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LCHS to honor 50th anniversary of Stanford High’s championship season

By Jonathan Smith
and Nancy Leedy

STANFORD — Two eras of Lincoln County football will be spotlighted Friday night at Death Valley Stadium.

Putting on the pads and suiting up for gridiron action will be the 2019 Lincoln County High School Patriot football team as it takes the field against visiting East Jessamine. There will also be some non-uniformed players on the field as well, as members of the 1969 Stanford High School football team meet at midfield to be honored on the 50th anniversary of the Wildcats’ district championship season.

At the time of consolidation of the county schools to form LCHS in 1974, Stanford was the only school that fielded a football team. The LCHS team is a continuation of that program. In fact, four Lincoln schools, other than LCHS, played football in the KHSAA: Stanford, which was a charter member of the KHSAA in 1917, played continuously from 1901-1973; Hustonville High School and Moreland High School both played a few sporadic seasons in the 1920s, and Lincoln High School, in Stanford, played from the 1930s until integration in 1963, first in the segregated KHSAL and then in the KHSAA, starting in 1958.

The 1969 Stanford team, which was coached by Bill Ed Leedy, went 7-1-2 overall and finished as the Class A, Region 2, District 2 champion. This Wildcat squad was the only team in SHS history to make the postseason playoffs, which was much harder to do back then. The playoff system began in 1959 and chose the playoff participant from a geographic district based on a points ranking system.

Stanford, which had just completed its first undefeated season since 1918, won the district championship and was entitled to host Bardstown in the regional championship game. Due to Stanford’s small stadium being inadequate to hold the anticipated crowd, the game was played at Garrard County’s new stadium. The game was played in sub-freezing weather and snow had to be removed from the field in order to see the yard lines.

The regional championship proved to be Stanford’s only loss of the year, with the season ending in a 17-0 loss to Bardstown. Bardstown had been the state champion in 1967.

The 1969 Wildcat roster included: Brad Burchett, Marshall Scott, Jim Adams, James Howard, Mike Welch, Steve Keltner, Sam Gooch, David Keltner, Brian Mercer, Barry Mercer, Bruce Mercer, Buddy Jackson, Bill Jones, Dannie Gilliam, Bobby Denny, David Morris, Tom Jones, Mike Long, David Cornelius, Mark Denham, Billy Hester, Donnie Gilliam, Gary Johnson, Bill Demrow, Mike Jenkins, Kenny Horseman, Marvin Marshbanks, Jim McGuffey, Bernard Brown, Jimmy Hazlett, Kenny Kidd, Kenny Lowe, Greg Noland, Don Stephens and Bill Cooper.

In 2011, the Death Valley Stadium field was named “Bill Ed Leedy Field” to honor Leedy, who went on to become the first LCHS head football coach. Leedy was assisted on the Stanford sidelines by Tom Grimes, Jim Baird and Doug Pendygraft.

The Wildcat cheerleaders were Emily Hart, Betty Gover, Karen Lenhart, Jill Witt, Jessica McGuffey, Ellen Allen and Lynn Newkirk.

A summary of the 1969 Stanford Wildcat football season follows:

Game 1: Stanford 6, Madison 0 (Sept. 5, 1969 in Richmond) Record 1-0

The Purples were ranked in the top five of Class A in the preseason. The lone score of the game came on a 9-yard run by Mike Welch with about three minutes to play in the 3rd quarter. Bruce Mercer led the Wildcats with 53 yards, Mike Welch added 30 yards.

Game 2: Stanford 30, Berea 2 (Sept. 12, 1969 in Berea) Record 2-0

Berea was a new team on Stanford’s schedule and the Wildcats had no trouble with the Pirates. Mike Welch and Bobby Denny contributed all of the scoring. James Howard threw for two touchdown passes.

Game 3: Stanford 12, Frankfort 12 (Sept. 19, 1969 in Stanford) Record 2-0-1

Stanford came from behind against the favored Panthers to remain undefeated. Frankfort’s scores came on a 61-yard run and a 55-yard pass. Bruce Mercer and David Keltner had touchdowns for Stanford. Defensively, the Cats were led by Gary Johnson and James Howard but the whole team drew praise.

Game 4: Stanford 0, Harrodsburg 0 (Sept. 26, 1969 in Harrodsburg) Record 2-0-2

Stanford records the second tie in consecutive weeks against a worthy opponent. The stats showed it was a defensive battle, where the Wildcats were led by J.W. “Mud Turtle” Hazlett.

Game 5: Stanford 24, Mercer County 0 (Oct. 10, 1969 in Stanford) Record 3-0-2

The Wildcats scored four first-half touchdowns and cruised to a 24-0 homecoming victory. The king and queen were Bobby Denny and Emily Hart. Touchdowns by Mike Welch, Marshall Scott, James Howard and Bobby Denny.

Game 6: Stanford 8, Garrard County 0 (Oct. 17, 1969 in Lancaster) Record 4-0-2

Bobby Denny scored the only touchdown of the game on a 50-yard fumble recovery. Mike Welch ran for the two-point conversion. The crowd was estimated at 6,000 people. It was Garrard County’s first loss of the season. Garrard County got to the five-yard line with a first-and-goal late in the game, but the Stanford defense turned them away. The game ended on a blocked punt, with Garrard County trying to scoop it for a TD.

Game 7: Stanford 16, Boyle County 9 (Oct. 24, 1969 in Danville) Record 5-0-2

Boyle County was another undefeated team which met their match with the Wildcats. James Howard and Mike Welch both had touchdown runs and added two-point conversions. Boyle County’s score came when the Rebels were down 16-0. Mike Welch rushed for 104 yards and the entire defense was recognized for an outstanding effort.

Game 8: Stanford 28, Somerset 6 (Oct. 31, 1969 in Stanford) Record 6-0-2

Mike Welch scored three touchdowns on runs of 25, 3, and 2 yards. Steve Keltner had a 54-yard fumble return for a touchdown and Dannie Gilliam caught a two-point conversion. The Somerset touchdown came on an 18-yard interception. The Stanford defense has given up only three touchdowns. Bill Jones and Gary Johnson led the Wildcats on defense.

Game 9: Stanford 30, Millersburg Military Institute 0 (Nov. 7, 1969 in Stanford) Record 7-0-2

Mike Welch scored three touchdowns; 68-yard and 38-yard passes from James Howard and a 12-yard run. Bobby Denny added a 79-yard TD run and Bruce Mercer plunged in a 1-yard score. Bobby Denny finished with 111 yards rushing. Gary Johnson was the defensive leader for the Wildcats.

Game 10: Bardstown 17, Stanford 0 (Nov. 14, 1969 in Lancaster) Final Record 7-1-2

Stanford won the district championship and met Bardstown for the Region Title. Turnovers and missed opportunities, and a very good Bardstown team, ended the Wildcats’ great season. The Wildcats were inside the 10-yard line twice, resulting in a fumble and loss of downs. It was Stanford’s first undefeated regular season since 1918.