History of Erlanger Lions Football

In 1957, a group of men in Kenton County, Kentucky, organized the Kenton Pee-Wee Football League(currently named the Northern Kentucky Youth Football League or NKYFL), made up of 8 teams of 35 boys, each in an age group not to exceed 13 years old.

These teams were to be sponsored only by Civic or Social Organizations, and not have any commercial affiliation whatsoever.  The Erlanger Lions Club was invited to enter a team in this league; the Pee-Wee program was presented to the Board of Directors of the Lions Club by Mr. Carl Ruh.  He was supported by Lions Paul Wright, Lion President Charles Ramey, Lion Dick Penny, Lion Kreko Graves and Lion Walter Bain.  This responsibility for organizing a team was given to the Boys and Girls Committee (currently named Youth Activities) of the Erlanger Lions Club.

The services of Mr. Harlan Strong, a 1957 graduate and former rough and rugged tackle of the Lloyd Memorial High School Juggernauts varsity football squad was obtained as coach.  Harlan was only 19 years old in 1958 when he took this position and he continued to serve the Erlanger Lions youth until 1977. 

The 1958 Inaugural Season was very successful for our Erlanger Lions as they rolled to an undefeated season and won the League Championship, and participated in the Rotary Bowl in Covington, KY.  The Lions won 13-6 against the Guardian Angels of Cincinnati.

In 1959, the Lions won the League Championship and through the Pop Warner Conference, were invited extended an invitation to play in the Cement Bowl of Nazareth, Pennsylvania.  They played the Little P.A.L.'s and won 25-0.  The Lions were Pop Warner Champs and ranked 9th in the nation.

In 1960, the Lions were invited to play at the U.S. Navel Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.  The players lived at the academy, ate with the Midshipmen in Bancraft Hall, attended church services and later toured Washington, D.C.  Upon arriving, the team was told that 9 of the first string did not meet birthdates requirements (off by a few months).  Game plans were made on the train with Coach Strong and Quarterback, John Long.  The Lions fought hard but left with a 0-6 loss.  Despite the loss, they held their heads up high.

In 1961, Harlan Strong took the year off to be married.  Jack Shearer coached the team to a 5-3 record.

In 1962, instead of traveling, the Erlanger Lions hosted the Clairton Little Bears in the "Little Lions" Bowl at Lloyd Memorial H.S.  Lions Win!  There was a huge support by the Lions Club but very little money to fund the traveling.  Cracker Jacks were sold throughout Erlanger/Elsmere community.  In 1967 another Championship was recorded.  In 1969 the Cranberry Bowl was won.

By 1969, the Erlanger Lions were ready to expand.  The "Junior" team (10-11 year olds) was developed.  Charlie Vance was the first Head Coach.  Despite a losing season, the team improved and in their Senior year outscored their opponents 240-6, and are still mad at those 6 points.  Eventually, some of these players went on to Lloyd Memorial H.S. where they won a State Title in 1976.

On November 26, 1970, Thanksgiving Day, a select ALL-STAR Team (NKYFL) game played at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Despite the bone-chilling temperatures, the Selected Lions won the A Pop Warner "Dolly Cohen" Super Youth Bowl.

In 1971, another division "Midgets" was introduced.  The Midgets (8-9 year olds) were coached by Rick Gullett.  On November 13, 1971, the Lions were invited to Boys Football of America-Cancer Bowl at Riverfront Stadium.

In 1974, League Championships were turned into our current Super Bowls.  In 1976 and 1977 Coach Gullett took our Midgets to the Super Bowl and won both times defeating the Bengal Tigers.  In 1977, Coach Bill Exeler took our Juniors squad to the Super Bowl only to fall to the Spartans.  In 1979, Coach Steve Gabbard helped the Lions Midgets finish out the decade with a Super Bowl victory over the Campbell County Red Devils.

In the 1980's the Erlanger Lions continued their NKYFL success appearing in at least one Super Bowl each year except 3.  In 1981, Coach Gabbard took down the Campbell County Red Devils for the Junior Super Bowl while Senior Coach Exeler lead an undefeated squad and got his revenge on the Spartans with a hard fought 2-0 Super Bowl victory.  In 1982, the Spartans would seek revenge and prevail on Coach Exeler and our Senior Lions only to fall again in 1983 to Coach Exeler and the Lion Pride.  In 1984, Coach Don Quinn made his first Super Bowl appearance with our Juniors squad falling to the Dixie Youth Football Raiders. 

In 1985, our Lions showed their dominance by placing a team in the Super Bowl in each Division.  Coach Corky Brown and his Midgets lost to Newport.  Juniors Coach Don Quinn recorded his first Championship beating the Spartans.  Senior Coach Bill Exeler made it to his 4th Super Bowl in 5 years and again took down the Spartans.  In 1986, Coach Exeler would again lead his Seniors to the big game falling to the Dixie Youth Football Raiders.

