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.


Marv’s kind of game: Russell champs battle in exhaustive OT shootout

RUSSELL, Ky. – Nobody liked a good old-fashioned shootout more than Marvin Meredith. He used to say that fans would rather watch their team lose 90-80 than win 50-40.

So his coaching calling card at Russell High School had offense circled and underlined.

“The object of the game is to put the ball in the basket,” Meredith said. “That’s why they come to watch us.”

Meredith surely would have liked this simulation battle between his last two 16th Region champions – the 1968 Red Devils and the 1972 Red Devils. Both teams were built to score and boy did they ever to the very end of this fantasy finish that, true to Meredith’s words, had fans standing on their feet in the Russell gym during a heart-stopping overtime.

The teams were tied at 87 when the regulation horn sounded. Here are some highlights before the final score is revealed toward the bottom of the report.

–Tookie Helton, the speedy guard for the 68 Red Devils, had 38 points and seven assists. He kind of liked the 3-point line, too, making 7 of 17.

–Rick Hensley, the high-scoring guard for the 72 Red Devils, came close to matching him with 26 points after stroking 5-of-11 from behind the arc.

–Both teams put five players in double figures.

–After trailing 43-41 at halftime, the 72 Red Devils caught fire in the third quarter by scoring a whopping 32 points.

–The game was tied nine times and there were nine lead changes. The similarities were striking and it was showing on the scoreboard. The 68 Red Devils once led by 15 points and the 72 Red Devils held a lead of as much as 13 points.

–It was a tribute to Marv’s penchant for offense that 6-foot-8 Tom Roberts, who collected 20 points and seven rebounds, drilled 3-of-5 from behind the arc. The 3-pointer was mostly new for Meredith – and these teams – but he was just as happy to get three points as two points on any shot.

“I wish we’d had that shot when Mickey (Sydenstricker) was playing,” he said. “I wish I always had that shot when I was coaching because it just meant more points. And my boys could always shoot.”

Of course, since it was a fantasy game, Marv had the view from both benches. His timeout messages were to keep the offense going. Both teams were doing their best on defense in the famed 1-3-1 but both sides knew the weaknesses, too, and the exploited it at every turn

Advantage offense.

“That’s the way I like it,” Meredith said with a grin.

The biggest lead for 72 Russell came at 69-56 with two minutes remaining in the third quarter. It looked like trouble for 68 Russell, which fell behind a minute into the second half and had to play catchup from there.

A three-point play the old-fashioned way from Roberts made it 69-59 and seemed to give the 68 Devils some life. However, they trailed 77-66 before going on a 10-0 run to pull within 77-76 with four minutes remaining.

The 72 Devils stayed together though, pushing the margin to 85-78 and then led 87-81 with only 50 seconds to play. Helton came down the floor and stopped from about 23 feet away and swished a 3-pointer to make it 87-84. An errant pass trying to throw over a press sent the ball out of bounds. Roberts missed a 3-pointer from the corner but the long rebound came right to Helton standing behind the arc. He never hesitated. Swish! Just like that the game was tied at 87.

Lanny Miller put the 68 Red Devils ahead 89-87 in overtime and Mark Thiery tied it with a 15-footer. Helton buried another 3-pointer for a 92-89 advantage and the 68 Red Devils never trailed again. They actually made it a mini-rout, building a 15-point lead at 107-92. It was quite an offensive turnaround with a final score of 107-96 after the 68 Red Devils outscored the 72 Red Devils, 20-9, in the overtime. One guy was smiling at the outcome.

“I know one of my teams won and the other one lost,” Meredith said. “But just look at that scoreboard and don’t the fans leaving look happy?”

It was a point well taken.

1968 RUSSELL (107) – Helton 12-26 7-10 38, Miller 3-8 4-5 11, Roberts 8-12 1-2 20, Hollan 1-6 0-0 2, Conley 2-3 1-1 5, Vanover 5-7 3-5 13, Fosson 2-4 1-1 5, McCain 4-4 2-2 10, Faulkner 1-2 0-0 2. FG: 38-72. FT: 19-26. 3FG: 12-33 (Helton 7-17, Miller 1-5, Roberts 3-5, Hollan 1-6). Rebounds: 36 (Roberts 11, Miller 3, Hillman 3, Conley 2, Vanover 11, Fosson 2, Faulkner 4). Assists: 18 (Roberts 2, Miller 3, Helton 7, Hillman 2, Fosson 1, Mcown 2, Faulkner 1). PF: 23. Turnovers: 13.

