Boyd County’s class of 2003 discovered a new way of celebrating a milestone reunion — by taking out 10 years of football frustration in a trouncing of its archrival.
That group supplied much of the gruntwork as Boyd County beat Ashland 32-0 in a Gridiron Alumni game on Saturday at Kentucky Christian University.
Aaron Harmon, Marcus Adams and Greg Moore, all 2003 graduates, were the main playmakers on a clamp-down defense. Harmon recorded two sacks and a key deflection, Moore picked off a pass and Adams nabbed an interception and took it 37 yards to pay dirt. He was named the Defensive Player of the Game.
“We worried about the defense the most and that was our strongest point!” said Lions running back Jake Hughes (2004).
Boyd County quarterback Luke Jackson was the Offensive Player of the Game. He scored the first touchdown to give the Lions a 7-0 lead — capped off by a Joey Virgin extra point — with 10:36 left in the second quarter. Jackson finished with 50 yards passing and 25 on the ground.
An approximate crowd of 1,300 filled bleachers and lawn chairs along the sidelines to enjoy a friendly rivalry revival.
“I figured there’d be a decent turnout but I didn’t expect anything like this,” said Jackson, a ’99 grad.
Aside from a couple heat-of-the-moment unsportsmanlike conduct calls, players were cordial toward each other throughout.
“It was a hard, clean game,” said Tomcats quarterback Chad Cook. “I’m going to do it again next year if they put it on again.”
Jackson said the whole experience conjured up some high school magic.
“I had emotions pumping through me like when I was 18,” Jackson said with a childlike smile. “At 8 o’clock (Saturday) morning I was hopping around the house like the game was going to start in five minutes.
“It was neat looking across the line — and I know all these boys from Ashland a lot better than I did in high school — and seeing Dustin Caudill winking back at me,” he added. Jackson and Caudill work together at AK Steel.
Ashland was able to suit up in white and maroon after some last-minute assistance from Tomcats head varsity coach Tony Love. Gridiron Alumni was going to dress the Tomcats in black until Love and Mark Swift, Ashland’s athletic director, reached out with an offer to wear the high school uniforms.
“A lot of us were excited for that,” Cook said. “It would’ve been weird wearing black against Boyd County red.”
It was all Boyd County red from the second quarter forward.
Neither team could get into a flow in the early going — the Lions and Tomcats combined for five fumbles (one lost), six first downs and just 127 yards in the first half.
Jackson sneaked into the end zone to break a scoreless tie.
Ashland followed it up with a 44-yard kick return by Dustin Stakely, but the drive was short-lived as Moore intercepted a pass that was tipped by Harmon at the line of scrimmage.
Adams’ pick proved more costly for the ’Cats, as he scampered 37 yards for a touchdown with 5:36 left in the second.
Boyd County opened the second half with a 12-play, 79-yard drive that ate up 5:45 of clock. Charlie Thompson, another 2003 graduate, found the end zone from four yards out.
The next scored was supplied by 1992 graduate Brent Kersey, who rumbled in from the 1-yard line. He tallied 30 yards on nine carries.
Danny Waller slapped the exclamation point on the contest with a 44-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Eric Taylor was named Lineman of the Game for Ashland. Peewee Nichols led the Tomcats in rushing with 37 yards. Jack Smith, who suffered a high school career-ending knee injury against Boyd County in 1997, tallied 35 yards. He ripped off a 22-yarder in the third.
“Every play, everybody was like, ‘Jackie, you all right? You all right?” Smith said. “I was all right! I did feel old, though ... I can’t wait to do it again next year because I’ll promise you this, I’ll be in much better condition.”
Joe Broughton, the game’s oldest player at age 45, exited during the second quarter with a tweaked ankle.
David “Bull” Aschenauer, of Boyd County, was sidelined with a separated shoulder.
Players from both sides congratulated one another with high fives and hugs after the game. Brothers Jackson, Jake Hughes and Casey Hughes — wearing Nos. 12, 13 and 14 — celebrated with family members, including Jake’s son and daughter.
“Getting to play with both of your brothers, you know, it makes me teary-eyed,” Jake Hughes said with a laugh.
Cook hopes that the game injects some more life into the current Ashland-Boyd County rivalry. The Tomcats have won 22 of the last 25 meetings.
“Hopefully Boyd and Ashland will get some kind of motivation from this game,” he said.
Cook just shrugged his shoulders about the final score.
“I couldn’t care less if we lost 60-0,” Cook said.
After a few late subtractions, Ashland played with just 23 players. Boyd County had nearly 40. Overall, the Lions were younger, with many having graduated in the 2000s.
Loren Huffman, a Raceland product, was allowed to suit up for the Tomcats. He had two receptions and batted down a couple balls on defense.
“It was a lot of fun,” Huffman said. “I think Russell and Raceland could do this if enough guys wanted to truly play for the love of the game.”
AARON SNYDER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2664.