Cheers to 40 years: Russell welcoming back 1978 champions

BY ZACK KLEMME
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
 

RUSSELL In the minutes after winning his first state championship, Ivan McGlone gave an off-the-cuff quote informed by his previous experience with tough playoff losses, including a setback in the prior fall's state semifinals.

“Thirty minutes from now, that’ll all be over,” McGlone said, as quoted by The Daily Independent on Nov. 26, 1978, in reference to the hoopla following Russell’s 17-7 Class 3A state championship game victory over Woodford County. “They’ll calm down. 

“A victory like this only lasts about 30 minutes. A loss lasts two or three years.”

Forty years later, though, the victory still resonates as the first of the Red Devils’ two state football championships. That 1978 team will be inducted wholesale into the Russell High School Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday evening before this year’s Red Devils host Ironton.

McGlone was inducted into the Hall’s inaugural class in 2015. The 1978 Red Devils will now follow him in.

“I think it’s outstanding. I think it was a good move,” McGlone said Wednesday. “Who else is more deserving than the whole group?”

Scott Boyd, a junior running back in 1978, was gratified based on who else is in the Hall of Fame.

"Some of the people that's been put in ahead of us, it's just an honor to be included with them," he said. "I think what we did is special, and it's really nice to be recognized for it."

McGlone recalled that several of those 1978 Red Devils went on to play college football and displayed great leadership. He also remembered a pivotal early-season moment that, had it gone differently, Russell might never have even gotten to the playoffs.

The Red Devils were then part of a three-team Class 3A, Region 4, District 2 with Belfry and Johnson Central, and at that time, only district champions advanced to the playoffs. The Pirates came to Russell for the second game of the season and scored the would-be go-ahead 2-point conversion with 11:04 to play.

It was called back, though, because Belfry only had six men on the line of scrimmage, McGlone correctly recalled. Scott Hester — 40 years later locally famed as an insurance agent — intercepted the Pirates’ pass on the ensuing re-try, and Russell escaped with a 7-6 victory.

“You can’t take anything for granted,” McGlone said of that encounter.

The next week, the Red Devils beat Johnson Central, 14-0, in Paintsville to lock up the district title and a playoff bid with eight games left in the regular season.

Russell went on to lose three times in Tri-State Athletic Conference play — to Huntington High, Huntington East and Greenup County — to enter the postseason 8-3. Five of those victories were by a single possession.

Then the Red Devils turned it on when they hit postseason play. Russell handled No. 1 Breathitt County, 27-8, in a battle of the AP’s top two-ranked Class 3A teams in the region final, which was at that time the first week of the playoffs. The Red Devils beat Jessamine County, 18-0, in the state semifinals and topped Woodford County, 17-7, in the championship game at Eastern Kentucky University.

"We maybe had a chip on our shoulder," Boyd said, "because going into the playoffs, all we heard about was -- I can't remember if it was Breathitt or Jessamine, maybe both of them -- had All-State running backs and they didn't think we could stop them. We just kinda hit our stride."

Russell's Wing-T offense -- then considered cutting-edge -- suited Boyd's hard-running style perfectly, he said. He was tied for 13th-most points scored by a northeastern Kentucky player in the 1978 regular season despite missing some time due to injury.

"Our traditional three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust, that's what we were known for," Boyd said. "I wasn't a speedster, so it was an offense that suited my style of running, so I really liked it."

Current Russell coach T.J. Maynard, who was 8 years old during the Red Devils' magical season, recalled attending the loss at Greenup County, then hanging around afterward as players exited the locker room in hopes of spotting his favorite player -- center Rob Tooley, who lived on Maynard's street and popularized the "Tooley Trot," a hustling high-stepping to the line of scrimmage to snap the ball.

Maynard remembers the victorious Musketeers mocking the "Tooley Trot" after the game, but that didn't discourage him from supporting his favorite Red Devil.

"My mom tells me that after that game, I made her and my dad stay and wait until Rob came out of the locker room, just like kids do here now, to see him," Maynard said.

Maynard attended the state finals with his best friend, Mick Adkins, the younger brother of Red Devils receiver Bill Cyrus -- better known now internationally as Billy Ray Cyrus.

Having watched the 1978 Red Devils wide-eyed and up close, Maynard understands what that team meant to Russell.

"Not saying that the tradition wasn’t good before, but coach McGlone took the tradition here at Russell to another level," Maynard said, "and those guys are gonna be coming back to kinda relive those memories, so we want to make sure that we show them that we’ve tried to carry on the tradition of the Russell program."

Boyd said Russell principal Anna Chaffin told him she's gotten "20-some responses" from 1978 players who planned to attend, and that a few more might attend.

At least one 1978 Red Devil has passed away -- Tooley, who tragically died two years after the state title. Boyd said he's heard that another teammate might have died, but he hasn't been able to confirm that one.

"I've been thinking about that," he said. "It's gonna bring back memories."

McGlone, for his part, stays busy puttering around the house and writing, he said. He's working on a book, but the "thing about it is, every time I re-read it, I want to change everything," he said, "so I can’t get it done."

McGlone also still attends Russell home games when he can and was at the Red Devils' loss to Greenup County on Saturday, Maynard said. 

"I try to get there until it gets real cold," McGlone said, adding with a laugh, "I’m like the fair-weather fan, and I stay at home and listen to it."

 

(606) 326-2658 |

zklemme@dailyindependent.com





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