In 1987, the Lions were almost unstoppable.  Midget Coach Corky Brown took a "Mighty Midget" team to a Super Bowl victory over the Dixie Youth Football Raiders while giving up only 12 points and 15 first downs all season in an 11-0 season.  Junior Coach Steve Naugle made his first Super Bowl appearance leading his 10-1 Lions over Newport in the Super Bowl.  Unfortunately, Coach Exeler and his Seniors fell to the Spartans in the Super Bowl.

In 1989, Coach Exeler and the Seniors finished strong beating the Dixie Youth Football Raiders for his 4th Super Bowl after his 7th appearance of the 80's.

In the 1990's Coach Exeler and his Lions continued to have success going to 5 more Super Bowls and winning 2 of them(both in the Junior Division).  Coach Rick Beatty and Coach Jim Kidd would also make Super Bowl Appearances in the 90's.  The 1990's brought on many more memories and traditions.  We used bon-fires and pep rallies to fire up the team for traditional rivalries such as the Spartan Youth and Dixie Youth Football Raiders.  During this Time the Mills Road complex was also developed by the NKYFL for home games.  In 1995 our Starter Division (6-7 year olds) was created by Head Coaches Phil Schmidt and Stan Townsend.

In the 2000's, more additions were made.  In 2007 our Pee Wee's Division (8 year olds) was created with Brandon Hucker as Head Coach.  The decision was made by the NKYFL to split the 8-9 year olds so that there would be more playing opportunities.  The Starter Bowls were created for the Starter Division.  Roger Asher, Kevin Quinn, Jon Viscuso and Nick Rabe would lead their teams to Super Bowls appearances but to no avail.  

In 2013, Coach Paul Hendrickson became the first Lions coach to bring home the Tiger Bowl.  They also became the first team to win the Tiger Bowl and the Kenton County Starter Bowl in the same season.  In 2014, Coach Hendrickson and his squad went back to back in winning both Bowls again.  In 2015, Coach Stretch Weaver reluctantly took the Starter reigns and lead the kids to a 3-peat in both bowl tournaments.  In 2016, Stretch and his boys set their eyes on an unprecedented 4 in a row and they succeeded in bringing home the title in both bowls again AKA #4Banger.

We have mentioned many championships but our Youth Program is really about the game of LIFE.  Character is built in a TEAM. Many generations of families have traveled through the Erlanger Lions Youth Activities Program.  They have returned as coaches, director, concessions, team moms and many other volunteer positions.  We do not have enough space to give all the recognition due to all the years.  Erlanger Lions Youth Activities has a long tradition of providing a forum through coaching and youth sports to unite friendships and community, create understanding of the sports, and encourage one another in becoming service minded adults that serve the community and others while promoting high ethical standards.

