Dennis Ledford will be the defensive coordinator when the Franklin County Flyers play Boyle County in the Kentucky 4A state football championship 7 p.m. Friday at the University of Kentucky’s Kroger Field.
“We’re kind of the new kids on the block,” said Ledford, a 1997 graduate of Wilmington High School. “Boyle County is a perennial power. They have 8 state championships. We have zero.”
Franklin County (9-1) defeated Louisville Central and Johnson Central en route to the title game. Johnson Central won the 4A state title in 2019 (defeating Boyle County) and had a 25-game win streak going in to last week’s game. Franklin Co. won the semifinal 20-12. Ledford’s son Peyton is a sophomore on the team and scored a touchdown in last week’s win.
“We’re trying to show we belong,” said Ledford, who was a three-year starter and all-conference lineman in college at Morehead State University.
The 41-year-old Ledford is the son of Barbara and the late-Gordon Ledford. “My dad was a hard-working guy and that’s a lot about what I do,” said Ledford, who mother now lives near him in Kentucky.
Ledford has been coaching football in Kentucky for 19 years, 16 years at Franklin County. He was head coach at Franklin County for two years then resigned, only to return as an assistant coach with one of his former players, Eddie James, taking over the head coaching position.
“In my case, it was right for me because of my family,” said Ledford, who lives in Frankfort with his family, Meredith, Avery, Dixon and Peyton. “I enjoy being in the community I live and giving back to the community. It wasn’t a hard transition to come back.”
A more difficult transition would have been leaving football. But that’s what Ledford was faced with after playing his final game at Morehead.
“I never thought about being a coach but you play your last game in college and start thinking ‘I’m going to miss this a little bit’,” he said.
An agriculture education major at MSU, Ledford applied for and was turned down for all 9 vo-ag positions in Kentucky high schools. He was asked if he’d be willing to be a special education teacher because there was a shortage of those in the Bluegrass state.
“I started teaching and was asked if I’d volunteer to coach football and that’s how I got started,” he said. “I fell in love with it and have worked my way up.”
Ledford is currently the PASS (Positive Approach for Student Success) coordinator and athletic director at Elkhorn Middle School.
“I teach kids with behavioral disorders,” said Ledford. “I’m there for support. I enjoy doing that. Back in middle school, I was pretty ornery. Some football coaches and some tougher guys showed an interest in me and helped me. Growing up in a Midwestern town that’s (about) hard work, farming, you learn a lot from the people, the families. You learn how to be tough, how to be resilient.”
Ledford said Wilmingtonians like scoutmaster Dave Sipe, JD McIntosh, Fred Summers and Ron Sexton helped shape him.
“I think Wilmington’s a special place,” he said. “4-H, FFA the stuff we grow up doing back home instills in you a work ethic and responsibility that carries on. Hopefully I’m helping this generation get some of that which I was lucky enough to get.”