By Chris Parsons / Staff Writer
KNOX CENTRAL — Knox Central High School may have the newest football stadium in the Tri-County, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have any history behind it.
Since the opening of James H. Hampton Stadium/Panther Field, the Panthers have been on a steady rise on the gridiron and don't expect that to slow down any time soon.
“I think we have one of the more beautiful facilities in the state and our kids love playing there,” Knox Central head coach Scottie Russell said. “I think every school deserves a place like we have to play football in, but they don't have one, so we need to be thankful for ours.”
While Hampton Stadium has drawn rave reviews at times, as stated of the first piece of this series, newer doesn't always mean better. While the bright lights and larger grandstand seems appealing to some, there are still some old school thinkers that said they really didn't understand some of the features.
One knock on the new facility is the fact that the home team's locker room is on the other side of the school and not even connected to the stadium and some say the naming of the stadium turned them off of it from the word go.
Hampton Stadium has been good to Russell, whose teams have went 15-2 at home since he took over in 2009. Russell admitted he loved some things about Knox Central's old field in Barbourville, but he's happy with where the Panthers play now.
“There were a few things that people really loved at the old place like the flood wall and view it gave the fans,” Russell said. “Every game you would have tons of people that just bring a beach towel or blanket, or even a lounge chair and just go sit on the flood wall and watch the game.
“Now we have the one side that has bleachers, but it's my understanding that they're trying to get some bleachers installed on the visitors side as well,” he added. “We also have a unique placement of our scoreboard, which is something I haven't seen before, but that's what makes it different.”
As for historical games, Russell said there are a few that jump out to him as special games, but one stands alone as the head coach.
“We were finally able to beat Rockcastle County at home and at the time, we hadn't been able to compete with them for quite a while,” Russell said. “We had started to show progress against teams like Bell County and a Clay County, but we couldn't get over the hump with Rockcastle County until we beat them at home.
“The biggest win for us I think was when we beat Harlan County (12-6) last year at home,” he added. “The crowd was great and it was something the kids had really worked toward as far as being competitive against really good teams.”
Overall, Russell said other than a few beautification projects here and there he wouldn't do too much to change Hampton Stadium.
“We love our place because there's not many stadiums with a view like we have there, looking out at the mountains,” he said. “Hopefully we can just keep piling up wins and add to the history of the place.”