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The Great Dynasties of Kentucky High School Football

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I had a thread going a few years back on this topic that was considerably more stripped down. Rather than find a shovel and dig it back up, I decided to revamp it, put a little more meat on the bone, and in some cases, tweak my definition of "dynasty".

Whether you prefer parity or familiarity at the top, I think we can all agree that sports dynasties (i.e. sustained periods of winning at a championship level) are a fun way to reflect back on the history of athletic achievement and gain a little historical perspective. Some are contemporary, while others required reaching far back into the annals of Kentucky high school football history. This is not the be-all, end-all, comprehensive list of football dynasties in our state. People have different parameters and pre-playoff era records can be hard to come by. Additional contributions are welcome.

 

Dynasties that span multiple class systems

Bob Beatty's Trinity Shamrocks (2000-2020)

Record: 254-44 (85%)

State Championships: 15 ('01-'03, '05-'08, '10-'12, '14, '16, '17, '19, '20)

Under Beatty's guidance, Trinity expanded from a state power, to midwest prominence, to a fixture on the national scene. The 2011 Shamrocks were declared national champions by a handful of outlets and were the centerpiece of a 33 game win streak from '10-'12. Since 2000, Trinity hasn't gone more than one year between championships. Over that two decade timeframe, they're 91-6 in the playoffs, including a 36-1 postseason mark from 2001-2008. The Shamrocks haven't lost to an in-state opponent besides St. X or Male in sixteen years. From Brian Brohm to Rondale Moore, there was no shortage of future D1 college talent helping grow T's trophy case. Simply put, Trinity is the gold standard for football in Kentucky. 

 

Dale Mueller's Highlands Bluebirds (1996-2013)

Record: 230-29 (89%)

State Championships: 11 ('96, '98-'00, '04, '07-'12)

Like Beatty, Mueller took over a program already considered a blueblood within state borders. Also like Beatty, Mueller elevated his program to a national level. The Bluebirds steadily climbed the national wins list until topping off at #2 before he retired. Jared Lorenzen, Derek Smith, Brent Grover, Gino and Ben Guidugli, Rob Smith, Austin Collinsworth, and Patrick Towles were some of the standout names from this era of Highlands football. The entirety of HHS football history could easily be summed up as one big dynasty, but we're singling out Mueller's tenure, which featured a state record six titles in a row and a 37 game winning streak from 2008-2010.

 

Philip Haywood's Belfry Pirates (2003-present)

Record: 214-41 (84%)

State Championships: 7 ('03, '04, '13-'16, '19)

During Belfry's four-peat from '13-'16, the Pirates earned mountain football a measure of statewide respect not seen in a generation. The last 17 years of football on Pond Creek have been the most dominant run in EKY history, with Haywood becoming Kentucky's all-time winningest coach along the way. He had already been at Belfry for two decades before breaking through with the program's first championship in 2003, and the Pirates have been breathing rare air ever since, making seven consecutive championship game appearances from 2010-2016 and reaching at least the semifinals fifteen out of eighteen years from 2003 through last season.

 

Mike Glaser's St. Xavier Tigers (1986-2012)

Record: 299-65 (82%) 

State Championships: 7 ('86, '92, '95, '97, '99, '04, '09)

If you're new to Kentucky high school football, you might think of St. X as being little more than Trinity's second fiddle. But there was a time, before Beatty's arrival in St. Matthews, that the Tigers stood eye level with the Shamrocks as the twin giants of big school football. Mike Glaser didn't put the Tigers on the map, but he patrolled the sideline on Poplar Level Road for the lion's share of X's football success. St. Xavier averaged 11 wins a year from Glaser's first championship in 1986 to his final season in 2012. Aside from seven state titles, the Tigers had four runner-up finishes and had their season end at the hands of the eventual state champion on six other occasions. The consistency was incredible.


 

Dynasties of the six class era (2007-present)

Kevin Wallace's Bowling Green Purples (2011-2016)

Record: 84-3 (96%)

State Championships: 5 ('11-'13, '15, '16)

After being denied a championship in his first three cracks a few years earlier, the fourth time proved the charm for Wallace in 2011. The Purples liked the view from the top so much, they decided to stay a while. Only an improbable region final loss in 2014 prevented the possibility of six straight titles. Earlier that season, BG was breathing down the neck of Trinity's state record 50 wins in a row before McCallie (TN) snapped the streak at 48.

