Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

June 20, 2013

MARK MAYNARD: Reality check

Tomcats-Lions alumni to play football game

Mark Maynard
The Independent

ASHLAND — Reality television is all the rage. From the “Bachelorette” to “The Voice,” we seem to be slammed — and evenly mildly entertained — by it at every turn.

But here’s a dose of local reality: An alumni football game between Ashland and Boyd County.

It’s going to happen on July 13 at the new Kentucky Christian University stadium at 5 p.m.

Calling all Lions and Tomcats: Are you ready for some football?

Put on the helmet and strap on the pads one more time. There’s a football game to be played.

So is this a good idea or a very bad one?

Depends on who you ask.

But Chad Cook, who played for the Tomcats from 2001 to 2003, would be in the good idea camp.

He’s been one of the Tomcat “team leaders” as they prepare to take on Boyd County once again.

Ashland has players from 1986 to 2012 planning on playing in the game.

Cook would like one more crack at the Lions.

“One of the last times Boyd beat us was my senior year in 2003,” he said. “We ended up beating them in the playoffs.”

Jeff Gee, who played on Boyd County’s 1986-88 teams, is the oldest Boyd County player on the roster at 42 years old.

The Lions defeated Ashland three consecutive wins over the Tomcats — the only three-game winning streak in the series for Boyd County.

“A lot of these guys have never beaten Ashland,” he said. “They want revenge. I want to play again.”

Ashland has dominated the series, winning 22 of the last 25 since 1988. The Tomcats have won 10 in a row.

Cook has organized practices for the Ashland team. Eighty have signed up but less than half of those have paid the $80 registration fee to play. That fee includes a lease of equipment and uniforms. You can (should?) also purchase some additional insurance for $12.

“Each person understands the risk,” Cook said. “That’s why we sign a waiver.”

So why take the chance of injury? For Cook, it’s a chance for his wife and children to watch him play football again.

Cook was a standout player for the Tomcats but it has been 10 years since he played.

“I’ve gained 30 pounds and have three kids,” he said. “I’m not exactly in the same shape.”

But few are.

For others, like Jackie Smith, it’s a chance at redemption. It was during Smith’s senior season in 1997 that his career ended with a knee injury against Boyd County.

Now, 16 years later, he gets the chance to play again.

Smith was in the same backfield with Jason Nichols that season. Those Tomcats would have had greater outcome if Smith had stayed healthy

They came to rely on Nichols, who had the monster game against Ironton that season with 396 yards rushing in a 42-41 loss.

But teams zeroed in on Nichols the rest of the way. He still had a super season but Smith was missed.

“He’s still like a rock,” Cook said. “He’ll be in the backfield.”

Peewee Nichols (Jason’s brother), Mike Ford, Eric Taylor, Marty Justice and Dustin Stakely, Brent Parsons, Joe Smith, Mike Hensley, Dustin Caudill, 45-year-old Joe Broughton — the oldest player in the game for either team — and “one of the 12 Jobes” are a few of the other former Tomcats expected to play.

Cook said he is currently taking snaps at quarterback.

Boyd County has some formidable players too, including former KCU running back Jake Hughes, Josh Jackson, Luke Jackson and Jake and Jeff Gee, David “Bull” Aschenauer, Brent Kersey, Matt McClellan and Charlie Thompson.

“They have a lot more younger players than we do,” Cook said.

The Ashland-Boyd County rivalry hasn’t been much in recent years because of the Tomcats domination.

“This game may bring some of that rivalry back,” Cook said.

The original plan was to play the game at Putnam Stadium or at Boyd County but school officials balked because of liability issues.

“I understood that,” Cook said. “We had Marshall’s stadium but they wanted us to push the game back because they were working on luxury boxes. We were able to make a deal with KCU.”

Gee said it was a shame the game couldn’t be played at either Ashland or Boyd County.

“It’s disappointing to me Ashland or Boyd County couldn’t work it out,” he said.

Cook said the Gridiron Alumni Games are often away from the high schools the first year but return in subsequent years after everybody watches how well run things are run.

Ashland’s team is practicing three days a week in preparation.

“You can sign up to play on the day of the game but I wouldn’t recommend it,” Cook said.

Former Verity Middle School coach Ron Moore will be coaching the Ashland team.

John Dyer and Darren “Peanut” Roberts are Boyd County’s coaches.

Pat Gee, the father of Jeff and Jake, may be the most excited fan of them all. He has been promoting the game on Facebook for weeks.

“Anybody who has played football and loved it like we have will gladly take a chance (on being injured),” Gee said.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.