An electrical fire caused extensive smoke damage to the Cook-Wagner Athletics Pavilion at Simon Kenton High School before midnight Wednesday, threatening to cancel the school’s traditional night game.
The game, however, against Bullitt Central High School in Shepherdsville, will start on time at 7 p.m. Friday because northern Kentucky school districts donated helmets and shoulder pads that could not be replaced for the game. tonight’s game,” said Jess Dykes, director of public information and community. engagement for the Kenton County School District.
Superintendents from ten schools were ready to donate equipment “so our kids can get out there and play,” Dykes said.
Simon Kenton will be the team wearing helmets from Dixie Heights, Scott, Walton-Verona, Campbell County, Boone County, Conner, Lloyd, Covington Catholic, Beechwood and Homes high schools. Bullitt Central will wear matching uniforms.
Adjusters are on scene Friday with crews removing heavy soot from equipment in the weight room and indoor turf area of the 2010-built facility, Dykes said. “We were very lucky because the fire doors did their job, so it was mostly smoke damage.”
Football head coach Jeff Marksberry said the fire started before midnight and was discovered by a maintenance crew who called for help. No one was hurt.
Independence Police Department Sergeant Russ Wood said emergency personnel responded to the fire at the country home, but the extent of the damage was still unknown.
Marksberry was notified of the fire around 1:30 a.m. Thursday.
“I didn’t understand at the time the extent of the damage to our facility,” Marksberry said. “I was quite amazed at what it looked like.”
Despite the mess, Marksberry found some optimism as he began to sift through the rubble. The light from her cell phone landed on a photo, titled “Forged by Fire”, sitting in the middle of the locker room floor, completely untouched.
Part of the Pioneer tradition is to hold a bonfire each year. Football players take turns throwing objects into the fire as a symbolic gesture, commemorating their dedication, hard work and commitment to the team. The ashes are kept to rekindle the fire the following year. “Forged by Fire” was an image of the first bonfire ever held and was one of the few elements that remained intact.
“It was ironic,” said Marksberry, who has been with the program for 17 years and head coach since 2000. ‘nothing else is asked to do.’
Some say it was a sign – a sign that despite these difficulties, the team will carry on. This is not the first time the school has suffered a tragedy.
When Simon Kenton suffered an explosion in the boiler room on October 9, 1980, killing a pupil, the school resisted. The boys’ varsity basketball team won a state championship that year.
Marksberry immediately contacted area coaches to see if they could help outfit his football team, as equipment and personal items had been destroyed.
“It’s a pretty tight brotherhood, the Northern Kentucky Football Coaches Association is a really good association,” Marksberry said. “It’s one of the best, if not the best in the state, and multiple coaches came in, multiple regional athletic directors came in and offered things they had in their equipment room.”
Within hours, 90 Simon Kenton players were outfitted and practice began at 6 p.m. Thursday. Marksberry thanks his staff for working diligently to get things back on track.
Zac Stone, a junior who wore a Holmes Bulldogs helmet, said he couldn’t believe the quick response.
“It just blew my mind today when I came in to practice and there were already shoulder pads and helmets in the bed of the trucks,” Stone said.
He heard rumors of a fire during the third period on Thursday and his fears were confirmed when Marksberry called all the players to a 2 p.m. meeting during school.
“I’m just grateful to all the teams that came together and came through with us, friend or foe, they were ready to help us and that’s more touching than anything,” Stone said.
It might sound fun to have multiple teams represented on the field, but Jim and Mary Stone, Zac’s parents, say it’s representative of the whole community’s support for Simon Kenton.
“We’re going to look like a giant sack of Skittles on the pitch tomorrow night with all the helmet colors we have, but we’re going to play our game of football,” Marksberry said as the 8-1 Trailblazers face the 8-0 Cougars from Bullitt Central High School in Shepherdsville. The undefeated Cougars are the No. 3 ranked team in Class 5A.
Jim Stone, whose eldest son also played for the team before graduating, said he tries not to look at the negative and thinks it could be a good life lesson for players.
“With, I don’t know eight, nine, 10 different helmets from all the different schools, it’s going to tell the whole story of everyone who helped them,” Jim Stone said. “They’re always taught to play as a team, come together, support each other and that’s exactly what all these other schools, these other teams are doing for them right now.”
Marksberry said the insurance should cover the damage, but they’re still sifting through the items and he has no idea how much the repairs will cost.
“I don’t know if $10,000 will even clean the locker room,” Marksberry said.
The soccer team, along with the men’s and women’s soccer and basketball teams and baseball teams, which also use the facility, will be relocated indefinitely.