1972 RUSSELL (96) – Thiery 4-9 2-3 10, Elam 4-8 3-3 13, Hensley 7-17 7-7 26, Hillman 2-5 3-6 7, Savage 6-12 2-5 14, Branham 4-7 1-2 9, Ward 4-11 5-5 13, Kidd 0-1 0-0 0, Sargent 2-3 0-0 4. FG: 33-73. FT: 23-31. 3FGs: 7-23 (Thiery 0-3, Elam 2-4, Hensley 5-11, Ward 0-4, Kidd 0-1). Rebounds: 38 (Thiery 3, Elam 3, Hensley 6, Hillman 7, Savage 11, Branham 5, Ward 1, Kidd 1, Sargent 1). Assists: 18 (Thiery 3, Elam 6, Hensley 5, Hillman 1, Ward 2, Branham 1). PF: 25. Turnovers: 17.

1968 RUSSELL    19         24         23       21       20    –            107

1972 RUSSELL    20         21         32        13       9      –            96


Zornes’ first and last regional champions fight to finish

SUMMIT, Ky. – It seemed fitting to match Boyd County’s first and last 16th Region championship teams under coach Roger Zornes.

The 1984 and 2000 Lions were both special to Boyd County’s coach who claimed seven regional titles in his tenure.

Instead of having to coach against himself, though, Zornes turned over the reins to the 1984 Lions to longtime assistants Phil Pratt and Bobby Sparks.

That would allow Roger Zornes to coach his son, Tyler, one more time and with good reason. His son was one of the most prolific scorers in region history and the top scorer in Boyd County history along with hitting one of the biggest game-winning shots in region tournament history with a 3-point bomb that defeated rival Ashland at the buzzer in 1999.

There was a lot of buzz around this game beyond Tyler Zornes though. Some of Boyd County’s greatest athletes were part of these teams in Caleb Stewart, Brad Taylor, Pete Fraley and Zach Fugeman.

“Seems right to have these teams play each other but I don’t like going against Brad Taylor,” coach Zornes said. “He won a lot of games for us in 1984 and the rest of that bunch is special to me because that was my first team that won the region. A great bunch.”

It shaped up to be a dandy and the crowd arrived early. Mike Tussey and Dicky Tiller were going to combine on the radio broadcast and the game was being televised on MyTown with closed circuit viewing in the Boyd County Middle School auditorium.

The game was expected to be a sellout. It was that and more a few minutes before tipoff as the teams went through a similar pregame.

“It’s what they know under coach Zornes and I didn’t see any reason to change it,” Pratt said. “I don’t know how this is going to go. Bobby and I are over our heads coaching against him.”

The game, of course, would be heavy on the defense with both teams trying to establish themselves as the Big Dog. Jim Moore knocked Tyler Borders hard to the floor on one rebound, grabbing the basketball and then throwing a hip into his opponent.

The referees were letting them play and both teams seemed to understand how it was going to be.

Borders was helped up after the knockdown and pointed at Moore, as if to say, “I’ll remember that.”

Meanwhile, the game was played tight until Zornes sparked a late surge that gave 2000 Boyd County the lead at 26-16 after scoring eight points.

It got much more defensive in the second quarter with baskets being hard to come by for both teams. The coaches were getting pure pleasure out of watching the teams go at it on defense. Nobody was safe with plenty of banging inside and outside.

The 2000 Lions maintained the 10-point lead at the half, 39-29, but the 84 Lions weren’t done. They rallied to within 54-50 going into the last eight minutes.

“I tell you what, both of these teams were gassed going into that fourth quarter because of how physical the game was being played,” Pratt said. “I’m glad the refs led them play, I’m just glad everybody kept their cool. These guys have a lot of respect for each other.”

The 3-point shot was working well for both teams with the 2000 Lions making 10 of 23 and the 84 Lions connecting on 9 of 20.

Before the game is over, the 3-point shot will play a more pivotal role.

Consecutive 3-pointers from Pete Fraley and Brad Taylor put the 1984 Lions in front 56-54 for the first time since the first quarter. The last six minutes of the fourth quarter would be a wild ride with the lead exchanging hands several times.

