Friday, August 17, 2007

The Final Element-Football

After God, Guns and Tobacco the final element to life in Western Kentucky is Football. Yes, the season is near and smart candidates will be going to where the voters are. I am always surprised at the time candidates waste going to party functions and events where every one's mind is already made up.

Wildcat Chevrolet Bowl

The Wildcat Chevrolet Bowl will be hosted by Trigg County High School on August 31st. The Trigg County Wildcats will play Calloway County at 5:00 pm. In the second game at about 8:00 pm, Hopkinsville will play Marshall County. Trigg County and the people of Cadiz do a good job with this bowl. There is always plenty of good food to be had.

Jerry Claiborne-Toyota of Hopkinsville Bowl

Candidates will be able to find thousands of voters in the coming weeks at bowl games across the Commonwealth. On Saturday, August 25th, Hopkinsville will kick-off the Inaugural Jerry Claiborne-Toyota of Hopkinsville Bowl. The bowl, which will be held at the Stadium of Champions, will premiere two games with Paducah playing Christian County at 5:00 pm. Hopkinsville facing Trigg County at 8:00 pm.

Jerry Claiborne, a former head coach at the University of Kentucky, graduated from Hopkinsville High School. At Hoptown, Claiborne played football for the Tigers from 1942-45 seasons. During Claiborne's years at Hopkinsville, the Tigers boasted a record of 33-7-1 while going undefeated in 1943 and losing only one game in 1944 to Paducah. Ralph McRight, who was the coach at Paducah, had recently left as head coach of Hopkinsville to take the Paducah job. Legend has it that McRight left angry after being refused a pay raise. I'm sure a victory over Hopkinsville and spoiling their perfect season must of felt good.

As an alumni and former football player at Hopkinsville, I have also just ended a 20 year run as an assistant football coach at Hoptown. Having always been interested in keeping our football heritage alive, I sometimes have the tendency to anger people when I give credit where credit is due.

No one can argue the great accomplishments of Jerry Claiborne as a college coach. The man had an impeccable reputation for character and honesty. While Jerry went on to achieve much in the college ranks, his feats overshadowed one the finest football players to ever play for Hopkinsville.

From 1938 until 1945, Hopkinsville would post a 70-13-2 record. Going undefeated in the regular season in 1940,41and 43. Hopkinsville picked up an extra game in 1941 and took a train ride down to Atlanta to play Boys High. The Tigers got whipped 47-0. Garland "Boola" Wilson, who was a fullback for Hopkinsville and later received a full football scholarship to UK, recalled that the Atlanta High School should have been called Men's High not Boy's High because of the beating they took. Mr. Wilson went on to say that their host were very hospitable whereas the score could have been a 100-0.

Hopkinsville would make its mark on football in Kentucky in 1938 when Kentucky's first High School All-Star Game was established. The game was sponsored by the Oleika Temple of the Shrine to raise money for the Crippled Children's Hospital. The players were chosen by a ballot conducted by the Louisville Courier Journal. Hopkinsville had the most selected from any high school with four players selected and Head Coach Ralph Mills. Coach Mills served as coach of the West Squad and former Christian Circuit Clerk, Jack Haddock, was chosen as the Captain of the West Team. The game was played at the University of Kentucky and If I recall the West Squad won.

George Claiborne

During this period Hopkinsville would have 5 players to be selected to the AP & CJ First Team All-State. Two of these would receive repeat honors. Tommy Gray, who would become a First Team All-American would cast a big shadow over everyone else. George Claiborne, the brother of Jerry Claiborne would also be named twice to the All-State Teams.

I have always found it a pity that George Claiborne ended up being over shadowed and lost even in the history of Hopkinsville Football. Only four player from Hopkinsville have ever been selected twice to All-State Teams. Two of those were All-Americans Tommy Gray and Pete Moore. Ricky Abren also received the honor twice. The likes of Lawrence Brame, Herb Covington, John Fuqua, Steve Kelly, Artose Pinner, Miguel Merritt, Deontey Kenner and Curtis Pulley were never selected twice.

It is hard to figure out how George Claiborne got lost in the shuffle. It might be that by the 60's Hopkinsville was winning State Championships and would have three players selected All-American in a four year period. Claiborne's accomplishments were overshadowed by that success and later overshadowed by the success and popularity of his brother Jerry.

While Jerry Claiborne will be honored by this bowl on August 25th, I just hope that we can also remember one of the great football players from Western Kentucky--George Claiborne.


Anonymous said...

Great entry....That sure gets me ready for Tiger football!

I am curious, what happened to George after High School? What business was he in, where did he live, etc. ? Is he still with us?

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