 

Ty Scroggins' Central Yellowjackets (2007-2012)

Record: 63-25 (71%)

State Championships: 5 ('07, '08, '10-'12)

At first glance, that win/loss record might not move anyone's needle, but a closer look reveals a key ingredient in Central's ascension to dynasty status. No one in 3A played a more rigorous, demanding schedule than Central during their championship years under Scroggins. The Yellowjackets routinely punched above their weight class, with 20 of their 25 losses coming against 6A competition that included St. X, Male, and Manual. In 2007, Central finished 5-5 in the regular season, with losses to the aforementioned X, Male, and Manual, plus Highlands and Johnson Central. How's that for a 3A schedule? They won their first title that year and the template for success was cast.

 

Noel Rash's Beechwood Tigers (2007-present)

Record: 155-42 (78%)

State Championships: 6 ('07, '08, '16-'18, '20)

Coaching in the long shadow of Mike Yeagle would probably break most coaches. Fortunately for Beechwood, Noel Rash is not most coaches. He's carved out his own legacy and kept the Tigers among the state's elite for the duration of his fifteen years as the head man in Fort Mitchell. During Beechwood's three-peat from 2016-2018, the Tigers outscored 1A opposition a combined 1,067-146, or 48-6 per game. They've only failed to reach the semifinals once in the last fourteen years and made an immediate impact in class 2A, winning a state championship in just their second year in that classification.


 

Dynasties of the four class era (1975-2006)

Mike Yeagle's Beechwood Tigers (1991-2001 & 2003-2004)

Record: 163-20 (89%)

State Championships: 8 ('91-'94, '96, '97, '99, '04)

Beechwood football was already an established small school power when Yeagle took the reins from Bernie Barre in 1991, but the Tigers engulfed the 1A landscape like a monsoon under its new boss, claiming a state title in each of Yeagle's first four seasons. Despite being 1A for all those years, the Tigers routinely played up in class and won way more than they lost, even scoring several wins over 3A power Covington Catholic. One of the high points during the Yeagle dynasty was a stretch of 38 wins in a row from 1996-1998. Beechwood was Kentucky's team of the decade for the 1990s, winning seven championships in nine years from '91-'99.

 

Chuck Smith's Boyle County Rebels (1999-2004)

Record: 86-4 (95%)

State Championships: 5 ('99-'03)

Long before 'Title Town' was a thing, Boyle County football was wallowing in irrelevance, winning just eleven total games from '87-'91. Chuck Smith rides into town, and the rest is history. During a run of five straight titles, the Rebels won their championship games by an average score of 36-7. Boyle County threatened Trinity's state record with 47 consecutive wins from 1999-2002 before stringing together 25 more in a row in 2002 and 2003. Little known fact about Chuck Smith: He once beat the sun in a staring contest. 😎🌞

 

Sam Harp's Danville Admirals (1989-2003)

Record: 185-27 (87%)

State Championships: 7 ('89, '91, '92, '94, '00, '01, '03)

Sam Harp had a tough act to follow when he arrived in Danville in 1988. Tom Duffy had previously found great success with the Admirals, claiming state titles in '84 and '87. Harp didn't just hold steady the Danville tradition, he turned the Ads into one of the state's premier programs,  pound for pound. He led Danville to a 7-1 mark in championship games and frequently had to go through other heavyweights to hoist the big trophy, such as Mayfield, Beechwood, and Newport Central Catholic. A stunning two point loss to Prestonsburg in 1993 halted what could have potentially been a 60+ game winning streak. I guess 57 wins in 58 games and three state titles in four years will have to do.

 

Lynn Ray's Covington Catholic Colonels (1987-1997)

Record: 122-29 (81%)

State Championships: 5 ('87, '88, '93, '94, '97)

The groundwork for what we know today as Covington Catholic football wasn't laid by one man alone, but Lynn Ray deserves more credit than anyone for being the chief architect. He only won one game in his first two seasons and it took him several years to build a winner, but by the late 80s, the Colonels were cooking with gas. A key ingredient to taking the next step as a program was solving the Highlands puzzle, but the path to a state championship usually featured playoff rematches with the Birds. Some of CovCath's championship seasons were nearly derailed in playoff nail biters against Highlands ('94 & '97), Conner ('93), and Ashland ('88), but once they got to old Cardinal stadium, they were automatic, with a perfect 5-0 record in state finals under Ray.


