The 53rd Annual Semmes-McKenzie Lions Bowl freshmen football game will be played on Tuesday at Wilkins Stadium in Tullahoma. The bowl contests will feature four of the top freshman football teams in the mid-state area.
The first game will start at 6 p.m. when the Oakland Patriots face off against the Shelbyville Golden Eagles. The second game will start at 8 p.m. when two undefeated teams collide as the Mt. Juliet Golden Bears will face the Tullahoma Wildcats.
The Lions Bowl originated in 1965 and was sponsored by the Tullahoma Civic and Service Council. Sleepy McKenzie was one of the bowl’s originators and continued leading the bowl team through 2006. Bill Comer has been the bowl chairman from 2006 to the present.
During the early years, there were no TSSAA playoffs and the bowls were the only postseason rewards for teams with outstanding records. The Tullahoma Lions Club became the sole sponsor of the game in 1970.
After the playoff system was implemented, the bowls continued to operate successfully since only the top teams in a district participate in the playoffs, leaving ample teams with seven or more wins – which was the TSSAA requirement at that time – to fill the bowl slots. Eventually, the TSSAA increased participation in the playoffs to the point that only a few teams across the state were available for the bowls.
Clester Winningham, Tullahoma freshman football coach at the time, suggested that the Lions Bowl format be changed to feature freshman teams. This was done in 1997 and was highly successful. Today, the bowl is widely recognized across the midstate area as an effective and meaningful reward for high school freshman football teams.
In June 2011, The Tullahoma Lions Bowl was renamed the Semmes-McKenzie Lions Bowl. This was done in memory of Dr. Frank Semmes, who almost single-handedly produced the Lions Bowl printed program from the time the Lions Club assumed sponsorship until his death in early 2011, and James “Sleepy” McKenzie who was one of the original founders of the bowl and chaired the bowl from its inception until 2006.
Proceeds from the game received by the Tullahoma Lions Club will be used to support the club’s Sight Conservation Program, which purchases eyeglasses and provides surgery for needy citizens of the local area. The participating schools keep funds from their sale of advance tickets.
Members of the bowl committee for 2015 are: Bill Comer, chairman; Woody Reasonover, team selection; Carl Webster, facilities coordination; Sally Hoehl, program; Don Jones, concessions; J. Ray Joellenbeck, tickets; Bob Johnson, press box; Jasper Smith, awards; Richard Kulp, DVD sales; and Tom Redman and John Brandon, gates. Don Jones is the current president of the Tullahoma Lions Club.
The primary sponsor of this year’s bowl will be Lakeway Publishers, Inc. The Tullahoma Lions Club is pleased to have Lakeway and The Tullahoma News participate in the bowl sponsorship, along with all the other area businesses that have bought ads in the game program.