Tom Scott Field

Fans of Boyd County watch as the Lions prepare to snap the ball during Friday’s final game at Tom Scott Field.

CANNONSBURG Lee Evans’s first experience at Tom Scott Field was as a visiting player, but he easily recognized the significance of the event at the venue he would later call home.

As a junior at Ashland, Evans made his first varsity start at cornerback at Tom Scott Field on Oct. 28, 1983. The visiting Tomcats lost to Boyd County, 17-7, with the district championship on the line.

“I’ll never forget that as long as I live, that game,” Evans said. “That was fun. Not that we lost, but I got to play and be an integral part of it.”

And at one of the more unique and storied stadi-    a in northeastern Kentucky.

Nestled into the side of the hill that the old Boyd County High School sits upon, Tom Scott Field hosted the Lions’ rise from the resumption of their football program in 1962 to a state championship game appearance just 11 years later.

For generations, big games at Tom Scott Field saw packed bleachers and patrons populating the rest of the hillside, too.

“It was built perfect for a football field to be right there underneath that hill,” Evans said. “I remember as a player watching kids play on that hill beside the bleachers, when the bleachers were full. There’s a lot of tradition there. It’s just kind of a neat place.”

Attendance didn’t reach quite that level for what is expected to be Tom Scott Field’s last varsity football game on Friday night. The turnout was decent, though, for Boyd County’s 21-7 loss to Rowan County, despite a persistent rain.

The game Lions, fighting for their proverbial playoff lives, hung close to the Vikings late into the evening before falling. The halftime entertainment for the final game: the annual March of the Lions, a ceremony honoring students from around the district who performed well on state testing this past spring.

The aforementioned 1973 state runner-up team was the first of five Lions squads that finished in the top four of the Associated Press poll between 1973 and 1987.

During that stretch, Boyd County picked up its only win against Ironton, a 15-13 decision over the third-ranked Fighting Tigers in 1985. Larry Bryant, who went on to serve five years as the Lions’ head coach, was an assistant that night at Tom Scott Field.

“Used to have some massive crowds there,” Bryant said. “I remember some of the games with Ironton and Ashland. Not only was the stadium seating on the hill full, but on the sides of the stadium, seats were full, the visiting-side bleachers full, the track full. Some great times, great games there.”

By comparison to that level of achievement, Boyd County’s football fortunes have generally ebbed since then. But the Lions have experienced several high points, too, particularly on their home turf.

Halloween 2003 stands out. Boyd County’s players walked down the center of the home bleachers before the game that night, as was their custom, and knocked off Ashland, 34-14.

“We really played well,” then-Lions coach Dane Damron said. “Jake Hughes had a great game running the football. I think we lined up in two tights and ran inside zone about 45 times.”

Afterward, Lions backers set their sights on the goal posts nearest Boyd County’s baseball field.

“It was funny,” Damron said, “they took the two uprights off of it and they left the crossbar bent. And that was bent almost until the next season we played.”

Tom Scott Field played host to its first Lions playoff win the next year, a 42-22 victory over Clay County.

Evans directed Boyd County to two more. The Lions knocked off Lawrence County, 19-0, in 2007 and McCreary Central, 34-6, a year later. That remains the Lions’ last postseason win.

That 2008 game was a snow day, Evans recalled. The Raiders were no match for Boyd County in the cold, falling 34-6.

“There’s tradition, and there’s people there that remember that,” Evans said. “There’s names up there on that press box of quality players that came from there and carried that tradition with them, and to be able to play a playoff game and win a playoff game is a way of trying to carry that forward. We tried our best to do that.”

The Lions are set to move into a new $5.8 million complex on the current high school campus across Ky. 180 next fall. Ground is scheduled to be broken on the site in November. The facility, with artificial turf, will also host soccer.

“I think this was a great facility,” Boyd County coach Evan Ferguson said, standing near midfield, after Friday night’s game. “At Boyd County, we have a lot of good things happening with our new high school up there on the hill. It’s beautiful, and we want to make this a first-class high school across the state in everything we do. We succeed in all our sports, and now they’re committing to the football program to take that to the next level as well.”

Tom Scott Field will still host some junior varsity and freshman football games and be a secondary facility for soccer, Boyd County athletic director Pete Fraley said. The track is to be resurfaced and will continue to host meets as well.

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zklemme@dailyindependent.com

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