 

Dynasties of the three class era (1959-1974)

Ed Miracle's Lynch East Main Bulldogs (1959-1971)

Record: 129-24-4 (83%) 

State Championships: 4 ('59, '60, '63, '68)

Kentucky's forgotten dynasty. Along with Highlands, Lynch East Main was one of the first powerhouse programs of the playoff era. They made eight state finals appearances - five in a row from '59-'63 - and reached the semifinals ten times in a thirteen year span. The 1966 squad finished the regular season undefeated and ranked #1 in 1A, but for reasons unbeknownst to me, they didn't participate in the playoffs. All of that success was accrued in the three class system, amplifying their accomplishments ten fold. The passage of time and consolidation have eroded our collective memory of the legendary Ed Miracle and his Bulldogs. But legends never die, and the great champions of yesteryear will live on forever in the dark, misty mountains of Harlan County.


 

Keeping it in the family

The Morris' Mayfield Cardinals

Jack (1976-1992)

Record: 194-33 (85%) 

State Championships: 4 ('77, '78, '85, '86)

Mayfield football didn't begin with the Morris family, but Jack set the Cardinals down the path that helped make Mayfield into the household name we know today. He guided the Cardinals to nine state finals appearances, including six in eight seasons from 1985-1992.  Mayfield was recognized in 1978 as the top team in the state, regardless of class, by the Litkenhous poll. It's hard to imagine a small school achieving that status today.

Joe (2002-2019)

Record: 222-40 (85%) 

State Championships: 6 ('02, '10, '12-'14, '16)

In coaching, they say it's better to follow the man who followed the legend. But when the legend in question is also your father, does it really matter how far removed you are? Joe Morris had to know he'd be compared to Jack before he ever coached his first game. It wasn't always smooth sailing, but when the younger Morris hit his stride, the Cardinals spread their wings and flew higher than anyone in the state at the time, going 138-11 and reaching the state finals nine times from 2010-2019.

*It should be noted that Paul Leahy won two state titles at Mayfield, sandwiched between the Morris' long tenures.

 

Sham-Rock & Roll (1968-1994)

State Championships: 12 ('68, '72, '73, '76, '77, '80, '83, '85, '88-'90, '94)

With all of the success Trinity has enjoyed over the last twenty years, KY high school football novices might think it all started with the incomparable Bob Beatty, but we can't gloss over the dominant quarter century run from the late 60s to the mid 90s. Coach Jim Kennedy lit the pilot light in 1968 with T's first state championship. He added a second title four years later, before handing the baton to Dave Moore, who ran off three championships in five years ('73, '76, '77). Roger Gruneisen kept the fire going with trophies in '80 and '83, giving way to the man Beatty hurdled to become Trinity's greatest coach, Dennis Lampley. The Rocks were 116-17 under Lampley, with five state titles and a three peat from '88-'90 that included the still unsurpassed state record 50 game winning streak.

 

Bird's eye view (1959-1992)

Record: 333-67-1 (83%)

State Championships: 11 ('60, '61' '64, '68, '70, '75, '77, 81', '82, '89, '92)

I said earlier that the entirety of Highlands football could be one, long, unbroken dynasty. Mueller's tenure shines above the rest, but the pre-Dale days were littered with hardware too. Homer Rice ('54-'61), Owen Hauck ('62-'66), Mike Murphy ('67-'73), Roger Walz ('74-'75), Bill Hermann ('76-'83), and Tom Duffy ('88-'93) all contributed to the Bluebirds' championship haul. Imagine winning 83% of your games for five years. Pretty good, huh? Now sustain it for 34 years with several coaching changes along the way. From 1959 to 1992, Highlands lost 67 games, or just a shade under two per year.

