Bengals were Ironton’s other semi-pro football team

Published 12:33 am Friday, December 31, 2021

The Ironton Bengals were the 1948 Tri-State Conference champions. Team members were: front row from left to right, manager Frank Houston, Harry “Fuzzy” McMackin, Bill Lawless, Pinky Hogsten, Neil DeFore, Reeves, Art McKnight, Dick Gasser, Nick McMahon, Fred Mittendorf; second row left to right, Herb “Harold” Lewis, Darrell Cales, Bob Cales, P. Meyers, Bob Haas, Guy Edwards, Clifton Perkins, Leroy Boykin and Vic Burcham; third row from left to right, Rick “Meat” Boykin, D. Tipton, Doyle Murnahan, Nonnie Bartram, J. Sipple, Bill Dressel, John Gatewood and coach Walden Fannin. Absent was coach Dr. John J. Haney.

Jim Walker

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Ironton and the sports world knows about the famous Ironton Tanks.

But the Tanks were the only semi-professional team to have played in town.

During the 1948 and 1949 years, fall football on Sundays consisted of the Ironton Bengals.

One of the remaining players from those teams is Herb Lewis who said players received between $20 and $50 per game, the equivalent of $240 to $549 in today’s world.

When Herb was playing with the Bengals, he was in the middle of a professional boxing career and played under the name of Harold Lewis.

Lewis was a running back on the Ironton Bengals, a tradition that continue for the Ironton Fighting Tigers.

Herb’s sons included Herbert Jr., Nathan, Gabriel, John, Steven, James, Ray and stepson Tony Forest. He also had grandsons who played for Ironton including Darius Lewis, Lamont Lewis, Patrick Lewis and Terrence Byrd.

Of the group, Gabriel, Steven, James, Ray, Tony, Darius and Terrence were all running backs. Gabriel and John were on the 1979 Class AA state championship team and Gabriel signed with Eastern Kentucky. Darius signed with Marshall.

According to a program from that era, here are the players and the descriptions about each one:

Herb “Harold” Lewis

Halfback No. 75

Harold was a speed merchang in the Ironton High School backfield during the 1947 season. He is 5-foot-9 and weighs 165 pounds. He is used primarily as a “scatback.”

Glen Barber

Halfback No. 61

Known to fellow players as “Tiny Mite,” Glen played at Ironton in 1935. He was 5-5 and 135 pounds.

Leroy Boykin

Guard No. 79

Nicknamed “The Bear” by his teammates following an exhibition game at Logan, Boykin played as a lineman for Ironton High School in 1947. He was 5-8 and weighed 230 pounds.

Vic Burcham

Guard No. 66

Answering to the nickname “Longface,” Vic played with Ironton High School in 1943 and spent service time with the Navy. He was 5-6, 162 pounds.

Bob Cales

Center No. 72

Captain, Line coach

A 1940 graduate of Ironton High School, Bob played three years and center and end. He attended Kentucky Western Teachers College.

Darrell Cales

Tackle No. 76

Darrell played with Ironton in 1937. He was 6-foot, 199 and spent five years with the U.S. Army during World War II.

Neil Dufore

End No. 58

Neil was chosen All-County while playing his high school ball in Columbus. He played two years with the Georgia Bulldogs. He was 6-foot and 205 pounds.

Guy Edwards

Guard No. 60

Guy played a lot of guard for the 19437 Ironton High School team. He then entered the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was 5-9, 170 pounds.

Max Fields

Halfback No. 77

Fields carried the ball for Coal Grove. He was 6-1, 197.

Dick Gasser

Tackle No. 78

The “Lonesome Pole” played with Ironton in 1934 as a fullback. The 5-11, 190-pound Gasser moved to tackle to bolster the Bengals’ line. He was in the Navy during World War II.

John Gatewood

Halfback No. 67

An ex-Marshall College player, he played at Huntington College in 1946-47. Called “Scooty” because of his great speed, he was 5-11, 165 pounds.

Bob Haas

Tackle No. 56

Bob played for the St. Joe Flyers and was chosen All-County in 1944. He was then in the U.S. Navy during World War II for two years. He was 5-11, 186.

Gene Haas

Guard No. 50

Gene played guard for Ironton High School in 1943 before playing college football.

Judson Haney

Guard No 55

“Sonny” Haney played with St. Joe during the 1942 season and was with the U.S. Navy for several years during World War II. He played some service ball and was 5-10, 177 pounds.

Red Knight


A star at Wurtland (Ky.) High School in 1945, Knight was also an assistant coach at Wurtland. He was 5-11, 190.

Tom Leake

Fullback No. 69

Tom played for the Ashland Tomcats in high school. He was 5-7, 173 pounds.

Arthur McKnight

End No. 53

Better known as “Junior,” Arthur played for the Coal Grove Hornets. He served with the Navy during World War II. He was 5-9 and 165 pounds.

Harry McMackin

Quarterback No. 59

Called “Fuzzy” because of his closely cropped hair, he played for St. Joe during the 1944 season and was with the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Clifton Perkins

Halfback No. 68

Cliff played for Westwood (Ky.) High School. He was 5-11, 193.

John Shelton

Halfback No.74

John played football for Ironton High School and with the U.S. Navy base at Philadelphia, Pa. He was 5-10, 171 pounds.

John Wilson

End No. 51

Playing his high school ball at Marion, Ohio, Wilson was with the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was 5-10, 168 pounds.