Two free throws from Bill Nipp took the lead to 61-57 for the 1984 Lions but Zornes and Fugeman combined for seven consecutive points and the 2000 Lions were back ahead 64-61 with only three minutes to play.

Moore’s steal-and-score made it 64-63 and Adam Young answered to stretch the lead to 66-63. But just went it looked like the 2000 Lions were ready to lock up the win, Jeff Lowe scored on a driving layup and some fullcourt pressure forced an errant pass.

With 29 seconds to play, Moore found himself open on the baseline and swished a 15-footer to put the 1984 Lions ahead 67-66. That four-point lead had disappeared in an instant.

“We had the game under control,” Coach Zornes said. “I knew those guy wouldn’t quit.”

And neither would the 2000 Lions. Zornes called a timeout to discuss strategy and everybody knew where it was going. The play was going to be designed for Tyler Zornes to shoot it.

“Oh yeah, we knew, too,” Pratt said. “We countered that as best we could.”

Stewart was the inbounder and Zornes came off a screen but Moore stepped into the passing line. Stewart, an outstanding baseball player later signed by the New York Mets organization, saw it too. He threw a laser to Borders, who had popped out behind the arc.

Borders gathered in the fastball and fired up the shot as the clock wound down. It was nothing but net and the 2000 Lions survived 69-67.

“Great shot from Borders,” coach Zornes said. “He was the second option on the play. We couldn’t shake Jimmy (Moore) but they made the mistake of not getting out on Tyler (Borders).”

Pratt said the defense was concentrating on taking an opportunity away from Tyler Zornes. “But the other Tyler got us,” he said. “It was a great game between some of Boyd County’s best players and an honor to coach these guys again. I know Roger feels the same way.”

Tyler Zornes scored 23, Stewart had 12 and Borders 11 for the 2000 Lions. Zornes made 5 of 11 from 3-point range.

Taylor’s 21 points led the 1984 Lions. Brian Vanhoose collected 12 points and six rebounds, Fraley scored a dozen with four assists and Nipp added 11 points. Moore had seven points and seven rebounds.

Real life

 Boyd County’s 2000 team finished 22-8 and won the last of Roger Zornes’ regional championships for the Lions in a brilliant coaching career. Boyd County droppeda  52-50 heartbreaker to Elizabethtown in the Sweet Sixteen.

Boyd County’s 1984 team was the first regional title for Zornes in his second year as head coach. The Lions were 23-7, defeating Ashland 60-58 in the regional final and then falling to Ballard 47-46 in the Sweet Sixteen opener.

2000 BOYD COUNTY (69) – Zornes 6-19 6-7 23, Rose 4-6 0-0 8, Borders 4-8 1-2 11, Young 3-3 1-3 7, Fugeman 0-1 3-4 3, Stewart 4-10 2-6 12, Lange 0-1 0-0 0, Chaney 1-2 0-0 3, Evans 1-2 0-0 2. FG: 23-52. FT: 13-22. 3FG: 10-23 (Zornes 5-11, Fugeman 0-1, Rose 0-1, Borders 2-5, Stewart 2-4, Chaney 1-1). Rebounds: 30 (Zornes 5, Fugeman 3, Rose 8, Borders 2, Young 4, Stewart 7, Chaney 1). Assists: 7 (Zornes 3, Fugeman 1, Stewart 3). PF: 21. Turnovers: 13.

1984 BOYD COUNTY (67) – Nipp 4-5 2-2 11, Fraley 3-10 3-5 12, Moore 3-4 1-4 7, Taylor 4-8 8-11 21, Vanhoose 5-6 2-2 12, Lowe 1-3 0-0 2, Todd 0-3 2-2 2, Evans 0-1 0-0 0, Trimble 0-1 0-0 0. FG: 20-41. FT: 18-26. 3FG: 9-20 (Nipp 1-1, Fraley 3-9, Taylor 5-6, Vanhoose 0-1, Lowe 0-1, Todd 0-1, Trimble 0-1). Rebounds: 27 (Nipp 2, Fraley 1, Moore 7, Taylor 3, Vanhoose 6, Lowe 3, Todd 3, Trimble 2). Assists: 10 (Nipp 1, Fraley 5, Vanhoose 1, Todd 1, Trimble 2). PF: 22. Turnovers: 13.

2000 BOYD COUNTY  26      13      15           15      –         69

1984 BOYD COUNTY  16      13      21           17      –         67