 

Kentucky's first 3-peat: Hillard Howard's Pikeville Panthers (1987-1989)

Record: 43-1* (98%)

State Championships: 3 ('87-'89) 

Howard had been doing his thing at Pikeville since 1972, and doing it well. The Panthers had a state runner-up finish in 1979 and were consistently among the best in EKY, but the rest of class 1A knew nothing of the storm that was brewing in Pike County. Pikeville ran off three consecutive championships in the late 80s, the first such feat in state history. The Bobby Deramus and Greg Hackney led wishbone punished opposing defenses in '87 and '88, and the Panthers proved they were more than just one special class by winning it all again in '89. Pikeville averaged 44 points per game during that three year run and topped 50 points eighteen times. Belfry halted a 33 game winning streak for the Panthers in '89, the third longest streak in state history at the time.

* Pikeville trailed Beechwood by a point at halftime in the 1987 season opener when the game was called on account of severe weather. I've heard that Beechwood has it down as a win, but I'm not sure what the official ruling was.

 

Ashland Tomcats... Kentucky's first dynasty? (1926-1935)

Record: 87-6-5 (91%)

If there's one name to single out from Ashland's pre-playoff heyday, Paul Jenkins is a good place to start. Jenkins is one of the great figures in Kentucky high school athletics in the first half of the 20th century. The Louisville native coached championship football and basketball squads at multiple schools, but it was his seven year stint on the gridiron at Ashland that highlights his resume. The Tomcats won six "mythical" state championships during a ten year span from the mid 20s to the mid 30s. It began with Jim Anderson at the helm and concluded with Fayne Grone, but Jenkins oversaw the pinnacle of the Tomcat juggernaut. With him in charge, Ashland won 35 games in a row from 1929-1931 and peaked with a "mythical" national championship in '31. All together, from 1926-1935, Ashland amassed a record of 87-6-5, including a (still to this day) state record 61 game (57-0-4) unbeaten streak from '26-'31. If you go back a few more years, the Tomcats won 59 games in a row against Kentucky opponents from 1922 to 1934. That's not a typo. Ashland didn't lose to an in-state opponent for twelve years.


 

Honorable Mention

The crossroads of old school/new school: Newport Central Catholic (2000-2012)

Record: 147-38 (79%)

State Championships: 4 ('05, '06, '10, '12)

It began with the late, legendary Bob Schneider and concluded with one of Kentucky's great young coaches, Eddie Eviston. 

8 championship game appearances (9 if you include 2013) and 4 in a row from '05-'08

 

Mike Holcomb's Breathitt County Bobcats (1995-2002)

Record: 95-14 (87%)

State Championships: 3 ('95, '96, '02)

42 game winning streak from '95-'97

The hostile environment in Jackson made Breathitt one of the more intimidating venues in the state for visitors.

 

Charlie Kuhn's Male Bulldogs (1954-1965)

Record: 93-22-8 (79%)

State Championships: 4 ('54*, '60, '63, '64)

25 game winning streak from '63-'65

* Male was declared state champion by the Litkenhous poll in 1954.

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Paris' back to back championships and 38 game winning streak in the early 80s didn't make the cut, but is definitely worth mentioning, as is the periodical excellence of Fort Campbell in the late 70s and late 00s. There are others, I'm sure.

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In the above mentioned runs of Boyle and Danville at the turn of the century in 3 out of 5 years of Boyle's state titles, Danville also won 3 state titles.  Meaning in the old 4 class system that 50% of the state titles up for grabs 3 times returned to the county ranked 111 out of 120 in area. 

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Great info!

An interesting study within the study is overlapping dynasties. When two dynasties are converging in the same time frame for teams in the same classification.

 

For Example:

Belfry (Haywood) and Central (Scroggins) 

Trinity (Beatty) & Male (Glaser)

 

Seeing two teams who co-exist with their own level of dominance within the same class is kind of a rarity. 

That Belfry/Central pinnacle was wild. In a 10-year window where those two programs were basically intertwined with the same coaches, you are talking about nine Class 3A Titles won by one or the other. Of those nine, six times they came together in the State Finals.

Trinity and St. Xavier from 2000-2007 produced only one year where their class was not won by one or the other team, including a run of six straight seasons of either one or the other winning it all. Three times those teams met in the Finals and it probably would have been more if not for the playoff alignment in other years.

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3 hours ago, ATLCat said:

Great info!

An interesting study within the study is overlapping dynasties. When two dynasties are converging in the same time frame for teams in the same classification.

 

For Example:

Belfry (Haywood) and Central (Scroggins) 

Trinity (Beatty) & Male (Glaser)

 

Seeing two teams who co-exist with their own level of dominance within the same class is kind of a rarity. 