 NKYFL Super Bowl Appearances
  • SENIOR SUPER BOWL APPEARANCES SINCE 1974 - 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991, 2007, 2008
  • JUNIOR SUPER BOWL APPEARANCES SINCE 1974 - 1977, 1981, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2001, 2009
  • MIDGET SUPER BOWL APPEARANCES SINCE 1974 - 1976, 1977, 1979, 1985, 1987, 1993, 1998, 2007
  • STARTER BOWL CHAMPIONS - 2000, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
  • STARTER TIGER BOWL CHAMPIONS - 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
History of Football Directors for the Erlanger Lions
  • Harlan Strong - 1958 to 1975
  • Kreko Graves - 1976 to 1981
  • Bob Shay - 1982 to 2005
  • Clayton Plageman - 2005 to 2007
  • Brandon Hucker - 2008
  • Clayton Plageman - 2008 to 2009
  • Brad Sand - 2010 to 2012
  • John Tomlinson - 2012 to Present
 Lions in the NKYFL Hall of Fame
  • Harlan Strong - Inducted in 2008 - Harlan was the founder of the Erlanger Lions.  He began the program in 1958 and retired from the Erlanger Lions in 1977.  Harlan had an overall coaching record of 138 wins and 18 losses.  During his time with the Erlanger Lions he collected 35 consecutive wins from the inaugural 1958 season through the 1960 season.  He again rolled off 20 consecutive wins from 1969-1970.  He won the 1969 Cranberry Bowl.  He won the Boys of America Cancer Society Bowl played at Riverfront Stadium in 1971.  Harlan also won 8 League Championships and 1 Divisional Championship.
  • Bill Exeler - Inducted in 2008 - Bill was apart of the NKYFL for 27 years.  Spent 17 years with the Erlanger Lions and 10 years with the VFW/Raiders.  Bill coached 11 teams to the Super Bowl while winning 4 of them.
  • Steve Gabbard - Inducted in 2008 - Steve was apart of the NKYFL for 16 years (1975-1991).  Spent his entire time coaching for the Erlanger Lions.  Steve coached 9 teams to the Super  Bowl while winning 7 of them.  Steve also served as President and Vice President of the league.
  • Jamie Brumback - Inducted in 2008 - Jamie was part of the NKYFL for 10 years.  Spent the entire 10 years with the Erlanger Lions.  Played for 4 years (1967-1970).  He was apart of 2 Championships and 5 Bowl Wins.
  • Robert H. Bob Shay - Inducted in 2008 - Bob was part of the NKYFL for 20 years (1984-2003).  Spent the entire 20 years with the Erlanger Lions.  Bob was apart of many Super Bowls during his time with the Erlanger Lions.
  • John "JD" Dunhoft - Inducted in 2008 - John was part of the NKYFL for 24 years(1983-2007).  Spent the entire 24 years with the Erlanger Lions.  John coached 3 teams to the Super Bowl while winning all 3 of them.
  • Don Quinn - Inducted in 2009 - Don was apart of the NKYFL for 17 years(1980-1995 & 2001).  Spent the entire 17 years with the Erlanger Lions.  Don coached 8 teams to the Super Bowl while winning 4 of them.  Don served as President for the NKYFL as well as the Lions Club Boys & Girls Club Chairman.
  • Eugene Luke - Inducted in 2008 -
  • Erlanger Lions Teams of 1958 - Inducted in 2010 - The 1958 Inaugural Erlanger Lions Team won the League Championship while going undefeated and outscoring their opponents 137 to 14.  They also participated in the Rotary Bowl in Covington, KY while defeating the Guardian Angels of Cincinnati 13-6.
  • Bob Arnett
  • Jan Arnett
  • Gary Afterkirk
  • Louie Cook
  • Mike Cooper
  • Sonny Dehner
  • Sam Dinn
  • Dennis Glenn
  • Jimmy Green
  • Larry Head
  • Bobby Jump
  • Tom Pace
  • Steve Potts
  • Ben Wright
  • Bill Viox
  • Tom Rankin
  • Barry Long
  • Don Long
  • Leonard Morgan
  • Tim Wright
  • Greg Long 
  •  Jon Long
  • Dick Wilson
  • Larry Holbrook
  • John Bain
  • Paul Kessen
  • Bob Luckhardt
  • Don Kuhn
  • Les Holbrook
  • Bob Curry
  • Rick Koehler
  • Steve Humphries
  • Lanny Holbrook
  • J.W Setters
  • Bill Smith
  • Coaches
  • Harlan Strong
  • Darryl Strong
  • Jeoff Long
  • Charlie Dees 
  • Marc Otto Sr. - Inducted in 2011 - Mark was part of the NKYFL for 20 years(played 4 years and coached 1982-1987 & 1990-1999).  Marc also served as the Chairman for the Lions Club Boys & Girls Club.
  • Stan Townsend - Inducted in 2012
  • Matt Woeste - Inducted in 2012 
  • Phillip Schmidt Sr & Phillip Schmidt Jr - Inducted in 2013
  • Tim Eickhoft - Inducted in 2014
  • Corky Brown - Inducted in 2015
  • Don McIntosh - Inducted in 2016

History of Erlanger Lions Cheer

The Erlanger Lions played their first youth football game in 1958.  They were supported by mom and sisters (cheerleaders) who rooted them on to victory.  In 1964, The Erlanger Lions Club sponsored the first official cheer team (Seniors).  The Director and Coach was Linda Strong.  The club gave money for large pom poms purchased in 1969.  Before then, parents had to sew and make the uniforms.  In 1967, a Junior team was formed.  In 1971, a Midget team was formed.  Linda Schmidt became the 2nd Director in 1977.  Linda approached the Lions for additional funds, but parents continued to be involved sewing and mending.  In 1990, Tracy Braur took over as Director.  In the 1990's, the 4th team (Starters) were added.  Over the many cheerleaders have come through the Lions on their way to cheer in high school and college.  In, 2001, Pearl Myles became the Cheerleading Director and dedicated her time until 2006.  Pearl's daughters cheered and later returned as coaches along with many other kids who have returned to give their time to the program.  In 2007, a Pee Wee team was added.  Denise Quinn became the Cheer Director in 2007.  Denise continued the traditions of our cheer program and added dance and gymnastics to the program.  

Competitions, pep rally, half time routines, uniforms, fundraisers, and cheering the team to victory are some of the many responsibilities these Directors shared - all while volunteering their time.

Over the years numerous competitions have been won while under the leadership of these former directors.  The tradition conitinues today.

Cheer Directors of the past
Linda Strong - 1964 to 1976
Linda Schmidt - 1977 to 1989
Tracy Braur - 1990 to 2000
Pearl Myles - 2001 to 2006
Denise Quinn - 2007 to 2010
Margie Burch - 2011
Julie Kreimborg - 2012
Tonya Young - 2013
Katrina Avery - 2014 - 2016
Samantha Barger - 2017 - Present