Only once has a high school team in Owensboro-Daviess County been put on suspension and probation for the next year by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association. Unfortunately, that team was the 1967 Owensboro High School football team. Nearly 50 years later, Steve McFarland, a first-time author and life-long OHS fan, took it upon himself to preserve this interesting piece of local history.
The incident that caused the suspension happened on November 4, 1966, during a Friday night home game at Rash Stadium. The visiting team was Henderson City “Flash,” one of OHS’s biggest rivals. To get the full account of what happened, you’ll have to read the book. But obviously, emotions erupted into a physical altercation that overflowed beyond the field. Apparently some snowballs and other projectiles were involved, and the incident was enough for KHSAA to place OHS on probation for the entire next season.
In researching the story, the KHSAA granted McFarland full access to the archived file folder with documentation from 50 years ago, including eyewitness accounts and testimonies from parents, coaches, and officials from that game, both on the field and in the stands.
Sadly, the ramifications of those player’s actions negatively affected the underclassmen behind them, who were not even involved in the altercation on (and off) the field. The suspension and probation eliminated OHS from playoffs and state tournament contention for the ’67 season.
Problem was, that ’67 team was incredibly good, and could possibly have gone all the way to the state title game.
Hence the title of the book: A Glory Denied.
Could that team really have won state the next year? That question is pure speculation, of course, but the thought still haunts the ’67 team 50 years later. It’s a sore spot, to say the least. But the whole story is an interesting part of OHS history – and Kentucky high school sports history – that few Owensboroans realize.
It’s also a story that has been ruminating in McFarland’s mind for years. “I remember watching that (’67) team as an 8-year-old boy with my father. That team was tough! They were something to see!”
By “tough,” he means they were not scored upon in the first eight games of the season. Throughout the season, they outscored their opponents 378-27, only conceding one loss, at the hands of Louisville Flaget High School, who was ranked #1 in the state at the end of the season.
With the situation being what it was, McFarland says the Louisville Flaget game was “like their state championship, in a way.” Both teams entered the game undefeated. OHS was ranked #1 at the time, and Flaget was ranked #2. The Red Devil defense held Flaget to 73 yards rushing.
Yet with a 9-1 record, OHS’season ended after their last scheduled regular season game.
Still, that ’67 team left a legacy as one of the best teams in school history. “I went back and researched this. For teams between 1950-2015, they were ranked first in average winning margin, first in fewest points allowed, and third in average points scored per game,” McFarland said.
But without a post-season win, it’s hard to say they were the best. We’ll never know. Other OHS teams went undefeated. Other OHS teams won state championships. But Gerald Poynter, coach of the ’67 team, who still lives in Owensboro, remembers that team as “very special.”
Writing A Glory Denied was a real joy for McFarland. The book takes readers on a game-by-game account of that very special season, with numerous photos collected from OHS and local media outlets. He says it took about a year to research, conduct interviews with players, and compile the book. Getting to meet some of the players was a real thrill for a guy who has never forgotten seeing those big, strong guys through eight-year-old eyes in the stands. Steve was able to meet several of those players while working on the book. “Getting to meet them, and shake their hands, was an honor,” he said. Other players showed up to his book signing and author presentation at the Daviess County Public Library.
Many Owensboroans will recognize names of players in the book. Names like real estate broker, Bill Barron; Dr. Mike Johnson, who is a dentist here in Owensboro; Drew Kirkland Sr., of Dahl & Groezinger; and Mayor-elect Tom Watson, to name a few.
Several players went on to play college ball: Bernie Strong, who was the quarterback, but chose to play baseball in college; Paul Puckett, who played at U.K.; George Greenfield, who was inducted into the hall of fame at Murray State University; Alfred Thompson, who played at EKU; Jerry Johnson, who was All-Conference at Indiana University; and All-American Isaac Brown, who played professional football in Canada and was drafted by the Patriots before a knee injury ended his career.
“Their story deserves to be told,” McFarland concluded, in a contemplative tone. “And I’m glad I got the chance to tell it.”
The book was released in October. You can purchase a copy at aglorydenied.wordpress.com.