CORBIN — Sports Editor’s note: The following is the third in a series of stories highlighting each of the Tri-County’s high school football stadiums and what makes each one special to their respective players, coaches and fan base. The series will be completed alphabetically and the order in which they appear should not be considered a system by which we have ranked the stadiums.
By Chris Parsons / Staff Writer
When it comes to local high school football stadiums, the Lynn Camp Wildcats have the best of both worlds as far as history goes.
For years the Wildcats played their home football games in one of the smallest, most intimate settings around at the old Lynn Camp Field. The field still sits just below old Lynn Camp High School and according to former coach David Mitchell, was home to more memories than he can mention in a conversation.
“There really are too many great memories to mention when you talk about the old place,” Mitchell said. "From getting to play there all four years of high school (1966-69) all the way up to us winning our last game there in 1999, they're all special to me.
“There was just something about that place that made things seem different than anywhere else that we played,” he added. “I could go on all day about things that stand out to me, because there’s really a lot of great memories.”
When the Wildcats moved from the old Lynn Camp Football field to Howard Stadium/Mitchell Field in the year 2000, they left behind a history that is unmatched in Knox County.
It didn’t take long for the Wildcats to make themselves at home. Three years later, Mitchell's squad brought home a region title after knocking off Pikeville at home, 35-28, in a game Mitchell said was not only the biggest ever at that stadium, but maybe the biggest in the program's history.
“That’s a game that you remember forever and I'm sure the kids involved will too,” Mitchell said. “They had worked so hard to get to that point and once they made it, the feeling was unbelievable.”
Fast forward to 2013 and second-year head coach Phil Russell is just as passionate about where the Wildcats play football as anybody. Russell said when it comes to the stadium, it takes a combination of players, fans and community to make the atmosphere special.
“You really have to have a lot of things working for you to get things where they need to be,” Russell said. “You have to have a good team to gain interest, which in turn brings people out to the games.
“Once you have those two elements in place, a lot of things can happen for a team,” he added. “A big crowd shows the kids that people believe in them and anytime you give kids the confidence they need, they can do great things.”
When it comes to special moments at Lynn Camp, Russell said he can go all the way back to when he was a child and his father officiated games at Lynn Camp. Russell said he was able to go watch the games as his father suited up in zebra stripes on the field. The fact he was able to witness games at the old Lynn Camp Field has helped him to pass along the history and tradition to his current players.
“The fact that we still get to practice down there really means something to me and the kids on our team,” Russell said. “I’ve made a point to stress the importance of the history we have here at Lynn Camp, because it is special to those that came before us and played on both of these fields.
“I can remember how the teams used to walk down the steps to the old field and it was intimidating. It’s really a special place, but so is the place we call home now,” he added. “Our kids want to come out and make their own memories and have their own great moments so that they’ll have something to look back on and remember.”
A lot of times as time passes, the old school generation gets passed by, but Russell said he's in the process of trying to prevent that from happening. He said several things are in the works that he hopes to be able to accomplish as head coach at Lynn Camp.
“We’ve talked about a few things and one of them is getting a Hall of Fame started,” Russell said. “We want to honor the people that came before us and put on these jerseys and played as Wildcats.
“Another thing I would really like to see happen is for us to be able to play an alumni game at the old Lynn Camp Field,” he added. “I just think it would go off really big and it would allow our current players to have a taste of what it's like to play down there. Those are things in the works, but hopefully we can get them done.”