins 1-4 0-0 2, Phillips 0-2 0-0 0. FG: 22-58. FT: 9-10. 3FG: 7-16 (Hudson 3-4, Bradley 0-1, Sellars 0-3, Villers 0-2, Robinson 4-6).

1978 ASHLAND     15         14         18         21           –            68

2019 ASHLAND      16         17         9           18           –          60