By Jeff Noble/Staff writer
In 1982, the city went wild after the Redhounds of Corbin High School won the state Class AA Football Championship.
It’s been 30 years since the team took home the trophy they won in Louisville at the old Cardinal Stadium. On Friday afternoon, the city remembered the team again, with honors at a halftime ceremony at the scene of their finest hours, Campbell Field.
The ‘82 team was battle-tested and tough come playoff time. After playing the likes of Lexington’s Bryan Station, Madison Central, Danville and Cawood, those Redhounds were bruised and beaten. But Stephen “Steph” Ellison said their resiliency and desire to win saw them through.
“One of the best things about all this is that everybody wrote us off. We were 4 and 4 when we went to Middlesboro. We were down at halftime, 21-0, and came back to beat ‘em, 22-21. After that, we were on a roll,” noted Ellison, who played offensive guard and defensive end for the ‘82 ‘Hounds.
That win over the Yellowjackets was a turning point for the ‘82 Corbin team. They played a fine squad from Glasgow, and beat the Scotties by a big margin. When the playoffs began, the Redhounds were rolling for glory with a date for Louisville and the AA state title on the line. But when they got there, the elements got pretty extreme on the playing field.
And their opponent? The Glasgow Scotties — who they played during the regular season.
“It was horrible. It was 33 degrees at game time. It was raining. It was cold. We didn’t have any turf shoes and Cardinal Stadium had artificial turf. So EKU loaned us turf shoes. They were ‘rental shoes.’ We just got what they had. We practiced one time at UK’s turf practice field, before we played on game day in Louisville. We learned that when you wear those shoes, the shoes stopped, but your feet kept going. They’d hurt your feet. But everything came together later that day,” Ellison said during a reunion and reception Friday afternoon at the Princess McBurney Center, across the street from Campbell Field.
When it was time to kickoff, Richard Fox pointed out the ‘82 Redhounds were well-rounded, tough as nails, and ready to play.
“We were hungry for it. After Coach Adams talked to us in the locker room before we went out on the field, we were pumped up. Coach was a motivator. He had a knack for motivating everyone on the team,” said Fox, who played defensive linebacker for the ‘82 Hounds.
But despite the rain and the cold, there was something about that gray day that appealed to team member Steve Jewell.
“The weather? It was everything it could be that day. But we were tough and we always welcomed bad weather. We played well in bad weather,” said Jewell, who played offensive lineman and defensive linebacker then, and is currently Corbin High’s Head Football Coach.
The team’s quarterback, Greg Duncum, remembered that one shining moment came after a season of sweat and struggles.
“That year, every week, every game was a war. With the way our season went, to be in the championship game? Yeah, we were ready. Exactly,” Duncum said.
Their coach at the time, Cotton Adams, said six words that spoke volumes about his 1982 team.
“We weren’t afraid to play people.”
As Ellison said, everything did come together. Both Corbin and Glasgow played pretty even until the last play of the first half, when the ‘Hounds kicked a field goal to go into the locker room with a 3-0 lead. And when the second half began, Corbin’s poise and perseverance under fire paid off.
“We kind of imposed our will on them, and used our long drives that eats up the clock and just demoralized Glasgow,” said Ellison.
When it was over, the chill in the air was on the Scotties’ side. The sea of Corbin red was aglow with cheers and jubilation. And a state title to boot.
The final score? Corbin 18, Glasgow 6.
The ‘82 Redhounds were the state Class AA Football Champions. It was the 5th state title for Corbin High School.
“Man, we went crazy! Everybody went crazy. When you play on a team that wins a championship, it adds to that great feeling. We had it in Louisville that day,” Duncum remembered.
“After it was over, we rushed the field. Everybody was tickled to death. We got the trophy and everybody had to touch it. We took the trophy with us, and we went back to Corbin,” added Fox.
At first, the heading feeling of a massive win didn’t hit Ellison — until later.
“When we won the championship, it really didn’t settle in, until the next day. Nothing like that does. We did throw Coach Adams in the shower,” he recalled, smiling.
All the players agreed on one thing. The reception they received when the team got home hit them all at once.
“What a parade it was. People were lined up for miles. I was amazed that everybody would go that far to see us, and how they supported us there, and when we got back to Corbin,” Fox said.
“The fans followed us, they cheered us, and it was a great thing. The whole community got behind us. That’s what Corbin football’s all about. It still is,” stated Duncum.
And it still is to Coach Cotton Adams, who watched on the sidelines that day in Louisville, and watched his team come into the reception, greeting each other with handshakes, hugs and warm memories of a season in the record books.
“It’s hard to imagine how 30 years have come and gone. This team means more to me now. There’s been some 90-plus teams on the field at Corbin High. Out of that, there’s five state championships. We won three of ‘em. Our coaching staff and our players. This team’s one of ‘em,” said Adams.
The 1982 Corbin High football team finished their season with an 8-4 record. At the reception each team member got a bright red t-shirt. On the back were these words, underneath a silhouette of football players.
“You Mess With One Man, You Got Us All!”
It fit the character, and the winning ways of the ‘82 squad. Adams agreed it fit the mood of the reunion and reception.
“This is a wonderful idea to have this. I was kind of scared at first, but it’s been a nice turnout. This teams’s extremely important to me. I’ve followed their careers and we’re a very close knit group. That’s the wonderful thing about coaching. They’re men now, but they’re still kids to me.”
Said Steve Jewell, “We all had a common bond that day. We all played key roles and Coach Adams made us into a team. And when we see each other walking down the street, we still talk about that game. And that championship season.”