Russellville panthers football team receives big sendoff to state championships after 31 years

RUSSELLVILLE Ky.-The Russellville High School Panther band filled the school gym with school spirit. Proud classmates were dressed in black and gold. This sound and these colors mean the Russellville Panthers football team has made it to the Kentucky High School football state championships.

“I’m super excited, it feels unreal. I don’t think my brain has even had time to process it. It’s something that everyone dreams of and we’re here, so it’s exciting,” said Russellville panthers quarterback Lennon Ries.

Ries along with his team were celebrated with a walkthrough at Stevenson Elementary, along with a high energy pep rally at the high school.

“I’m extremely thankful. All the things that they’ve done over the past few weeks throughout the playoffs just hyping us up and showing us love, it means the world honestly,” Ries said.

This milestone marks 31 years since the panthers have made it to state championships. Former panthers coach Kenneth Barrett led the team when they won the 1980, 1983, and 1990 state class A football championships. Former coach says teamwork makes the dreamwork.

“Love one another whatever the situation is going to be. Play as a team, because that’s the only way to win. You need to have that confidence all the time, or you’ll never make it,” Barrett said.

The panthers are being celebrated not only by current students and faculty, but by alumni, and the community in general, wanting to send their team off on a high note.

“School spirit is up, the morale is up, everybody has been in their black and gold all week. When I say everybody, I don’t even mean just the school. The community has embraced this team. We have a very strong alumni association and they’re right behind them too. It’s a great time to be in Russellville,” said Russellville High School principal Rex Booth.

Even more than accolades, football players like Reece say the joy of it all is how the community is responding.

“It’s been crazy around Russellville recently with us going to state. Just to be able to do something to bring the community together is just amazing,” Ries said.

The panthers will play Pikeville on Friday at Kroger field in Lexington.  Kickoff is slated for 11 a.m. central time.