That Belfry/Central pinnacle was wild. In a 10-year window where those two programs were basically intertwined with the same coaches, you are talking about nine Class 3A Titles won by one or the other. Of those nine, six times they came together in the State Finals.

Trinity and St. Xavier from 2000-2007 produced only one year where their class was not won by one or the other team, including a run of six straight seasons of either one or the other winning it all. Three times those teams met in the Finals and it probably would have been more if not for the playoff alignment in other years.

I assume in example meant St.X.

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Those Harp-coached Danville teams of the 1990s were something else.  The question wasn't whether they'd win but by how much.

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2 hours ago, Tigerpride94 said:

I assume in example meant St.X.

Yassss

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3 hours ago, DanvilleFan said:

Those Harp-coached Danville teams of the 1990s were something else.  The question wasn't whether they'd win but by how much.

I remember after we beat Murray for the 94 Class A title we watched Danville for a little while when I think they played Bullitt East. They had some big boys on their team who could run! 

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2 hours ago, Jason Bucklen said:

I remember after we beat Murray for the 94 Class A title we watched Danville for a little while when I think they played Bullitt East. They had some big boys on their team who could run! 

Officiated that one. Danville was very good.

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16 hours ago, ATLCat said:

Great info!

An interesting study within the study is overlapping dynasties. When two dynasties are converging in the same time frame for teams in the same classification.

 

For Example:

Belfry (Haywood) and Central (Scroggins) 

Trinity (Beatty) & Male (Glaser)

 

Seeing two teams who co-exist with their own level of dominance within the same class is kind of a rarity. 

That Belfry/Central pinnacle was wild. In a 10-year window where those two programs were basically intertwined with the same coaches, you are talking about nine Class 3A Titles won by one or the other. Of those nine, six times they came together in the State Finals.

Trinity and St. Xavier from 2000-2007 produced only one year where their class was not won by one or the other team, including a run of six straight seasons of either one or the other winning it all. Three times those teams met in the Finals and it probably would have been more if not for the playoff alignment in other years.

In Class 1A for 17 years from 2002-2018, there was only one season (2006) that neither Beechwood nor Mayfield was in the championship game.

That 17 year run in 1A began in 2002 with Mayfield beating Beechwood 14-7 in the 2002 title game. During those 17 years, Mayfield won 5 championships and Beechwood won 6 championships.

We can add that the success of these two programs is continuing on in 2A. From 2015 to present, 2016 is the only 2A title game with no Mayfield or Beechwood. Mayfield moved up to 2A in 2015 and promptly won the 2A title. Mayfield missed the title game in 2016 but then was runnerup in 2017-19. Beechwood moved up to 2A in 2019 and then won their first 2A title in 2020.

Side note: Since 1991, Beechwood has been in the title game in their class 17 times and has won 14 championships. Over the past 30 years, the only program that has been more successful in Kentucky is Trinity with 16 championships.

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6 hours ago, Voice of Reason said:

In Class 1A for 17 years from 2002-2018, there was only one season (2006) that neither Beechwood nor Mayfield was in the championship game.

That 17 year run in 1A began in 2002 with Mayfield beating Beechwood 14-7 in the 2002 title game. During those 17 years, Mayfield won 5 championships and Beechwood won 6 championships.

We can add that the success of these two programs is continuing on in 2A. From 2015 to present, 2016 is the only 2A title game with no Mayfield or Beechwood. Mayfield moved up to 2A in 2015 and promptly won the 2A title. Mayfield missed the title game in 2016 but then was runnerup in 2017-19. Beechwood moved up to 2A in 2019 and then won their first 2A title in 2020.

Side note: Since 1991, Beechwood has been in the title game in their class 17 times and has won 14 championships. Over the past 30 years, the only program that has been more successful in Kentucky is Trinity with 16 championships.

Beechwood has 14 titles in 18 state finals appearances. Runners-Up In 95, 02, 03, and 15.

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1 hour ago, gbballfan21 said:

Beechwood has 14 titles in 18 state finals appearances. Runners-Up In 95, 02, 03, and 15.

Thanks for catching that.

14-4 in title games is pretty good.

Coach Rash is 6-1 in title games.

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