In Sept. 10 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Sports Editor
"Once a Laker, always a Laker," School Superintendent Scott Pierce told the crowd of more than 200 former Russell County football players, coaches and managers at last Friday's celebration of 40 years of Laker football.
The reunion for the 40th season of Mighty Laker football was a success, according to school officials who helped former players to organize the one-night event for more than a year.
The get-together began last Friday afternoon with a meet and greet in the new Russell County Schools Auditorium/Natatorium complex. As old faces filed into the new building, stories from days gone by filled the air and teammates, some who hadn't seen one another for 20 years or more, reunited.
As an hour passed, the players were directed to the auditorium where Pierce and former Laker Ray Walton talked to the crowd.
Pierce talked about his involvement in the hiring of former coaches Ron Finley and Lynn Taylor and shared stories down through the years, including the building of a new football locker room facility.
"There are so many people that have touched all of our lives and had something to do with Laker football," Pierce said.
He commended Dr. Charles Peck and Dr. Rick Miles, who both received plaques for their dedication to the football program.
"(Dr. Peck) has sweated more on the field than most players," Pierce said. "A few years later a guy named Rick Miles comes along and does the same thing."
He then went on to talk about what it is like to put on that Laker uniform.
"Every person in here that played football for the Russell County Lakers would give anything to put that uniform on one more time," Pierce said. "Its a camaraderie, its about being a part of something and it can never be taken away for you."
When Walton took the stage he thanked the sponsors of "40 years of Laker football," First National Bank, Bank of Jamestown, Monticello Banking Company and Duo County Telephone.
The Russell County football team of 1969 was also honored for being the first team to play for the high school as were all former coaches that were in attendance.
Walton then talked to the former players about starting up a football alumni club, which would rely on member donations to keep going.
More information on the club will become available at a later date, according to school officials.
The crowd was told to check back for updates on www.mightylakerfootball.com on future alumni meetings or events and how to become involved.
Following the presentation by Walton and a video presentation of one of former coach Ron Finley's pep rally speeches the former players, managers and coaches were treated to a barbecue at the football field before Russell County took on Somerset.
As game time neared, Finley's wife, Phyllis, and daughter, Samantha, joined Pierce at midfield as Laker Field was re-named Finley Field and a commemoration sign was unveiled before Russell County hosted the rival Briar Jumpers.
Upon being hired in 1976, Finley went on to coach 11 seasons for the Lakers, winning district titles in 1979, 1983 and 1984.
Finley, who couldn't attend the dedication due to health reasons, also got his 100th win at Russell County, a victory over longtime rival Adair County.
In 1987, Finley accepted the head coach position at Campbellsville College where football hadn't been played since the 1920s.
He coached until the 2002 season and garnered a record of 80-79-1 at the school. During his time there, he had eight winning seasons; including a season-high 10 wins in 2001.
After Somerset's 40-20 win over the Lakers, current Laker Head Coach Bill Sharp said it was good seeing Finley honored by the school.
"I wish we could have got a win on a night that was so prestigious," he said. But with what Finley preached, a "commitment to excellence," more wins will come with time on the newly named Finley Field at Laker Stadium.