Friday, November 05, 1999

Ludlow gets second chance

Enquirer contributor

        Ludlow's football team expected a lot more from the 1999 season.

        The Panthers (5-5) are in the Class A playoffs for just the second time in 12 years and third since winning the state title in 1975, but they said they were just a few breaks away from maybe 7-3 and staying home for the first round instead of going to Nicholas County tonight.

        “When we put a whole game together, we're tough to beat,” senior quarterback L.D. Bell said. “But it ain't happened much.”

        Added senior running back Jeremy Mills: “We should've beaten Bellevue and (Newport Central Catholic). I don't think we know how good we really are.”

        At least Ludlow's losses were to strong teams: Madeira (9-1) is in the Ohio playoffs, while Beechwood (8-2), Nicholas County (9-1), Bellevue (10-0) and NewCath (3-7) made the Kentucky postseason. Those five are a combined 39-11.

        “We were in every game but Beechwood,” coach Tom Staley said.

        Bell, Mills and the rest of Ludlow's 12 seniors — out of a roster of only 23 — pointed to this as the year they could challenge local powers Bellevue and Beechwood and play for the title in Louisville.

        “When we were little kids, we talked about how we wanted to win state,” Mills said.

        The future looked bright in 1996. Bell and the others were part of a freshman team that had two wins each over Beechwood, Bellevue and Dayton for a 6-0 regular-season record.

        “Ever since we were born, (parents) preached to us how great that ('75) team was,” Bell said. “We felt if we would stay together through high school, we'd have a chance at the state championship.”

        Then those plans detoured in late 1996, as transfers, injuries and troubles at school eliminated 11 players from the roster.

        Ludlow bounced back with an 8-4 mark in 1997 — the school's best record in the '90s — which included its first playoff game in 22 years.

        A pattern emerged: For every step forward Ludlow's program took, there was an equal measure of disappointment. The Panthers were 6-4 in 1998 but failed to make the playoffs.

        There is much to celebrate this year.

        Bell's 1,355 passing yards set a school single-season record and he has thrown nine touchdown passes. Senior receiver Donald Weaver set two records: 53 catches for 972 yards.

        As for the rushing game, Mills has 800 yards and 11 touchdowns and senior Eric Arnold, who missed most of four games, has another 579 yards. The offense averages 321.5 yards per game and the defense has given up 234.3.

        Ludlow seeks revenge tonight for a 14-13 loss Sept.17 at Nicholas County. The Panthers stopped the Bluejackets late in the game, but holding and personal-foul penalties kept the drive alive, and Nicholas County scored the winning TD.

        Regardless of how Ludlow's season ends, Bell and the rest have no regrets about their high school careers.

        “We've made friends to last a lifetime,” Bell said. “I'll be hanging out with these guys 20, 30 years from now.”


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- Ludlow gets second chance
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