A remarkable streak came to an end Tuesday when the Russellville Panthers fell victim to a red-hot, well-prepared Franklin-Simpson team in the 13th District Tournament.
It was the first time in five seasons that Coach Phil Todd's team hasn't won at least three games in the postseason. The 1998 team won two in the district and three in the region on the way to the school's first regional title. The next year the '99 team won its first district game and two in the region while finishing as runner-up in the district and region. The 2000 team won seven-- two district, three region and two at state. They almost won their eighth before falling by a point to state champion E'town in the state semifinals.
For the second time in his three years at Todd, former Russellville Middle School Coach Dennis Pardue's Todd team knocked off the Panthers in the district finals last year, but RHS won six games by going to the Final Four at state again.
That's an average of over five postseason wins a season the past four years. No one else in the state could match that.
The 2002 team's season was effectively cut short back in early November when Roland Dickerson broke his leg in two places while warming up for the regional football playoffs. He had to play a significant role for this team to return to state. It was painfully obvious Tuesday that he was a shadow of the old Ro-Ro we knew at Adairville Middle School.
Two men who care a great deal about Roland-- his dad David and family friend Robert Thurston-- say it's very possible that the guy who appeared headed toward a big-time football career may now give up sports for fear that he will be crippled all of his life. He may decide to concentrate on his considerable talent in art.
Of course, everyone is aware that Squeaky Hampton's great high school career came to an end with that game. It could play a negative role in his bid to be a first-team all-stater, since voting now occurs after the postseason.
Please see Managing Editor Kathy W. Hathcock's tribute to Squeaky on Page 7 of EXTRA today.
It was touching to see Coach Todd give his son Tyree a gentle hug when he took him out of the game for the final time. Phil's a family man and his boys mean a lot to him.
"The strange thing is that the only two times we haven't been to region (in the 12 years Todd has been head coach), are my sons' senior years," said Todd in the hospitality room after the game.
Phil Todd and Hampton were typically classy after the game, staying around talking to anyone who wanted their attention. "There are worse things than losing a ball game," Squeaky said.
The question going around now: did this week mark the final games for Phil Todd and Mike Haynes to coach at their schools. Phil had told friends for quite a while that he was going to hang it up after Tyree and Squeaky finished this year. Every year Mike thinks hard about whether he wants to continue on the bench. Observers believe this might be the year, since the 2001-02 team was built around four seniors who I would estimate played two-thirds of the total minutes this season. Additionally his beloved sons, Chris and Clint, don't have many college basketball seasons left to play for Freed-Hardeman.
What about the future? Russellville has an exciting freshman class that might make it difficult for Todd to retire. Much of Logan's promise has been shown primarily by the juniors with the exception of freshman guard Robbie Osborne.
So will they give it up? Only time will tell.
One of the proudest guys in the building Tuesday was Chandlers Assistant Principal Bob Birdwhistell. The former LCHS athletic director coached Franklin-Simpson Coach Greg Shelton at Lewisburg.
He enjoyed the performance of Shelton's Wildcats in not only winning the game but absolutely demolishing anything the Panthers tried to do.
It was reminiscent of the 1971 district tournament when the Rangers-- coached by Birdwhistell and featuring Shelton and current Chandlers Principal Barry Silvey-- upset Adairville and Auburn on the way to the championship.
Sgt. Jim Austin, who coached the Russellville girls in the absence of injured coach Jeff Stamps, deserves credit for keeping the game competitive against Logan Tuesday. The Lady Cougars jumped out to an early lead and were on the verge of being blown out, just like their male counterparts had earlier in the evening. Austin called a quick timeout and somehow made the outcome of the game in doubt for what seemed like the next few hours.
I can't imagine anyone being thrown into a more unpleasant coaching situation than Austin was with pressures in one direction from the administration and in the opposite direction from a shocked public and a highly offended coaching community throughout the state.
Although I don't agree with every decision he made, he handled himself like a gentleman throughout and kept his team calm in the face of great adversity.
I'm sorry that senior guard Leslie Todd didn't get to enjoy the kind of senior season she deserved. She always plays hard and concentrates on the game, not showmanship.
Mercifully, the RHS girls season is over. Most likely, the controversy isn't.
I'm not certain regional opponents would have treated the Russellville girls program as kindly as most Logan people did Tuesday. There's strong feeling at a number of schools that a professional educator has been wronged.
We've heard of at least two coaches in the area who have asked other schools not to schedule any games with Russellville next season as a protest.
Time will tell about that, too.
Russellville's double losses abruptly ended the unique situation at RHS were sisters Kendra and Caitlin Coe cheered together. Kendra is a senior. The daughters of Marlin and Phyllis Coe are believed to be the first siblings to cheer for the Panthers at the same time.
The sisters duo of Megan and Melissa Bryson continues into the girls region for Logan County.
Greg Howard's gamble in taking the Todd girls job seems to have paid off by his team's upset of heavily favored Franklin-Simpson Monday. The former LCHS assistant went through hard times during the season, but the tournament is what it's all about.
F-S Coach David Clark says this is his most painful loss in 18 years of coaching.
Many Logan fans had trouble feeling sorry for the Lady Cats after clock mismanagement cost the Lady Cougars the district game at Franklin last year.
As far as I've seen, the Logan crew of timer Bobby Moss, scorer Holli Brown, tournament manager Hugh McReynolds and announcer Todd Loyd have handled their duties without controversy this year.
Lewisburg Principal Paul Mullins wants to honor Logan County Middle School Tournament championship teams from that school. The only champs he has been able to determine are the Lady Rangers in two consecutive years of the mid-90s and this year's Rangers.
If you know of any others, please contact him at 755-4823.
Mullins is a promoter of the Paul McNeal genre who like to make players and fans have happy, proud feelings for what they've accomplished.
This year's Rangers certainly gave the school just cause to honor them.
What appears to be peachy paint on the columns of the stone wall at Rhea Stadium is really a sealant. Paint is to be applied later to bring the color back to the rest of the wall.
Charles Childress, who is doing the restoration work, says much more is needed to keep the wall from eventually falling. Russellville officials have looked into it previously and so far have considered the cost prohibitive.
Childress would like to be involved in an effort to raise enough money to keep the wall from leaning north any farther.
If you are among the thousands of guys who have played on that field over the past 62 seasons or had a family member who did, be watching for details on how to help save Rhea's wall.