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Former Shelby coach, players carry on special relationship

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Dan Goble coached only three football seasons at Shelby County High School. But for his players, the relationship built then has continued to grow and is celebrated with an annual fishing tournament.

By Steve Doyle

Every year for the past 16 years, a small but select group of men, most of them from Shelby County, has gathered on Lake Barkley for a not-so-unusual practice: fishing for a few days and sharing stories about life and sports.

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That these men first met more than 40 years ago may not be odd, either. That they were together but for a scant few of those years, when most of them were boys, is the twist.

This is the reunion of former teammates with Dan Goble, the man who coached them for the three seasons at Shelby County High School, all of whom have devoted themselves to a ritual that has lasted more than five times longer than Goble’s reign on the football and baseball fields at SCHS – the Dan Goble Invitational Fishing Tournament.

First, a little background and a little football.

In the summer of 1969, Goble, late of Erlanger Lloyd High School, greeted the players who turned out for his first team as a head football coach. He had replaced Gene Foster to lead a program that had not fared well in its first decade of existence. There had been no football played among the county’s high schools before consolidation in 1961, and there were no district contenders and scant few winning seasons for the Rockets.

Following that tradition, Goble’s Rockets, made up of a lot of juniors and sophomores, lost all 10 games that fall, but they didn’t lose everything because they were undergoing a change that was both subtle and substantial.

Goble not only was adjusted the way the team played on the field – building around strong-armed quarterback Roy Lyons, reedy wide receiver  Bob Giltner, strong-running Ralph Quincy and speedy underclassmen, such as George Campbell and Chuck Druin – but he also was vesting his team with the sort of hope and bonding that lasted not only through the next two seasons, when the Rockets went 6-4 and 10-1 – more on that later –  but into adulthood, into relationships.

Perhaps fittingly it was Lyons, who set school passing records in his three seasons as a starter,  and his fullback, Carl Ray “Buster” Douglas, who put this fishing tourney in motion.

“Buster and I fished together quite often,” said Lyons, who is now a general contractor in Shelbyville. “I forget how topic first came up….But we were fishing one night, and we had one conversation was that we needed to call Coach Goble to go down there and fish with him and get some of the guys together.

“We called Bennie Cooper [a tackle and linebacker] and I forget who else, and we started going down two weeks before Derby. But the weather would turn out bad, so we moved it to Preakness weekend. We’ve been going Preakness weekend for about ten years. At first it was the Dan Goble Invitational Fishing Tournament, but when Buster passed away a couple of years ago it became the Buster Douglas Memorial/Dan Goble Fishing Tournament.”

They say that the offensive and defensive lines are the core and the heart of any team, and it certainly is the heart of this group.

Tommy Aldridge and Glenn Sageser were ends. Steve Atwood and Cooper played tackle. Maury Cox was a guard/center/linebacker. Bruce Smith and Anthony Hatchell were linemen. And Douglas, who died suddenly in 2010, was a middle linebacker, too.

They were mites compared to the mighty linemen of today – only a couple surpassed 6 feet in height and 200 ponds – but they had a mighty lot of heart, the sort of heart that pulls them to Lake Barkley each summer to refresh that relationship. Leave it to Cox to explain.

“There is something special about the bond that has developed between these guys over the years,” said Cox, who grew up to be the executive director of the Kentucky Dairy Council.  “We didn’t know it at the time, but it began there on a field out behind Shelby County High School.

“It began with a man who took a group of country boys and started molding them into young men and a team that cared for one another. That bond has grown with each passing year.”

 

A winning coach

Goble may only have coached at Shelby County for a short period of time, but he coached high school football in Kentucky for 37 seasons, all but seven of them winning seasons.

He left SCHS for Atherton, where he spent nine seasons, and then he moved to Christian County, where his 114-104 is the winningest record in school history and where he won Class AAAA state titles in 1982 and 1984.

But he never was far from the thoughts of those first players.

“We would talk to him occasionally,” Lyons said. “Buster and I went down the year he went to state championship. We watched the game and went to his motel room after the game. We would talk on the phone once a year or something”

 

Unique accomplishment

And those championships were a long way from the beginning.

“He was unique.…He was young, a ball of fire, demanded your respect,” Lyons said. “He was stern, but he was really concerned about us.

“It was a humbling experience our sophomore year to go oh-and-ten. Every week we went out we thought we were going to win. When we started next year, he had us thinking we were world-beaters.

“It was evident he was a really good coach.”

There were five consecutive victories to open the 1970 season and a season-ending rout of Kentucky Military Institute to secure that elusive winning season.

That was followed by a brilliant start to Lyons’ senior year, when the team won great acclaim and in an article in The Courier-JournalGoble said Lyons was even a better quarterback than Louisville star Jon Madeya.

The Rockets were upset by Meade County and fell short of earning a playoff spot, but it did accomplish something unique.

“We got two wins in one night,” Lyons said. “We were schedule to play a team, I think Trimble County, and they called and canceled at too late a date, so it turned out to be a forfeit. Coach called around and got us another game, and we beat them too, for two wins in one night.

“Lots of teams have a claim to fame. We’re the only team to win two games in one night.”

 

Eternal respect

That story and others like it likely will come up again this weekend when Goble returns to Shelby County to visit his sister, Maggie Bunch. Some of the guys are going to be there, to fry some fish, make some homemade ice cream and celebrate that special bond in another venue.

“He is such a good person,” Lyons said. “Over years he has coached he has touched many, many lives and been a good influence to many people.”

The fishing group – which now includes Goble’s sons, Dan, Jeff and Rusty and Douglas’ brother Mike – also banded together this summer to promote Goble as one of the Fabulous Five Sports Figures in a poll by the Kentucky New Erain Hopkinsville. They sent out E-mails, soliciting votes on his behalf.

The New Eralaunched its series Saturday with a story on legendary Hopkinsville Coach Fleming Thornton, and the guys will be watching to see if Goble earns one of the next four slots.

“We are really gratefully to be around him the way we did,” Lyons said. “And now that we have time to spend with him, it’s a blessing. All the guys feel the same way. That’s why we make that commitment every year.”

Said Cox: “For some, Derby Day is the big event in Kentucky each May, but for a group of old Shelby County Rocket football players, we can hardly wait ‘til Preakness weekend.”