Haywood, Hilton faced off in their football coaching debuts

August 29, 2017 FieldsColumn

Philip Haywood and Dudley Hilton, the two winningest high school football coaches in Kentucky history, have 780 victories between them.

And to think that 42 years ago today, they squared off against each other in their head coaching debuts.

Philip Haywood

On August 29, 1975, Prestonsburg and its 24-year-old rookie coach, Philip Haywood, played host to Breathitt County and its 27-year-old rookie coach, Dudley Hilton, in the season opener.

Prestonsburg won the game 20-6, giving Haywood his first victory. He’s gone on to pile up 416 more wins, most of them at Belfry. He’s also led the Pirates to six state titles, including the last four years in a row.

“I just vaguely remember that first game,” Haywood said. “I don’t know if Dudley and I even knew each other back then. I doubt if either of us had a clue what we were doing. We probably were just glad to get a team out on the field for the first time.”

Hilton had to wait a while to get his first “W”. Breathitt County lost its first eight games that season before beating East Carter 18-12 on Halloween night, Oct. 31, 1975.

Dudley HIlton

Hilton has won 362 games since then while coaching at Breathitt County, Bell County, Bourbon County and Taylor County. He’s guided three teams to state titles (two at Bell County, one at Bourbon County). Hilton, who coached college football at Pikeville for three seasons (2011-13), is currently in his second tour at Bell County.

As for that first game at Prestonsburg 42 years ago, Hilton remembers that Lexington’s Bobby Flynn was one of the officials, and he remembers being frustrated that his Bobcats couldn’t move the ball consistently against Prestonsburg. So the next day he drove from Breathitt County to Harlan County to visit veteran coach Perky Bryant and pick his brain about how to implement the power-I, which has been Hilton’s bread-and-butter offense ever since.

Hilton, like Haywood, doesn’t think the newbie coaches knew each other when their teams first met. But their friendship grew over the next few seasons.

“We really got to know each other well three or four years later when Breathitt County came back to play us,” Haywood said. ” A big thunderstorm came through and knocked out a transformer and some of the lights. While they were fixing it, Dudley came to my coach’s office and we sat around and talked for probably an hour and a half. By the time the everything was fixed we probably had told each other our life’s history.”

Forty-two years after making their debuts, both coaches are still going strong.

And both still subscribe to the fundamental, no-frills, power football that has brought their teams so much success.

“I don’t think game has changed much,” Hilton, 69, said. “You still get four downs to get 10 yards and a first down.”

Haywood, 66, agreed: “Football still comes down to, you gotta block people and you gotta tackle people, and you just try to do it a little bit better than your opponent.”

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